Tuesday, November 15, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness in Writing – Day 10: Mom & Dad

It’s easy to focus on the negative in the world around us. In observation of a month many dedicate to counting their blessings, I’ve started a 30-day challenge in which I’ll focus on one aspect of my writing life for which I am thankful. I’d love to have you join by sharing about something that has blessed your own writing life in the comments section below. - Jen

I really have my parents to thank for me becoming an active writer. After burning myself out my junior year of college my dad put me to work helping him at the family business. And I have learned more than just how to be a writer and editor as a result.

See, dad’s been in publishing in some form or other since I was a kid. First he moderated an electronic bulletin board back in the mid-80s, and he produced a small Atari Computer-related newsletter that eventually grew into a magazine. He eventually went to work for Atari’s in-house publication but found himself unexpectedly unemployed in the spring of 1992 when the company closed down its home computing department. After that he was approached by his former printer back in Oregon who ultimately ended up investing in my dad and helped him start Model Railroad News in 1995.

Working for a train magazine was never something I aspired to while growing up. To be fair, writing wasn’t on the agenda either. But here I was in the midst of a major life crisis and dad had a problem of his own, his long-time editor had decided to change everything about his life — including his family — and left without giving any notice. Needing something to do, I offered to help out with some simple projects until dad found a replacement, which we did more quickly than we expected. He was a retired teacher, a self-professed train nut, and an avid storyteller and writer. The one stipulation was that I stick around to do some of the editorial slog work. I had to keep busy somehow, so I agreed and found myself employed as an editorial assistant.

I learned more about War Bonnets and the Galloping Goose (nothing to do with birds or horses!), 3-bay hoppers and tank cars, and other railroad-related facts than I ever wanted to know. I also learned a lot about our nation’s history as a result. (Few people these days realize just how big a role the railroad played in the development of the United States.) Starting out, my main job was writing new product announcements for various manufacturers, which taught me the importance of conveying information in a clear and concise manner. I also began honing my editing skills by helping with the final copy edit of each issue. In the spring of 2002 I left the science world behind and signed up as and English and Writing major. My life as a writer began.

As with any job there are perks and pitfalls when it comes to working for a family-run business — for one, it’s always the main topic at family gatherings — but what I was learning in school complemented what I was doing at work, and vice versa. By the time I graduated two years later I had something most of my peers did not: actual work experience in my field of study. However, doing research I found most of the openings were looking for five years of experience, so I committed to working for the family for another three years.

Life happens and come January those three years will have stretched into eight, giving me my 10-year pin at LampLight Publishing. I have worked my way up the ladder to a Managing Editor position and get to torture my younger sister who became my editorial assistant to help pay her way through college.  Yes, there have been arguments and plenty of head butting along the way, but there have also been some incredible blessings. I’ve been able to continue my education through writing programs such as The Christian Writers Guild. I’ve been given time off to attend Writers Conferences. I’m able to take occasional personal days just because I want to write. And I’ve been able to be really involved in youth ministry, which I absolutely love with all my heart.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always like the subject matter of my job. There are also days I worry people won’t take me seriously because my parents sign my paycheck. (My Senior Editors have all been unrelated and taskmasters in their own right, by the by.) However, if it weren’t for this job I would never have dared to dream I could make my way through the world with a pen, a notebook, and an eye for details. 

As is true of many small business these days, things are really tight for our little publishing company, but we continue to press on, chugging up the hill like the Brave Little Steam Engine facing this economic downturn with determination one breath at a time (sorry, couldn’t resist). And my parents continue to encourage me to pursue the things in life I love most.

So mom and dad, in case I’ve never truly expressed my gratitude before, thanks! Thanks for giving me an experience not many parents can offer to their children. And thanks for helping me find where my true talents lie.

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