I am haunted.
By words and images that dance in my head. By ghostly tales told on my grandmother’s front porch by moonlight. By the occasional glimpse of a beloved, long-dead pet, still sunning herself in her usual spot by the window. By the voice of a loved one, calling my name on the edge of sleep.
As a native of North Carolina with ancestors stretching back into ancient Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall, I am haunted by history, by the words of great Southern writers, and by music of times long past. So it seems only fitting that I could sing before I could talk, and have been writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil.
Fortunately, as I grew older I learned to live at least part of my time in the real world, enough to do my work well and earn an honest living. I graduated with a degree in Natural Resources/Communications, intending to use my writing skills to help save the planet. But life has a way of happening while one is making other plans, so I started a career in print journalism, starting with a small-town rural weekly and ending up at a large metropolitan newspaper publisher in Columbus, Ohio.
I loved this life, but it didn’t love me. My life-long battle with rheumatoid arthritis wasn’t helped by the long hours and brutal deadlines. I needed a change. So, when I saw an ad for a technical writing job, I decided I didn’t have anything to lose by checking it out.
I walked in, sat down, and blurted out, “I don’t know anything about computers, but I can write a coherent paragraph.” The interviewer said, “Perfect! You’re hired.”
Since that day in the early 1990s, I have never looked back. My innate curiosity served me well in picking up new software with ease. My years in journalism taught me how to write crisp, concise prose that the majority of people with at least a 7th grade education can read and understand. And do it on a deadline. As it turns out, technical writing calls for the same skill – taking complicated subject matter, breaking it down, and making it easy for anyone to follow and learn the skills they need to do their jobs. And do it on a deadline – but often a much kinder deadline than in journalism.
I enjoy working both sides of my brain – the right side for the fantastical fiction that haunts my dreams, the left side for tackling technical manuals, procedures, and e-learning modules, marketing copy, and book blurbs. Schizophrenic? Maybe. I like to think it has made me a more well-rounded person.
Oh, but don’t worry, in between projects I’m still doing my bit to save the planet.