Sunday, December 21, 2008

Written Words - Post 1,000

Upon opening a box of crayons, there is a distinct sense of possibility. Whether pristine points marching in clean rows or leftovers tossed haphazardly in a shiny tin, there is a gently waxy smell while various hues beckon tiny hands to find a space to create. I’ve framed some of Little One’s work, her explorations into imagination seeming impossibly lovely somehow.

It smelled of crayons in a tiny storefront just off the town square. I was 13 the first time I visited, walking tentatively to the old brick building and climbing the two steps up to the glass door that announced the name of the small weekly newspaper. Moving through the entryway, I smelled melted wax and thought of my potential as a writer.

I enjoyed that small room in the front, overlooking brick streets that were as quaint as they come. A large window allowed sunlight to sparkle on the polished counter that held neat stacks of published newspapers and copied forms – birth and death announcements, blank sheets for classified ads with neatly identified pricing structures. At first, I waited until I was invited behind the chest-high counter, moving slowly across creaky floors to the chaos defining the more open space in the back.

Much as I liked the organization that visitors saw, I adored the clutter that defined the production of a newspaper. Stacks of letters awaited reading, scrawled notes bore names and dates, quotes and reminders were strewn about on all surfaces. Minimal organization flowed from front to back – there were two desks on the front wall for the editor and reporter. A single computer used for typesetting rested on a long counter against the side wall and the center island contained tools to cut and paste on the master boards where layout was determined. It was there the wax lay melted and waiting for words to be written and revised.

I never worked at that space, allowing more expert eyes and hands to paste stories in proper places, straighten edges and fit bits of text on the large pages we delivered to the printers every Tuesday. Once those sheets were taken out the back door, we could start on next week’s edition, returning to the desks at the front of the room to read letters, take notes and begin to accumulate words to fill the next set of blank pages.

I was invited to contribute monthly columns before I finished grade school, continuing to write pieces that were not unlike blogs posts until I started college. My initial infatuation turned to lasting fondness for the process as I grew more comfortable there, trading my trembling terror that every word might be wrong for an easier comfort with telling a story under a deadline.

I visited Kathy’s Kozy Kraft Korner for my first “news” piece. She’d recently opened the shop and I recall asking her why she’d changed all the initial letters to k when most should have been c.

“It’s cute,” she replied after staring at me for a moment. I looked around at the piles of items – wrinkling my nose at balls of yarn tumbling from baskets as needles and hooks battled for position in bins.

“Would you like me to spell ‘cute’ with a k?” I finally asked, thinking myself terribly witty. “Or may I use a c?”

I took pictures of our state’s candidate for Miss America when she visited the high school, getting some inane quote about hopes and dreams. I covered a dance recital and car show, happily taking the fluff pieces that didn’t interest the middle-aged woman who edited the paper.

I remember her tucking a lock of bright red hair behind her ear when I asked her to supervise the school paper for my senior year. Unimpressed with the stapled pages that had been produced, I craved newsprint and advertisers during my year as Editor-in-Chief. She hesitantly agreed and I pounced on the opportunity, guiding a staff of 8 to that storefront after hours every other Wednesday so that Mandy could typeset ads from local businesses, Chris could hand in his witty editorials while I admired his eyes (and shoulders and personality), and the underclassmen would stare into the vat of wax in the middle of the room while I carefully edited stories.

“How do you spell that?” Little One asked as we sat at my parents' table this afternoon, canister of crayons beside the lined notebook paper. She was nestled on my lap while I watched over her shoulder, as pleased with her as I'd been with myself when seeing something I'd written appear in print.

Letters, painstakingly written, appeared on the paper in black crayon while we frowned with concentration. Distracted by her small sister and Christmas shows on television, she abandoned me at the table with a final cuddle. I smiled, being a bit overly nostalgic, and breathed in the smell of crayon once more before fitting the lid on the container. There is something impossibly powerful about writing something down, something incredibly wonderful about having someone read and understand and care.

It always has been, and continues to be, full of possibilities.


Brigindo said...

What a perfect 1000 post post.

Jenn said...

beautiful post.

Psych Post Doc said...

Congratulations on 1000 Katie, what a great post.

The bean-mom said...

What an amazing, beautiful post, Katie.

So you've always been a writer! I guess no one reading this blog should be surprised. How fascinating, though, to learn about your history as a journalist! Did you ever think about going professionally into journalism or writing? Or any thoughts about doing it now? (uh, you know, just on the side. In your abundant spare time).

Thank you for your lovely blog posts. I look forward to reading them, just as I do my favorite columns in the newspaper =)

Anonymous said...

Happy 1000th!!! Lovely post, as usual!

I love the parts about the paper. I made so many "newspapers" growing up...

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