Rural Living

Turning the Page to 'Author'

Let the Party of One Begin

 

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I write a column for the Covington newspaper. I thought myself quite clever when I dubbed it “Life … You Gotta Love It!” But that leashed me to a premise I had to perpetuate week after week. It sometimes got a little tricky; yet, after two brushes with near-death, I found something to love about life every single day.

Laundry? Well, for several months after my last illness, I couldn’t even think about making it down to the creepy basement to do the laundry. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Today, the basement isn’t quite so loathsome any more. While I am thrilled to do laundry, I am happy to make it down the stairs on my creaky knees. Ergo, I gotta love it!

One constant love in my life is writing. Always has been. When I was 3 or 4, I would sit around with my fat black pencil and my lined paper and think up things to write about.

I remember my very first complete sentence. I had committed some childish infraction, and my mother had banished me to the table with the pencil and paper. “Write a sentence,” she said.

I knew just the sentence I wanted to write. I began with the first two words. They were easy. But the third word stumped me. I called into the kitchen, “Mama, how do you spell ‘bad’?”

“B-A-D,” she answered. “And it is certainly a word you should learn to spell!”

I finished my sentence: “Mama is bad.” My success was not applauded.

Ballerinas and airplanes were obsessions when I was 3. I longed to be a ballerina, flying around in an airplane. When a 3-year-old can spell “ballerina” properly, well, a parent should be proud. (Although my sister surpassed me. The first word she learned to spell was “hippopotamus.” Show off.)

I guess my mother — who taught me how to spell in the first place — was rather proud of my spelling skills. But what she really was, was practical and pragmatic. “You will never be a ballerina,” she would say as I sat there writing. “You’re too short, and you have piano legs.”

Piano legs? I knew what they were, because I was also obsessed with pianos. But at the time, I didn’t see how the legs on a piano might compare to the ones I had.

I distinctly recall my Aunt Hazel chatting with my mother while I played and pranced around the room one day.

“She’s a cute, imaginative girl,” Aunt Hazel told Mom. “Too bad about the piano legs.”

Huh? I stopped prancing and studied my legs. I was still confused. The truth didn’t hit me until years later, and by then it didn’t matter. By the time I was 10, I had tossed aside the idea of being a flying ballerina, and I wanted to be “an author.”

Today, I consider an author and a writer two distinctly different things. An author ponders and carefully considers and then writes a first, second, even a third or fourth draft. An author probably crumples up or deletes pages of work it took days to write, and starts over again. When completed, an author’s work becomes a hardcover novel, and sits on a library shelf for years to come.

But I’m a writer. Once I’ve got an idea, I can write a column in about 30 minutes. I seldom have time for a second draft, because I am almost always way past my deadline. I bang the words of a column or story into my computer, read through it somewhat carefully — sometimes not carefully enough — and zap it to whatever newspaper or magazine is watching the deadline clock and wondering just where my column is.

For years now, I have yammered about the four or five books of columns sitting in my computer, ready to be published. This past Thanksgiving, circumstances forced me to stop procrastinating. I read through 766 columns from the past 12 years, and chose 200 of my favorites. Then, I culled those to 60 of what I consider my best. The book, “A Party of One,” will be back from the printer in early March.

I am rather proud of myself for finally getting to this book. I’ve written all sorts of things — a play, a PBS documentary, countless columns and features, and investigative news stories. I have indeed become an author. And I’ve really gotta love it!

Be sure to check next month’s column for information on ordering A Party of One.

 

 

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