By Patti Samar
By the time I got to my senior year in high school, I was a pretty lost kid. I wasn’t a great student and I didn’t know if college was even for me. I loved writing and I loved art. Even back then I was practical enough to know that with or without college, you don’t charge out-of-the-gate as an “author” and make a living writing fiction.
On a cold winter’s day in 1981, with my high school graduation less than six months away, someone walked in and out of my life within the span of an hour, and it changed my life forever.
Sadly, I’m quite certain she never knew it. Shame on me for not telling her.
Dixie Franklin, an award-winning writer who was well-known as an author and freelance writer in the U.P., visited my high school television broadcasting class to interview the students and teacher. After watching her work, a light bulb went off in my head: I COULD be a writer and make a living. I could be a REPORTER.
Dixie walked out the door of my classroom and I hesitated. I wanted to talk to her, but I was a very awkward and shy kid. But I didn’t want to lose this moment. I felt the fear and then just moved. I jumped up from my seat and ran out the door. I literally ran down the hallways to catch up with her.
I still remember EXACTLY where we stood in the hallways of Marquette Senior High School when I asked her to tell me about her job…and was it a viable way to make a living? Would it be worth my while to pursue journalism as a career?
(You also have to remember that not a lot of women were journalists back in the day; it was very much a male-dominated field).
Dixie stood there and talked to me, in her soft-Texan southern drawl, and told me yes, absolutely, it was a very nice way to make a living. I really don’t remember many of the details of our conversation, other than she was so nice to me, she took her time with me, and she didn’t try and rush me.
She convinced me that going to college was the answer.
I took my first journalism class during my freshman year in college, and in the fall semester of my sophomore year, I got a job at the Northern Michigan University student newspaper (The North Wind), and long-story-longer, by my senior year, I was named editor-in-chief of that newspaper.
I’ve been a newspaper reporter and a public relations/ marketing/ communications professional (and now, of course, editor/publisher of my own miniature magazine empire!) ever since.
That one brief conversation changed my life forever.
Moral of the story: Be like Dixie. Take time to chat with kids, and offer encouragement to anyone who seeks guidance. Sometimes all anyone needs is someone to tell her, “Yes, you, too, can do this!”
Thank you, Dixie Franklin, for helping me find my way.
Dixie Franklin died this week. She was 93.