Herding dogs, cats, and editors: Dragonfly’s Magi Walker

Margaret Walker

Magi Walker’s title at Dragonfly is “Editorial Manager.” But that title only tells part of the story of who Magi is. Here’s the rest.

A deeply rooted Southerner, Magi grew up traveling the world, living in Taiwan as a home base, and touching down in exotic locales every summer to visit grandparents Stateside. She discovered a love of different cultures and marveled at the sounds of their various languages. She picked up some Mandarin, deftly showing off her counting skills (to ten), and blurting out scattered terms and phrases to anyone who asked. You can still get her attention on the other side of a crowded store by yelling “Sam•pow•twy,” meaning twins, of which she is the naughty one. She was not immersed in learning Mandarin while she was young—much to her sadness—and her command of the language remains at party-trick level.

In high school, as most young Americans do, she had a required language credit to fulfill. She chose French. Dreams of being a linguist started sprouting. “I’ll be able to tear down syntax with the twitch of a single synapse!” she thought. “I’ll untangle cuneiform codes and free the world from repeating its mistakes!” she mused. Flash forward a decade, and Magi’s patent joke is that she took 10 years of first-year French. Let’s just say that while she took a liking to language, it didn’t take.

Reeling from this revelation, she turned to reading books, consoling her soul with poetry.  She fell upon a new way to play with language … writing. She learned she could substitute one word for another and gain nuances that refracted like cut gemstones. She pushed the envelope further with experimental writing, breaking linguistic rules for fun and effect (think e.e. cummings).

Stirring writing and coding together

Meanwhile, as all this creative thinking was carrying her off into the ether, her boots were firmly planted in the muck of burgeoning technology. Her father worked for Texas Instruments; the TI-99/4A was her first computer. MS-DOS was dinner conversation—practically the alphabet soup she was raised on, and she took extra helpings. This was her foreign language. She’d eventually stir writing and coding together and find that she’d grown up to be a technical writer.

She embraced the structure of step-by-step procedural composition but not the grey cubical in a Chicago high-rise she occupied for 5 years. She was nerdy by nature, but she’d seen too much—she yearned to be free. She returned to her family (now in Tennessee) and continued to write user guides remotely until a layoff at her Chicago employer shook her carefully crafted world.

Lava-hot language

Faced with the opportunity to reinvent herself, she briefly considered “librarian” before settling on “writer/editor/proofreader” at a marketing and advertising agency—and learned to embrace the slash and its many-hats effect. Here, language was a lava-hot potato—quick/jarring/loaded. Sometimes playful, always pushy. Her tongue soured. Her stomach roiled. Her fists balled. She jumped ship and landed on a lily pad bobbing with dragonflies.

Never was she more free than as a freelance editor. Never had she felt more at home working remotely. Never had she done more in the service of applying language rules and notions. She’d become a dragonfly.

Keeping the lily pad hoppping

Almost another decade has passed since then, and her resume has developed a new wrinkle: management. She now finds herself drawing on her experiences to benefit others. She helps make connections that keep the lily pad hopping, and she helps build structure that keeps it floating along. And her librarian husband, four rescue dogs, and one rescue cat look forward to her home cooking most days—oblivious of her secret desire to unlock the clues to a better world hidden in ancient texts.

This post was originally published in 2012, and has been updated.

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