Posted Oct. 22, 2013
Former Wilbraham & Monson Academy English teacher Todd Felton once told Elizabeth Mitchell’s parents, “Liz is a writer.”
Not only did that comment turn out to be true, but it also turned about to be incredibly fateful.
Ms. Mitchell ’04, a member of WMA’s English Department, worked as an editor and researcher for the second edition of Mr. Felton’s book, “Walking Boston.” The latest edition was released in September.
“It was fulfilling,” Ms. Mitchell said. “To feel I gave something back to someone who had helped me accomplish so much, and to help him accomplish a goal of his, I feel things came full circle in a sort of way. And when I saw what he wrote to me in the acknowledgement, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Ms. Mitchell had Mr. Felton as a teacher for five classes at the Academy. Mr. Felton immediately saw Ms. Mitchell’s writing ability and encouraged her to become a tutor in the school’s writing center.
“That’s where I first realized that I didn't just love to write, but I also liked to help other people write,” Ms. Mitchell said. “I liked editing and helping people express themselves more clearly.”
After college, Ms. Mitchell became bedridden for six months with Mal de Debarquement Syndrome, which is a rare balance disorder. She lost her job and her apartment.
“I felt like my world was ending,” Ms. Mitchell admitted.
Lost, especially professionally, she called upon her long-time mentor, Mr. Felton. Coincidentally, at the same time, Mr. Felton had been asked by Wilderness Press if he could write a second edition for his book, “Walking Boston.”
“He had a full-time job and didn’t have time to do proofreading or fact checking,” Ms. Mitchell explained. “The publisher wanted to him to add more content. He asked me if I wanted to help, so he ended up helping me get my foot in the door.”
And Mr. Felton helped Ms. Mitchell get back on her feet. Not only did she embrace the job, but she found herself in position to add content.
“The research happened almost organically,” Ms. Mitchell said. “He asked me what parts of Boston I knew best, and that translated into the areas I knew best and I liked to visit the most, and where my family lived. My family was able to help me suggest to Todd how to re-write his East Boston chapter, and what we could add with Deer Island and Winthrop. My uncle is an urban planner and he helped with the new greenway in Boston. And my fiancé grew up in Dorchester, so he and his family had some ideas about that area.”
Ms. Mitchell worked on the second edition for a year. Along with a lot of walking in Boston, her research included checking websites, making phone calls, investigating new businesses, and checking out if businesses had closed.
“It was an experience I had never quite had before,” Ms. Mitchell said. “I had a story published in a literary magazine about two years ago, and that was the first time I saw my own words published between two covers. But this was something else. This was bigger. It was someone else’s baby, but I had helped nurture and bring it to maturity.”
on Tuesday October 22, 2013 at 01:48PM