Melanie Spiller & Coloratura Consulting
A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
Melanie spent her first dozen or so years in the working world as a materials planner in the semiconductor industry. Although interesting and challenging, the work wasn’t entirely fulfilling, so she went back to school to study English Literature (heavy on British Medieval) and Anthropology. Despite the recession when she graduated, she got a job as an administrative assistant and copy editor for Ziff-Davis Publishing, in the laboratories that supported all twelve of Z-D’s computer-related magazines.
In the three years at Ziff-Davis, Melanie built her first database to track contract employees using Paradox on a Mac. She helped build another, more elaborate, multi-platform database for the library she organized, which included both software and written materials. Although the education and experience she brought to Ziff-Davis were for copyediting, ever the problem-solver and always having difficulty keeping her thoughts to herself, Melanie found her calling as a substantive editor pretty much from the start. Fortunately, the authors loved it. Also, the laboratory atmosphere allowed her to become familiar with a truly wild array of software.
From Ziff-Davis, Melanie went to Sybex, Inc., as an Acquisitions and Developmental Editor in the area of databases and graphic products. In her five years there, she was lucky enough to trip over some organically excellent authors (like Ken Getz, George Omura, and Celeste Robinson) and to be able to mold quite a number of talented technical experts to her idea of excellent writing. Melanie can boast of tens of millions of dollars in sales, dozens of best sellers, and over 200 books in print in five years. She had the reputation for being merciless, but of producing every author’s best work. To date, it was the best place she ever worked and the best job she ever had. She likes to say that all her traits, good, bad, and indifferent, were put to good use there.
Next, Melanie tried her hand as the Documentation Manager for the now defunct dotcom, myCFO, a Jim Clark financial services enterprise. This wild ride of a job exposed her to Web publishing, a comparatively faceless interaction with text, lots of new software and security issues, and a smattering of understanding about the world of high finance.
Since May 2001, Melanie has been a freelance editor, working with such clients as Microsoft (through BrainCore.com, A23 Consulting, and MCWTech), Office Zealot, and a host of non-technical authors. Subjects edited include highly technical software-related text and studies about Feldenkrais® Technique, singing technique, cooking, fiction, poetry, and resumes and cover letters too countless to enumerate. She happily fills the slow times with writing her own books on Hildegard von Bingen, writing technique, and cooking, and (gulp) even writing some fiction here and there.
This freelance editing was interrupted for five years as a full-time editor for Microsoft in the SQL Server group, where she met some great people, edited lots of words 'n' things, and managed to sneak some work in on some very interesting products, such as Entity Framework, ADO.NET, SQL Azure (cloud services), PHP, Velocity (cache servers), JDBC, Entity Data Model, SQL Compact, and others. She also wrote a Writing Workbook based on the concepts and articles in her former blog for technical writers.
In her real life, Melanie devotes a fair amount of attention to making music. She has played the flute as long as she can remember, and has more recently added singing, harp, African and medieval drums, bowed psaltery, hognosed psaltery, mountain dulcimer, jaw harp, recorder, and the occasional truly bad piano. Her focus in music tends to be baroque or earlier, and she is currently trying to bully her crafty dad into building her a hurdy-gurdy and a hammered dulcimer because he couldn’t find a decent blueprint for a lyre. She does lots of arranging (adding a part to an existing piece or changing the key to accommodate certain voices) and writes a little music herself. Admittedly, most of it sounds like it was written 700 years ago. She uses Noteworthy Composer and MakeMusic! Finale for such efforts.
Also in her real life, Melanie is foolishly devoted an African Dwarf Frog named Blotch. Blotch and her partner Blaine (deceased in 2010) are estimated to have hatched in January of 1995; the friendship between editrix and beasts began in June of that same year. Blotch likes lunch and visitors and is eager to point out spots that have been missed during the monthly algae cleaning. Blotch doesn't like loud noises or voices, but that doesn't stop her from wanting to be part of whatever is going on. This little frog (she could almost hide under a quarter) has friends all over the world, mostly authors or musicians. Melanie’s biggest fear is that she sounds like a “cat lady” when she talks about the frogs, but she talks about them anyway. Melanie and Blotch miss Blaine's singing. He only had the one note, but he really owned it, you know?
Melanie usually reads several books at a time, usually one on things to do with music, one on history of some sort, and one of mystery or just plain fiction. She loves the history of San Francisco and can lead a tour of some pretty interesting (if obscure) spots. She adores her view from her tiny apartment in Potrero Hill: both bridges, all of downtown SF, and a huge great expanse of bay and sky. A hundred years from now, archeologists will wonder why one person took so many photographs of the same view (and very little else). She moved to this apartment in 1993, and despite complaining ceaselessly about her “whumpy” neighbor, it is apparent that she won’t be pried out of there with a pointy stick. The view is fabulous, and she sits in a lovely purple chair as much as she can. The rest of the apartment is head-to-toe in books, quilts, and musical instruments. Navigation in the dark can be a shin-bender.
Melanie enjoys cooking a great deal. To avoid the pitfalls of kitchen time, she is also an avid runner.
Having written this biography herself, Melanie reports feeling like changing "she" to read “our heroine” throughout and providing a Dudley Dooright soundtrack, and she is more embarrassed and self-conscious than usual.
Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.