By Lenore Vickrey
When Misti Cutts Dixon was in 6th grade in Enterprise in 2000, a local radio station was publicizing a contest by Scholastic Magazine and the popular group NSYNC to promote literacy.
“They wanted people to write in about why you enjoyed reading,” she recalls. The top prize would be a library of new books for the winner’s school.
Intrigued, she wrote an essay and sent it in. “Back then you had to listen to the radio,” she says, “and I learned I’d won the contest for my school!” A special perk was that her school wound up having the town’s only copy of the new Harry Potter book. Misti’s picture was in the local paper.
“Ever since then, I’ve been good at reading, writing and numbers,” says Misti. But her father (Rick Cutts, then owner of Cutts Restaurant, featured on previous page), being practical, advised her to go to school and get an accounting degree.
So, Misti did that, graduating from Troy University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting and then working in the accounting field, eventually at Wiregrass Electric Cooperative where she has been an accountant for the past nine years. Along the way, she married her husband Lance Dixon, a certified electronics technician who built his own biomed company, Precision-Med Biomedical Solutions, covering the Southeast. Working in the cooperative field as well as the biomed industry, they soon realized how difficult it was to find employees with the needed skills and experience in technical areas to fill jobs previously held by people who were retiring.
Together, they began to brainstorm and came up with the idea of creating a children’s book that could introduce young readers to the value of technical and skilled careers at an early age. “Growing up and working in the family restaurant, behind the register or behind the serving line, I would see people in different uniforms and outfits coming in to eat, and I would think to myself, what are these people doing, what is their career?” Misti says.
Thus began The Adventures of Larry the Hot Dog, inspired by her experiences in the restaurant serving the famous hot dogs, and named after her grandfather, Larry Cutts, who ran the eatery in the 1980s.
Larry is the star of the series of five books, each carrying the magical character on an adventure with friends in different careers. The first was Karl the Construction Worker, followed by Pete the Policeman, Sam the Lineman, Gary the Garbage Man and Fred the Farmer, her best seller that highlights local crops from the Wiregrass area.
Misti, using the name M.C. Dixon, began writing the books after her son, now 6, was born. She woke up at 4 a.m. to feed her new baby and began writing the books in her head, then finally on paper. “I’m one of those people who constantly needs something to do, so I guess working fulltime wasn’t enough,” she joked.
The books were illustrated by 1000 Storybooks, and are published by Lucky Thirteen Publishing LLC, a publishing company Misti founded and established on her own. The books are sold on Amazon and at Target, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, as well as at local book signings and special events. Misti even designed her very own stuffed Larry, who accompanies her to book events, where she speaks to children about careers, having big dreams, setting goals and working hard to achieve their goals.
She has another line of books, a series of romance novels written as Nicole Dixon (Nicole is her middle name). “I am exclusive to Amazon and Kindle Unlimited,” she says. “I have so many e-readers it’s easier for me to make them available that way.” She works with the same designers to select the book cover models, fonts and other design features, and publishes the novels under the same publishing company. Paperback versions are also available on her website and at Cutts Restaurant on the merchandise shelf with the Larry books, Cutts T-shirts and exclusive baseball caps.
She continues to get up before dawn every morning, typing her latest book on her Nova Lenovo Yoga laptop. Her 10th romance novel will be released this summer.
The writing gene is already making its appearance in the younger generation, as Misti’s 10-year-old daughter, Guilianna, has co-written (as G.R. Dixon) with her mother a spinoff series featuring one of Larry’s friends, Daisy the Donut, who visits more friends at their different workplaces.
“We’ve gone through the whole writing process together,” Misti says proudly. “All five books have been written and edited. The first book should be ready by Christmas.”
For more information, visit nicoledixonauthor.com and follow her on Facebook at M.C. Dixon, Author.