Books with Impact… Divided We Stand

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Back in 1999, I was working in Manhattan at the job I had always wanted: Production Manager at Random House.  I had started there in early 1998, and I oversaw the Value/Bargain imprint that was part of Children’s books.  Unfortunately, one week after I started at Random, it was announced that Bertelsmann had purchased the company.  Now, sometimes a company merger or purchase can push events in your favor, or on the flip side, they can leave you hanging by your fingernails waiting for the axe to fall.  In this case, the latter seemed to be the direction that my tiny imprint was heading.

Publishing is a “next move” business.  What do I do if this happens?  What is my “next move”?  Unlike John Elway and the current Broncos, I needed to have a plan B, because going all the way on a plan A was not going to happen.  With many life changes swirling around me (I had just become single again), I decided to take a chance on an opportunity that uprooted me from my suburban Long Island digs, and put me into a situation as Production Manager for Basic/Counterpoint/Civitas books, all imprints of Perseus Books Group located in Boulder, CO.  A move that still resonates in my professional life today.

I arrived in Boulder in mid-summer of 1999, and got right to work on the list of titles that needed to come out for our Pub plan.  Handling 50-100 titles through the production process from manuscript to bound book puts you in a situation where you are dealing more with the construct elements of the title, rather than the subject matter that each project contains.  One title that I remembered working on was by Eric Darton: Divided We Stand.  The title was intriguing, and the intricate story of the construction of the Twin Towers was one I enjoyed.  As a Long Islander and New Yorker, who could see the World Trade Center from the Robert Moses Causeway on bright summer days going to the beach in my youth, this was a project that brought me home.  Little did I realize the impact this title would have 2 years later…

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Fast forward to May, 2012.  I’ve just graduated with my Masters in Publishing Science from Pace University.  I am at “Ground Zero” and have just paid my respects beside the reflecting pools with my wife Susan.  As we go into the 9/11 remembrance store, I see an old friend in a stack on the table by the pillar.  A tear comes to my eye as I realize that something I’ve worked on in my professional past will forever have meaning in this time and place.  Sometimes working in publishing touches you in ways you cannot imagine, until the moment hits you squarely in the face.  I love what I do, and I recommend this career to anyone who loves books that can last forever.

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One response to “Books with Impact… Divided We Stand

  1. Judy

    I want to thank you for this post. I was a nurse in Manhattan on 9/11. My brother was NYPD. I remember that day – the small seemingly insignificant things and the monumental moments which still seem unfathomable. My mother watched the planes hit the buildings while sipping her coffee on her terrace in Brooklyn Heights. She called me at work and I believed she was mistaken. Then the world unraveled. I ran around the city in scrubs with my colleagues. I was wondering where my brother was and watching the city I loved coming unglued… There was a strength which held the city together that I think I always took for granted, or maybe none of us could imagine that strength. Perhaps there was no way to know the depths of that well because something like that could never have come into our minds ahead of time. At least not then. I imagine now the possibility of another 9/11 will always loom over us.

    I used to write for a nursing magazine and longed to go into publishing. I heard a lot of “That’s not a secure career. Stick with what you know.”

    Recently, I started my own small publishing company with two books coming out soon.

    Thank you for reminding me of what we all should have learned from that day. Live. Remember. Keep growing and don’t waste too much time on fear which keeps you from moving forward toward your dreams. And most of all – take chances.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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