What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you are a child, inevitably you are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Sheepishly, a five, six or seven-year-old will go with Firemen, Policemen, maybe Astronaut. Nowhere in the lexicon of reason do the words “Production Manager for a Book Publisher”, or “Vice-President for Publishing Operations” ever enter into the equation. This blog is the story of a journey, a journey that began in West Islip, Long Island and continues to this day in a suburb of Denver. It is a current journey that has no immediate ending.
Like Father, Like Son…
My dad worked in television. He was a film editor for NBC in the RCA (now GE) building in midtown Manhattan. He was the funniest guy I ever knew. He would crack jokes all the time with this big toothy grin and wire rim glasses. He, like me, was follicley challenged, but never really minded having lost his hair at an early age. Here is where the “like father, like son” comes into play. Dad was always a photographer and took home movies endlessly when I was a kid. This fascination with movies had been going on since his youngest days and he had shot many hours of super 8 film of his time in the Army Air Corps during World War II. (As an aside, dad had the distinction of serving in a unit that was commanded by the eventual 40th President of the Unites States: Ronald Reagan.)
I on the other hand, read voraciously as a child on anything that had to do with military history: Civil War and World War II especially. By the time I was in fifth grade I had read every book on World War II in our school library. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was deftly preparing myself for the position that I (until recently) held.
Publishing: The Accidental Career
Having a passion for what you do career-wise makes everything that comes afterward fall into place like an incredibly intricate jig-saw puzzle. I had no idea that I would end up in publishing. I graduated from college in 1984 with a degree in European History and English Lit. Other than teaching, I was not really cut out for any career path divergent from an apprentice industry as publishing has been and continues to be. It took me six months to land my first job as an assistant to the assistant’s assistant at the New York Yellow Pages: The Blue Books. You have to add that last part because this was a completely different directory publisher from the actual Yellow Pages. As fate would have it, I landed my second position at Macmillan less than a year later.
In the late 1980s my cousin Mike got married. It was a small wedding and reception, but it was fun. During the course of the reception, Mike and I were having a conversation about work and what not, when he blurted out, “It’s really nice that you followed in your father’s footsteps and went to work in the media.” As amazing as it sounds, I had never even made the connection until that minute. Working in the GLAMOUR industry of publishing is part of the media, a very important part of the media.
Dreams of Replacing Mickey Mantle
Whenever anyone asks me what I wanted to be when I was a kid, I always say, “The Centerfielder for the NY Yankees.” With homage to my all-time favorite hockey player, Mike Bossy, I would wear number 22. I would NOT be wearing number 22 because I am twice as good as Derek Jeter! I can hear the late Bob Sheppard’s voice announcing me into the game: Now, Playing Centerfield, Number 22, Don Schmidt, Number 22.
The childhood dream became a metamorphosis as an adult. I love publishing, I love the work I do, and I highly recommend that those in the industry love it and cherish it as I do in its changing forms and functions. “Now playing Vice-President for Publishing Operations, Don Schmidt, Number 22.”