Publishing post-apocalypse… with beer

Last night I took a break from the online BEA pout-a-thon and  went to a kid lit drinks and mingle thing at Houndstooth Pub in Manhattan. I was invited by a friend who works as a book editor for Sesame Street. (I know. Isn’t that the best job ever? (She also has Elmo on her business card!)) Pretty much everyone there had been at BEA all day… except me. Since I haven’t had much to do with book people since I stopped working at McGraw-Hill in 2006, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And frankly, when I got there, I was shocked.

There were no pale book-dweebs shunning the sunlight and seeking refuge between the pages of a tome. No authors were huddled for emotional warmth near the raging fires of their collective rejection letters. No one seemed to be hoarding ARCs for the inevitable publishing post-apocalypse that Publisher’s Weekly has been assuring me is on its way. In fact, these were the most upbeat bunch of book lovers that I could have ever hoped to meet.

There was the librarian, whose 13-year-old squeal and earnest smile lit up the room, and the editorial assitant who rocks out in a Harry Potter-inspired Wizard band. New authors milled about with the tentative and almost apologetic gait of those who bare their souls for a living (making me feel totally normal for feeling that way every single day), and there were editors, who strode confidently, happy to cull those same souls and whip their stories into shape for thronging readers.

I haven’t felt that happy to be with a bunch of strangers since I attended the SCBWI summer conference back in 2005. It reminds me that although I work alone, at home, out of a tiny office offshooting from my bedroom, I am actually a part of a huge industry, and that everyone in it is really just interested in one thing: getting the best books possible into the hands of readers.

I left feeling positive that there would always be a place for good books, brought on by the company and my  two-beer buzz. And as happy as I was when I left, it suddenly occurred to me, that while I’m a good writer and I love doing what I do, I don’t think that I’ll ever have it in me to write the fantastic books that readers deserve.

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