Sometimes an editor is asked to attend events in the community, or participate in activities as a kind of "celebrity" guest. Often the organization that has offered the invitation extends hearty thanks for the few minutes of time taken out of the day. But, as I was reminded last week, it is the editor who should do the thanking.
Linda Crocker asked me months ago if I would be a guest reader at the "Rocket Kids: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... Read'" summer program at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Parkersburg. She promised to bring me a copy of the book I would be reading, so I could practice. (Thank goodness I got a chance to practice.) And I marked the date.
August, as you all may have noticed, snuck up on the Mid-Ohio Valley this year. I wasn't ready. Things had gotten busy around the office. I had meetings to attend, meetings to attend, and, later, a couple of meetings to attend.
But I tucked the copy of "The Man in the Moon," the first in the Guardians of Childhood series, under my arm and made my way to the reading camp anyway ... where a young lady greeted me at the door and immediately walked me through a wormhole.
O.K. Maybe it was black plastic bags and strings of lights decorating a doorway. But it had quite the transporting effect.
I was not in grown-up land, anymore. And that was a wonderful thing.
Before I began to read, I gave the kids a chance to ask a few questions. "Do you like to read?" Well, yes. Very much.
"I KNEW it!" exclaimed a young man from the back, who also stomped his foot. When I asked him how he was so certain I liked to read, he gave me an incredulous look and said. "You're carrying a book." Well, he got me, there.
Then the guessing began as to how many books I probably owned. I believe they settled on a thousand. So, a girl in the front row, whose hand-raising abilities would have put Hermione Granger to shame, asked whether I had ever written a book. I have, as a matter of fact, as part of a course I took during my senior year of college. So, she asked me how old I was when I wrote that book (a children's science book about the reasons the sky can be all kinds of colors other than blue). I told her I was 20 at the time. I think I might as well have said I was 500.
One little guy, whose eyes had already gone wide when I said "20," gasped, "Then how old are you now?" One of the camp volunteers quickly told him that when he gets older, he will know better than to ask women their age.
A lovely, quiet young woman to my side asked where I managed to put all my books. I told her they were in shelves, stacked on the floor ... all over the place. She smiled and said she has a lot of books, too, and that some of them end up in her closet. That was so good to hear.
After "What does an editor do?" "Do you have any other jobs?" "Do you like to dance?" "Do you like to sing?" and "Where did you go to college?" we settled in for the story.
You want to talk about pressure. "The Man in the Moon" is not a short book, by picture-book standards. And it is filled with amazing pictures. My first stumble came when I fumbled through trying to explain why I was calling one of the characters "he" when the picture looked more like a girl. Well, it is a rather androgynous looking character who isn't really a person, and, well, see ... (turns page quickly).
A few more speed bumps, like having to give "extinguishing" three tries before I spit it out, and we were through the book just in time for parents to pick up their kids. Most of the kids gave me a quick "thanks," on their way past. One even asked me to tie his shoe.
But a couple of them stopped a little longer and gave me a more thoughtful "thank you."
Oh, no, kids. Thank you. I could not have spent a better afternoon if I had tried.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org