Monday, August 23, 2010

The Greatest Perk of All

We in book publishing love to talk about and relish in the perks of our jobs. We may not ever make six figure salaries, or even ever be able to afford to live outside of Brooklyn, and our days sometimes stretch out into ten or eleven hours or more, but hey, we get free books, engage in our fair share of 4 pm champagne toasts on week day afternoons to celebrate the success of one of our books, or an award won. And then, of course, there’s the greatest perk of all: proximity to our heroes.

I’ll never forget the first time I spoke to a favorite writer of mine on the phone about two weeks into my time here, one so epic I had studied her in college two years earlier. She asked me about the placement of a comma and I nearly fainted with joy. Entry level jobs don’t get much better than this, I thought. Since then similar delights have ensued: a dinner out with one of my favorite poets, a pair of earrings from a novelist as a thank you gift for my work that I daydreamed about giving to my hypothetical great-great-great-granddaughter (people will live longer in the future, right?) on my death bed after telling her about my first job in New York.

Four years later I’m slightly less of a kid in a candy shop, having grown somewhat accustomed to working with some of the lovely, esteemed writers that I have the pleasure to know. I sometimes kick myself for forgetting just how lucky I am to get to meet some of my idols. What would your book nerdish 16-year-old self think, I ask myself. Just recently, though, a writer proved that small gestures from immensely talented people are still capable of wowing me, and there are some things you just don’t get used to.

Having come across an extra box of his books in the back room awhile ago I sent them to this author with a note saying “I found these extra copies and thought you might like to have them.” Last week, on a long, lazy, nondescript day, a package was delivered to my cubicle. Inside was a first edition of one of his earlier books that was published by a different house and on the title page he had inscribed “Caroline, thanks for the extras. Here’s one of mine.” Bowled over that such a talented, successful (and presumably busy) person would recognize such a small act with such a thoughtful gesture, and knowing that I’ll be honored to have this for years to come, I’ve been glowing ever since.

Perks don’t get much better than that, regardless of your salary.

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