Two different events are in my heart today, one happy, one sad. The sad news is that the economic worldwide meltdown has hit very close to home– yesterday, HarperCollins publishers fired 100 people, including the editor of my new book, Brenda Bowen, and everyone who works at her imprint, Bowen Books. It was a truly horrible slaying, a kind of “get your stuff and leave the office by five” thing.
I’ll quickly add that my new book, Falcon Quinn, will be reassigned to a different editor and will probably be published right on schedule, so fans of my writing need not immediately drape themselves in black.
But Brenda Bowen– a graduate of Colby College, 1980!–an English major!– was the one who called me on the phone on Halloween 2007, after seeing a piece of mine in the New York Times, and who asked, have you ever considered writing for young readers? Together we worked out the plot and the plan for Falcon Quinn, which just last week went in its new draft to HarperCollins, and this week we have been looking at covers together. Brenda is a legendary editor, and a lovely person. And is now the latest casualty of the ongoing financial bloodbath.
I’ve had, so far, a dear friend lose her job at AT&T (to be saved by her union at the last second, thank goodness), and another have to take on a second job to stay afloat. Our children’s college funds, carefully tended these last dozen years are worth almost half of what they were worth last year. All around me now I see the fires spreading.
Tempermentally I like to think I am full of devotion and love and compassion, but the rising tide increasingly fills me with fear and sadness. I do not know what the future holds, but the clouds keep gathering. The end is nowhere in sight.
Last night my younger boy said something that made my throat close up. I told him about Brenda losing her job, and he, being a big fan of “the monster book” said, thoughtfully, “Well, maybe if the monster book does really well, we could maybe– do something for her?”
I nodded. Yes, I said. That’d be nice.
Unbelievable, I thought, the generosity and love of children. Would that this were enough to roll back the darkness of the world.
Speaking of children– that’s the other thing. Today, this very day, my older boy, Zachary Owen Boylan, is fifteen years old.
One and a half decades ago, on a cold February night, Deedie and I were watching “Brideshead REvisited” on VHS. There’s a scene with Charles and Sebastian and all their friends at Oxford having a feast. Charles reached forward to taste “the egg of a wild plover.” Deedie said, “I think we have to go to the hospital now.” I put the VCR on “pause,” and the image of Charles’ hand reaching for the plover egg was frozen, forever. And the life that we had known came to an end, and a new one began. The next day– February 11, 1994, a baby cried out loud in a room filled with light and Deedie’s face opened up like the sun and she said, “That’s— amazing!”
It has been amazing, these last 15 years. Now Zach is the lead in his 9th grade play, is learning how to fence with foils; has a big head of curly blonde hair; likes incomprehensible ‘death metal’; plays Irish fiddle tunes on his violin; loves his brother and his mother and his maddy and his two goofy black dogs.
The light which began to shine from Deedie fifteen years ago today is brighter than ever.
This light is not strong enough to roll back the darkness of the world, from all the terrible things that seem to keep accumulating. But it’s enough to cast a warm glow on the members of this family, these boys and women and dogs, and for this I give thanks.