RUTHLESS. What a curious word. And how did it ever come to mean ‘cruel, heartless, pitiless.’ Could it have been coined in a gal leaves guy country-western ballad—Cold and callous, she ground his heart like the butt of her Camel with the heel of her boot—Leaving him to drown in shots of bourbon and vermouth—Yes, Ruth cut him loose on that fateful day—she left him RUTH-LESS—RUTH-LESS, lost, and astray.
When I recently read in Publishers Weekly that Barbara Lalicki,
senior vice-president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children’s Books, is retiring at the end of this month, I had a similar thought.
No! Not that Barbara has anything to do with being ruthless. But I can see how you’d be misled into thinking that. Sometimes my thought-threads surprise even me. No, I thought:
So, does this mean that when Barbara retires, she’ll go off somewhere and become tired again? Or thoroughly tired? Maybe even, thoroughly tired again?
No, not the Barbara who’d spent the last 40 years of her life in children’s publishing—I couldn’t imagine that.
Not the Barbara who’d worked with Beverly Cleary and her rambunctious character Ramona Quimby or Gary Paulsen and his courageous Brian in Hatchet—
Not the Barbara who, while vacationing in Berlin in 2011, spent an afternoon at Storytime Books & More talking about the changes she’d seen in publishing to a group of SCBWI children’s book writers and illustrators. This blog is one juicy watermelon borne from a seed Barbara planted that day. NO. That Barbara would never retreat (oh, there’s another one—re-treat = regifting the Halloween candy you don’t like to late trick-or-treaters?). No, that Barbara would never retire into the netherworld of tired zombies.
Now, if retiring has anything to do with tires though—you know, those rubber-encased rims we call wheels responsible for moving us about, taking us places? Well then, I could definitely see Barbara re-treading—renewing, refurbishing the tread on the soles of her forty-year-old editor’s shoes. And I can see how, once they are rejuvenated and revitalized, they will sweep her off to a life full of adventure—supporting her in whatever she undertakes and accompanying her wherever she decides to travel to next. I’m sure this re-tire-ment will be a remarkable time, replete with resplendent experiences, but not without an occasional change or two—or three—or four. For what would an editor’s life be like, without revision?
Dear Barbara – So much unlike our alma mater Stony Brook’s Bridge to Nowhere, you have gone, have been, and are going somewhere. You’ve realized many of your goals, at least with regard to children’s books, as I see it. And now, before you begin your own new chapter, I would like to thank you – for contributing to my and my children’s increased knowledge and enjoyment – for inspiring me to write everyday – and most especially, for motivating me not to give up on my chicken.
I wish you happy, obstacle-free trails on the rest of this great adventure titled: Life.
– and Auf Wiedersehen –