Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Margaret McElderry


I just heard on my writing list. Margaret K. McElderry is dead.

I haven't seen her in years and can't claim to have been one of her nearest and dearest, but she bought Otto from Otherwhere from me out of the slushpile 30 years ago, and bought my next nine books, too, so she's probably the single most important person in my career so far. McElderry Books was the second place I sent Otto, because during the market research phase I discovered (by the simple expedient of looking at the publishing information on books I liked) that she'd published a huge percentage of the books I liked best and had consciously emulated, so she was the obvious market to try to break in with. It worked, too. Every one of those nine books was edited directly and thoroughly by her, with manuscript pages shipped back and forth in boxes. Very Old School.

I met her in person a couple of times, at ALA in town and one of the times I was in New York. She was like a fairy godmother in a pantsuit. I remember somebody got her to talk about her World War II experience at dinner at ALA. She was actively recruited to serve overseas, and was bewildered by it. She had to crawl under barbed wire as part of her training, but her war service primarily involved driving generals around. I wish I remembered more of that.

People ask me occasionally "what happened," why I stopped selling things to Margaret, and I never know how to answer. I don't think anything happened, really - except for Switching Well I was at best a midlister, after Simon & Schuster bought the imprint she didn't have as much autonomy as she used to, and I think my style evolved away from being a McElderry author about the time she had to cut back her direct participation and turn most of the work over to Emma Dryden. That's how things go.

You will read many more eloquent and meaningful tributes than this one about this woman. They will all be true.

Death sucks.

1 comment:

  1. Raise your glass and give her a toast. Celebrate the good works and all that you learned from her.