When the other ten-year-old boys in my San Fernando Valley neighborhood were playing kickball, I was at the library. When the other Boy Scouts in my troop were busy chopping wood and pitching tents, I was off under a tree somewhere, soaking up Edgar Allan Poe or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—much to the ire of my beefy, blowhard ex-Marine scoutmaster. In sixth grade, I was pulled aside by my teacher and admonished for bringing Patrick Dennis’s very risqué Little Me to class. Wagging her finger sternly under my nose, she intoned, “Do you really think this is an appropriate book for you to be reading in school, Eric?”
Perhaps such attitudes came from the post-World War II California mindset—that children should be outdoors, athletically gamboling in the sunshine and smog, rather than sitting inside buried in a book. But life between the pages was always so much more fascinating than life in suburbia. There was little doubt that, as an adult, I would wind up in New York City, working with words on a career path that has included writing, editing, and agenting.
The satisfaction of seeing one’s own work in print is strong, but there is equal satisfaction in guiding the efforts of others into print. There are terrific writers with terrific stories out there in the big wide world; I feel lucky to have been able to discover a few of them and to introduce their work to the public. Whether an author writes fiction or non-fiction, for adults or for young people, true writing talent is precious. And it’s even more to be cherished in a Candy Crush world where thoughts and feelings are being stripped down to 140-character snatches, and attention spans flit from screen to screen, app to app, every few minutes. Writers need champions, and I’m proud to fulfill that function. I’m in it for the long haul.