One of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen, says that “the stages of a writer’s professional life are marked not by a name on the office door, but a name in ink.” For some 30 years — as CEO of two software companies and later head of a nonprofit organization — I had my “name on the office door.” But that recognition didn’t provide me with the same thrill and, yes, the same ego trip, as seeing my byline and photo at the head of my newspaper columns.
The exhiliration didn’t come without a great deal of anxiety. For many years, every Sunday morning would begin with an early walk out to the mailbox for the newspaper. My hands would shake as I would search for my column. By the time I would walk through the front door, my wife, Sue, would know by the expression on my face what I had uncovered. About two-thirds of the time, I would be smiling, indicating that the powers-that-be had faithfully reproduced my work of art. The other times, my disgusted look and accompanying cuss words would tell her that the headline writer had completely missed the point with his/her clever choice of phrase or the typesetter had misspelled my carefully chosen words, or both.
In a previous gig with a biweekly newspaper, I faced an additional problem. The publisher was an Anglophile who applied British spellings to my American words. Thus, my “neighbor” became “neighbour,” “color” turned into “colour,” and “realize” was changed to “realise.” In my final pre-submission edit, I would attempt to purge each column of all words which might be subject to such translation. Yet, invariably, I would miss one or two. Post-publication, I would flog myself for allowing such perversion under my byline.
Today, I still get a kick out of seeing my name appear atop my writing. However, seeing it on a computer screen is not the same as seeing it on real paper. Anyone can write a blog. Moreover, the thrills I experienced in 18 years of seeing my byline in newspapers and magazines were nothing compared to the exhiliration I can only anticipate to come from seeing my name on the cover of a BOOK! I can only hope that day will come soon for Out of Prague: A Memoir of Survival, Denial, and Triumph.