In my twenties, I had a publishing career. I look back on it fondly although at the time I was nearly constantly frustrated, thinking I would never get ahead and I would never make enough money. Like, ever. I worked for a few different companies, some you will have heard of, others not. People outside the industry thought it was glamorous, people inside the industry would roll their eyes. I would move to a new company whenever I hit a dead end, and by the end of the 90s I got out of the industry altogether because the technology side of my interests had taken over.
The last company I worked for was the place I stayed the longest. It was a small company with a distinct culture, a lot of pressure, and a lot of drama. There were wine and cheese parties every Friday, and so much work, you'd frequently see wine glasses on people's desks Monday morning, indicating that they had gone back to work on a Friday evening, after the social hour. There were a lot of characters. There was laughing, there was apparently a lot of crying - "Don't worry," a senior female exec told me in the ladies room " S____ (one of the VPs) makes all the women cry if they are here long enough. You have just been initiated."
I learned a lot from that job, both about business, and about the rest of the country. My first travels around the country were for trade shows in places like Mobile, AL, Louisville, KY, and Denver, CO. My company threw lavish parties for both authors and clients; always in some unique and interesting venue. We ate well. I learned quickly to attach myself to one of the VPs at the major shows and inevitably I would be part of a large group going to a fabulous restaurant in the area, sharing expensive bottles of wine and not worrying about the prices on the menu, listening to stories of the early days when they didn't have it so good.
Up until that point, I'd been an incredibly picky eater. My co-workers would goad me into trying new things until it became a challenge I set for myself: at least one new food on every trip. There were the escargots in Ft. Lauderdale, the alligator fritters in Alabama, the ostrich in Denver, Barbeque in Texas, different kinds of fish all over the South, something with a mole sauce somewhere else.
That was before smoking bans, when it wasn't uncommon for restaurants to print and give away matchbooks. I had a whole collection, but they were taking up space and I eventually started using them to light candles. Some of the restaurants are no longer in business. When I returned to Denver last year, I tried to find the modern Italian restaurant I'd been to 10 years earlier (fancy, very flat matches with the tiniest of tips, good food, too), but to no avail. A post from Sarah got me researching a place I had loved in Kentucky, and I was thrilled to find it still there. Of course, between the kids and the money involved, I'm not sure I'll ever eat like that again.
The company had a winning formula of sorts. It involved producing high quality materials and treating your authors and customers well, among other things. But I learned enough about business to see that they also had a parent company breathing down their necks;ready to pounce the first time that formula did not produce the stunning sales numbers we achieved year after year. I left about six months before that happened. The staff was pretty much decimated after a year and a half.
I do miss those days, though I was very young, and not very happy while I was going through them (a bit like high school, really). I've been out of touch with most of my co-workers from those days, but with the advent of Facebook, and Linked In, I have been thinking about many of them a lot lately. This is especially true of my immediate boss, who was an awesome go-getter, and still very funny. The last time I saw her she was 8 months pregnant with her first child. That was quite a while ago.
Publishing houses didn't have instructional designers back then, and they don't have a ton of them now. In the years that I was home with the boys, ID became a more valued profession. An ID job at a publishing firm came across my screen recently. I thought about it for a millisecond. I'm pretty happy where I am.
And I don't think anything could match those years.