Monday, April 8, 2013


I bet you didn't know I was a sailor.

That's because I'm not.  I am talking about a book galley.  It is my lead in to actually tell you about my first job.  And galleys were just ONE thing about which  I was completely clueless.

Just to give you an idea of how "out of my league" I was, when I was job hunting I fell for somebody's con job sob story, and gave them all my money so that they could catch a cab and get home.  Then I realized that I didn't have any money to buy a subway token to get home.  I had to walk twenty blocks - in heels - to where my friend was working to borrow money for the subway.  She and her officemate about laughed themselves out of their chairs.  I walked that entire twenty blocks believing I had done a good deed.  They disabused me of the notion.  I was just conned out of my last dollar.  Sadly, only the first of many stories...

Remember in my last post how I told you that I majored in English because I liked to read?  Well, the next big question comes after you graduate.  What are going to do with that???  I moved to New York City and started looking for a job at all of the publishing houses.  This was back in 1990.  I got a job as an assistant in the Publicity Department at St. Martin's Press.  I was so GREEN.  I knew nothing.  Looking back on those days I shudder a little bit.  Actually, it's more like an all over body shiver.  Blaaach.

If you are wondering why there is a photo of The Flatiron Building pictured above, it is because the offices for St. Martin's Press comprised at that time (and possibly still do) the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th floors of the building.  Publicity was on 17 back in the 1990s.  The Flatiron Building is the only building in NY, and perhaps anywhere, that still has hydraulic elevators.  That means that the elevator never actually stops with certainty on any floor.  It kind of wobbles on each floor.  It is a bit disorienting until you get used to it.  You can also see that the building is a triangle, but it is perfect for the crazy intersection.  It is placed at 23rd Street where 5th and Broadway cross over each other.  It is also fairly famous because it is the building in the background of a very well known photograph of James Dean.  Moving on back onto the topic of my job and publishing...  

On the work front, publishing was a whole new world.  In Publicity, we fielded all of the Outside Calls.  if they were coming from New York or Jersey, I couldn't understand half of what they said for the first four months.  That was really scary if the call was In-House.  That person could find me and kick my @ss if I said "What?" or "Can you repeat that?" one too many times.  Patience isn't  a strong suit for the natives.  If I became really panicked, I just started saying things like, "I understand why you feel that way" even if I had no idea what they were saying.  Egads.  Can we say Scary???

And then there were all the people wanting to talk to the authors.  I think some thought that they would actually be in the building.  Others were convinced that we could bend the rules, just for them, and give out their phone numbers, because they REALLY NEEDED TO TALK TO THEM.  Yeah right.  James Herriott was one of our authors, and so many people called with dying animals, that they were sure James Herriott could cure, even though their own vet could not, so we could make an exception for them, right?  Alas no.  But I got to hear their sad story.  And so I cried nearly every day over someone else's dying pet.   I even got calls from police detectives, or so they said, wanting to talk to Thomas Harris, who wrote The Silence of the Lambs.  My answer was the same: you can send a letter to this address c/o Thomas Harris.  If he gets back to you... awesome.  I only said that last part in my head.

Speaking of The Silence of the Lambs, I got to see that movie gratis in a screening room before the movie actually came out since it was one of our titles.  OMG.... it was horrifying.  Huge screen.  Tiny little room.  The movie was almost literally on top of us.  That is not the movie that you want to have Right.On.Top.Of.You.  I was shaking so bad when I left that screening room I wanted to click my heels and be home.  I walked out and it was raining.  That was SO BAD.  My plan was to pay the ridiculous cab fare to go home.  It was late and I didn't want to ride the subway by myself.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to catch a cab in the rain.  I tried.  No luck.  I stood out in the rain valiantly trying to hail any cab.  They kept passing me by, and splashing me, until I gave up and trekked to the subway.  Longest ride ever to Queens.  Followed by a longer walk home.  Seemed to be a shadow behind every building.  Ominous.  Totally.  Never was I so glad to be home.  I closed the door and just stood there shaking.  It was safe to say that I was a bunch of screaming nerve ends.  Hate that movie to this day.  Won't read the book.  You cannot make me.

It was the early 90s, and the computer was not used then as it is now.  In other words, many things were still being done on the typewriter.  As in labels.  I typed the same label to the same place over and over again.  There were some days that I did nothing but type labels for big mailings.  Galley mailings.  Those were followed up by big book mailings.  They all needed labels typed on the typewriter.  Gah.  Thankfully, press releases were created and edited on the computer in a very basic word processing system.  I can't imagine what that was like pre-computer.  Of course, as an assistant, when I wasn't tapping out labels, I was fighting my other best friend: the copy machine.  Who made the gadzillion copies of the press releases?  Me. 

So, if you are still scratching your head over the galley, let me bring this one full circle.  The galley is the book before it is actually a Published Book.  It isn't pretty, but it is readable.  It gets sent to the reviewers so that they have time to get their review in by the time the book actually comes out in print.  The idea is that the two things coincide nicely.

I ended up leaving that job for a boyfriend.  Gah.  That was a terrible decision.  It also ended up teaching me something the Very Hard Way.  On the positive front, I did end up learning something about myself that I would later use when I was trying to sort out what job was right for me later.  Publicity and sales are not that far apart.  Turns out I picked up some skills on this job that did come in handy when I began to narrow that field of "what am I good at" and "how can I use these skill sets to actually make money?"  Life always provides a lesson.  You just have to be willing to learn.

How long did you work at your first job out of college?  Do you wish you had stayed with it or left it sooner?  Was it a perfect fit for you?  Did it teach you some valuable Life Lessons?  Did it help you decide what you really wanted to do with your career?  


  1. I never finished college, so I've never had that 'fresh out of college, looking for a job' adventure. Yours sounds a bit scary, but I'm glad you took something away from it, at least.

    I tend to believe that things happen for reasons and you get where you're going because it's the right place for you. Events ripple and shape our lives, like layers of an onion.

    I have had some crappy jobs, but each has given me skills to help me with a bigger and better job...even if it was as simple as learning how to deal with people better.

    Great post!

  2. I would've stopped answering the phone.

  3. Love this post!! Awww.... you poor little pile of screaming nerve ends. I can just imagine you out there in the rain. Poor thing. And walking in heels. This was a very well done and interesting read. I enjoyed every well placed detail (if he gets back to you... awesome). Ha!

    Soooo.... ya. A degree in English. Thatta girl. You were the one who commented on my "It took me 9 years, thank you" on my blog. I love it.

    See you for H.

    Waiter, drink please!

  4. I'm so glad you told about that building. I've seen it in movies and never knew anything about it. But I do like the architecture of it. Ah, leaving for a boyfriend. If I had stayed for one, I wouldn't be in the situation I am now. Go figure.

  5. I got married right after high school and "went back" to college after my sons were in elementary school. My first job after I graduated was juggled in with two jr. high age boys and a husband overseas with the military. I can't remember what life lessons I got from the job - there were too many coming from other directions. *grin*

  6. Mark ~ Moving to NYC was a bit scary. However, doing the things that scare you is good for you sometimes. It makes it easier to do the next thing that scares you. You are exactly right about each decision shaping our life. I think it is exactly like that!

    Alex ~ I learned a lot from answering that old phone. That is something I wouldn't change.

    Dana ~ NYC has this way of jading you, I do believe. It is a constant barrage of crapola being dumped non-stop. Or maybe it is just dealing with the public that does that. You can only take so much Stupid all day long. A person ends up thinking a lot of stuff in their head before it's all said and done. Ironically, after I started working at SMP, eventually all of my heels ended up at the office. I walked to work in sneakers and then changed into my work shoes. They were lined up in a row beside my desk! No more walking twenty blocks in heels for me. But, it was ugly if I forgot I had something AFTER work and forgot to bring the "right" shoe home. Egads.

    Empty Nester ~ Always happy to help someone out with historical building details. I can only tell you this: hindsight is 20/20. I have made terrible relationship decisions. Different decisions with different people... but all of them awful. That probably doesn't make you feel much better. But, you are not alone.

  7. Wow, that sounds like quite the experiences.

    My first job after college... took a long time to get. I ended up moving back to parent's house and finally got a job at an elementary school. It was nice but I wasn't qualified for such as my degree involved English, law and art. I was working as an assistant to the special education teacher. Yeah, got let go after a couple months cause they found someone more qualified. All my 2 jobs since then have been cashiering positions, so I'm still searching.

  8. WOW.... some job stories. I remember the elevators. I never gave it much thought, just got in them. Now I seem to have developed a phobia about elevators. I'll always walk but probably think twice about it in NYC.
    My friend Marilyn (I often mention her) and I talk about the bf's we used to waste time with. We could have learned to read and write fluent Chinese with all that wasted time and perhaps 10 other languages. Giving all your money away reminds me of my daughter-in-law. She would do that. But it was sweet, even though you had to squish 20 blocks in the rain. You should write your memoirs.

  9. My first experience working in New York, I was straight from Texas. It took my ears a while to get used to listening faster.

    Stopping in from A-Z.
    Good to meet you!

  10. Dawn ~ Don't give up. Don't allow yourself to stay stuck cashiering, either. That doesn't require a college degree. Keep reaching girl.

    Manzi ~ That day I was interview there was no rain... thank goodness. It was actually summer and rather hot. It was a hot walk!!! That night I watched The Silence of the Lambs screening I was probably in my sneakers. However, no rain when I went in... and it was dark and rainy when I came out. Usually, my roomie and I would meet up and ride the subway home together directly after work. Since I was late, I was alone. And totally FREAKED OUT. It was a bad night.

    Carol ~ I hear ya. My ears needed a total retraining. Actually, they do EVERYTHING faster in New York. Hahahaha. You have to be on your toes to keep up.

  11. Life teaches us lessons every single day. The problem is that usually Life finds people in Recess. :D

  12. Sounds like a great experience.

    My first job out of college was teaching preschoolers. It helped me realize that I wanted to work with kids, and I went back to school to get my teaching degree.

  13. Al ~ Life finds people in Recess. Oh, that is soooo true.

    Tim ~ The job is a great fine tuner to help a person zero in on what you LOVE.

  14. >> . . . How long did you work at your first job out of college?

    A "C" average in high school doesn't get you into "C"ollege.

    Off the top of my mind, I don't recall that building in a James Dean photo, but if it is in one, I probably have it in one of my bookcases here at the house.

    And, by the way, I know my opinion is in the minority by a super-majority, but 'Silence Of The Lambs' is one of the most overrated movies of all time. Just garbage. (I'd probably love it if I'd had the misfortune of going to college.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Movies are something that everyone has HUGE differences of opinions on. Many critics think movies are "amazing, fantastic, a must-see" or something like that and I watch it and think it's garbage. Or the reverse. Clearly, I wasn't a big fan of The Silence of The Lambs. I didn't say it, but I guess I thought it was implied that I will never watch that movie again. Did not like it at all.


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