Monday, August 17, 2009

10 Years: a look back

Yesterday, August 16 was my ten-year anniversary of starting at Little, Brown and Company. (I mentioned this last week to a former coworker who said, "The 16th is a Sunday. That's kind of sad that they made you start work on a Sunday. Those slave drivers." Ha!)

To commemorate the day, I decided to look back in my journals from the time I interviewed and started work. They're a little embarrassing, but I couldn't resist sharing. (And reading back on the diaries made me wish I still kept a journal--that seemed to go by the wayside once I started blogging, even though how I blog and how I used to write in a diary are completely different.)

So, back in June of 1999, my internships at the Horn Book and Charlesbridge had come to an end, and my former supervisor at the Horn Book, Jen, told me about a job at Little, Brown.

My entry for June 28, 1999:
I sent off my cover letter and resume to Little, Brown. I really really want this job. It's exactly what I want.
I want it I want it I want it!
Please please please.

I will get this job.
I am confident.
I will get this job.
I will get this job.
If I say it enough, it will happen.
I believe!

And then on 7/1, after I had an interview scheduled, I practiced a few potential interview questions, including:

Why do you want this position?
I think this question is basically asking, Why do I want to work in children's book publishing?
On a basic level: I love children's books. I want to have a career doing something I love, creating something that I have a passion for. But not only do I just love children's books, but I think they are extremely important. Just like other forms of mass media, I feel that books have a potential to have a huge impact on children, both negative and positive. Books can open children up to endless possibilities, different points of view, but they can limit children as well. It's important to ensure the quality of the books that are published.

(Wow, I sound like I'm in a HS debate or in a beauty pageant or something--but I thought it was cute that I was practicing interview questions. I had totally forgotten that. I was so diligent!)

And here's the entry from 7/14/99, two days before my birthday. This was the best birthday gift ever:

"Hi Alvina, it's Megan XX of Little, Brown and Company. I'm calling around 3:20 on Tuesday. Sorry I couldn't talk to you more yesterday, but anyway, I have good news and I'm looking forward to talking to you..."

So goes the beginning of the answering machine message Megan left me...I couldn't believe it. My heart was beating so fast...I felt dizzy and dazed. I called back, and she offered me the job.




How quickly your life can change...

I was so depressed Monday and most of Tuesday because I was convinced I didn't get it.

My interview went well, but not fantastic. I was so excited, because it turns out Megan had edited several books featuring Asian Americans, because she felt that Asians weren't depicted enough in children's books.
Then on Thursday I went into the Horn Book to interview with Karen [the Horn Book was hiring a Marketing/Administrative Assistant], and Jen said "So I talked to Megan...she really liked you!" and I got all excited again.

Megan had said she'd either have a decision by the end of the week or call for second interviews at the end of the week.

I didn't hear anything on Friday. It was torture all weekend. I majorly ground my teeth.

Monday morning, I called.
"Hi Megan, this is Alvina Ling, I interviewed with you last week."
"Oh, yes, hi Alvina."
"I was wondering if you've come to any kind of decision yet."
"I...I...uh, I'll definitely know by the end of the day tomorrow."
"You'll have a decision by the end of the day tomorrow?"
"Yes. I'll definitely call you then."

I didn't take that as a good sign. I thought she had basically decided, and it wasn't me, but wasn't prepared to reject me on the spot.

On top of it all, about an hour later, standing in the kid's section with Jeannine [she was the children's section supervisor at B&N and had also interviewed for the Horn Book job], she received a phone call from the Horn Book offering her the job. [read more about this moment here.]
I was pretty depressed. She was so happy, and she felt so bad for being so happy, and why should she feel bad?


A real job.
I have my first real job.
I'm so excited.
And I don't even know what I'm going to get paid. [ha!]
And I don't care, even.

On 8/16:
My first day at Little, Brown was today.
It went pretty well.
I think I'll like it. I'm sorta scared, thought. There's so much to remember. So many thing to do and keep track of.

But I think I'll enjoy it all.

On 8/26:
So I've been at L,B for almost two weeks now. This was my first week solo (as in, without the former assistant Scott to show me what to do).
I feel like I'm getting the hang of things. I'm getting to know people there. They're cool.
I feel like I've been making some silly mistakes. No attention to detail. I should be more careful.
But I really think I'm going to do well there.
I guess it's really all up to me.
As my mom likes to say,
If it is to be, it's up to me.

Why, yes it is, Young Alvina, yes it is.

I'm glad to see that after ten years, I'm not completely jaded, although I'm certainly not as wide-eyed and innocent as I was back then. But as I say every year when I look back, I'm still in a job that a love, and I still feel that there's a great responsibility that comes with creating children's books. As I noted in my last post, I live my job a lot of the time, and believe me, I certainly DO care what I get paid nowadays! But all in all, I especially love that I am constantly learning and growing in my job, that each year brings new challenges with all the new books I edit. And this is what will keep me happy and satisfied for another ten, heck, another fifty years! Happy Anniversary to me!


James said...


Karen McQuestion said...

Happy Anniversary! Ten years at a job you love doing important work, is no small thing.

Anonymous said...

Happy 10th year!! This July marked 10 years since I got my teaching job. Crazy how fast it goes.

SWILUA said...


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Melissa S. said...

aww - I remember those days of you and Jeannine manning the children's section... then you got your big break and escaped bookseller-dom. :) Congrats on 10 years - has it really been that long?!

yamster said...

Congrats, Alvina! Did you get a present??? :)

alvinaling said...

They did away with the Tiffany's gift--darn it! But I still got the moolah. Woo-hoo!

Tarie Sabido said...

Happy Anniversary, Alvina! Thank you so much for sharing your story. :o)

Crystal said...

Congratulations, Alvina! Love your blog; and love how you've shared your experiences in the world of children's publishing!

Rita said...

Oh man do I love these diary entries!!! You feel it!! My journal entries are the same way, and it's also been a long time since I've kept one. (Occasionally I start one but it turns to story brainstorming within half an entry--and turns into another notebook. And blogging is very different.)

Thanks for sharing! :D Happy Anniversary!