February 26, 2000

Post #1048 – 20000226

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

About 5 years ago I took a job at a local bookstore to learn all that I could about children’s literature. I was working part time at night for several years. My store manager fed my interest in children’s books and encouraged my enthusiasm so much that I decided to give up my Graphic Design career and pursue full time work with children’s books and children.

I found a job as a Library Assistant at North Regional Public Library in Raleigh, NC. They were wonderful. They taught me how to read out loud to children, how books are organized in the library, and how to best serve the public in a Library atmosphere. It was a dream job. Unfortunately, I had to leave it when my husband was transferred to Atlanta.

I felt fortunate to secure a position as department head of the children’s department at the local Barnes & Noble. This is where my tale turns. My enthusiasm for children’s books fell on deaf ears. I was often given the impression that what I had spent so much time learning was of little value or importance. In fact, they kept wanting to promote me into the next level of management and out of the children’s department. It was a constant struggle to get it through to them that I was there because of my love for children’s books.

My husband was transferred yet again to Indianapolis, and I moved to the local Barnes & Noble here. I was dismayed to find out that they could have cared less that I knew anything about the Children’s genre. In fact, the store manager often chased me out of the department when I would try to go back there.

I gave the library another chance. It turns out that there is absolutely no way that I could ever work with children as a library employee in Indy without a Masters degree. My past experience means nothing here without another 32 expensive hours of education. Going back to school isn’t an option for me right now. I felt like the world of children’s books had shut a door in front of me, and wouldn’t let me in. I love working with children and the books they read, but the enthusiasm I had once felt was slowly squashed. I am now going back to graphic design at a local history museum.

Forgive this long e-mail, but I am getting to my point now. I have a habit of getting up every Saturday morning to listen to Scott Simon on NPR. I am delighted every time that you are on. My favorite segment on Weekend Edition is when you read with Scott Simon. Your enthusiasm reminded me that I am not alone. You have opened that shut door and invited me in, but it leads to a different room than I thought. I may not have the chance to work with the public in a bookstore or library, but I can participate in the world of children’s books in other ways. Listening to you has inspired me to try my hand at writing and illustrating my own book. Thank you.

Brenda Nemeth

Daniel replies:

Do not be discouraged by ignorance and indifference. There are some people in our society who are estranged from their own child-selves, and actually have a kind of contempt for children. This contempt can extend to books for children--which, rationally, have to be seen as the most important books there are. Oddly, you are as likely to encounter people like this in bookstores, libraries...and children's publishing, as anywhere else. They do not signify. Good luck with your writing/illustrating project. And have fun!