A Letter of Gratitude by Author Sonny Regelman
It was 1997, and I was 23 and working in Boston in my first professional job as a sales service representative for an educational publisher. I answered the 1-800 hotline and spoke with customers all day. But my goal was to become an editor.
One unsuspecting day about six months into the job, my coworkers and I were gathered to learn that our department was being eliminated. This news was followed by an extremely uncomfortable lunch. The head of HR proceeded to overindulge in the wine list, while the rest of us exchanged nervous glances and barely touched our entrees.
After lunch we each received a folder with a list of open positions, and I spotted an assistant editor role. Although I was still reeling from being laid off, I wrote myself a short script of what to say, then called the Editorial Director, Denise. In my sales service role, I supported the editorial team with various projects such as maintaining the company’s ISBN catalog, so she knew me a bit. Denise graciously requested my resume. By the end of the day, I had received both a pink slip and a shot at my dream career.
Denise worked remotely from Florida. She was a former high school French teacher with a pageboy haircut and big glasses. And she smoked. Manuscripts would arrive from her smelling like ashtrays. I’d have to open the window in my office to air it out. Denise was also the ideal mentor. She was organized and patient and whip-smart. She would rattle off what to say or what to write in business transactions. From her, I learned how to manage the most diva-prone authors. She was a workaholic but she also respected work-life balance. Denise only called her team at home if it was a publishing emergency. She built connections and promoted teamwork. Best of all, she never made me feel as inexperienced as I was.
When Denise moved on to another company, she hired and promoted me. Later, my career went in a different direction, and I no longer worked for Denise. But when I became a manager, I tried to emulate her leadership style and be more of a coach than a boss. I tried to build a team rather than a department and give the members the confidence to know that they were capable. I tried to listen more than talk. Over 20 years later, I am a leader with a rich career in publishing because Denise took a chance on me that day.
A few months ago, I got the heartbreaking news that Denise passed away from cancer. I reflected, what would my life have been like without her sponsoring my career? Who would I be today without her mentorship? Some years back, when I was first promoted to vice president, I wrote her a letter of gratitude and let her know that I credited her with my career. She gave me a shot when I had nothing to offer but potential. I’m so glad that I did that when I had the chance. If you had a Denise in your life, have you thanked them?
According to Sonny, why small moments matter: Life is made up of small moments—they only become memories if you notice them.
Bio: Sonny Regelman has been a publishing professional for over 20 years. She has a master’s degree in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. Her poetry has recently appeared in Event Horizon, Red River Review, the Di-Vêrsé-City Anthology 2018, and Weaving the Terrain, an anthology of 100-word Southwestern poems from Dos Gatos Press. She serves on the board of the Austin Poetry Society and is an instructor at The Writing Barn. Find her on Twitter @SonnyRegelman.
Brave Tutu Note: I met Sonny when we were both Fellows at The Writing Barn in Austin, TX. I first noticed how generous Sonny was with her time and how much she enjoyed supporting authors and creatives. Sonny was the first to volunteer for most tasks, big and small. It wasn’t until later that I learned more about her powerhouse professional career. Her generous tenacity makes sense. I’m grateful to know about Denise and the road that brought her to her editorial leadership today.
Your Brave Tutu (You’re brave, too-too!)
-Take courage in delight. Discover power in small moments.