I learned yesterday that Craig Virden died suddenly this week.
Did you know Craig? If you had not met him personally, you surely know the results of his work. He was an agent for children’s authors, then an editor, and ultimately the publisher of children’s books at Random House. Many books you know and love he nurtured through the publishing process. I never worked with Craig, but we met from time to time, and he was a neighbor — so we knew each other at the odd party and friendly gathering. What I always admired in Craig is that he truely knew, loved, and understood books for younger readers — while also knowing how to swim the shark-infested waters of upper management of large publishing houses. He spoke about books the way any of you would, while running one of the biggest kids publishing departments. His death was a shock — one pillar of the world of children’s books gone.
I hope it is not in bad taste to mention this, but just as I learned about Craig’s passing I found out that Emma Dryden is leaving her post as VP and publisher at Athenaeum. Of course a job change is nothing like a death. But Emma leaving reminds me of Brenda Bowen and Ginee Seo leaving their imprints. Between Craig’s death, and Kate McClelland’s passing earlier this year, and the departure of these people I have worked with for decades, it truly feels like a large landscape is shifting.
Whether it is in school or work, we often go through life with a cohort — people we know first for years, then decades, then what feels like forever. But that makes it all the more shocking when suddenly, in one way or another, they are not there. I still keep some rolodex cards for people I knew who have died. It is as if I keep the number I could still call that person, we could still be in touch. So goodbye Craig and Kate, truly goodbye. And see you soon, I hope, Emma, and Brenda, and Ginee. This all feels like loss now. Someday it will feel like change.