© Phyllis Harris
One autumn afternoon in 2008 I got a call from California. My caller, Lynne Noel, asked me about editorial help in putting together a book. A former nursery school teacher, she wanted to write about how to be a grandmother in the 21st century. Since my favorite kind of client is a person who wants to write about something she knows all about, I fell in love with Lynne right away. A great idea, and I could tell from the intelligent questions that Lynne asked that she was the woman for the job.
Then Lynne dropped the bombshell: she was writing this book with three other women, neighbors and fellow Grammies. Well, I thought, maybe they are all early childhood professionals and know how to work on committees? No such luck! Jan Eby was also a preschool teacher and Cindy Summers had taught in elementary school while Laurie Mobilio was in the corporate world. I envisioned squabbling, sniping and sarcasm: there was no way that women my age (the leading edge of the Baby Boom) could collaborate on something as personal and as important as a woman’s role in rearing the next generation. And these women, successful, happy and accomplished, had way too much invested in their own careers to collaborate with their alleged friends. I had told hundreds of clients the truth that I knew for sure: business collegiality is a one-way street. You can become friends with someone you have done business with but you cannot do business with a friend.
I got it wrong. These four women from Saratoga, California proved me wrong. For nearly five years, they worked at building a book without a spat. In fact, they took time off in the middle of their collaboration to travel to Tokyo together with their husbands. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? They stayed with the vision, meeting weekly to pull together this complex book project with their marvelous designer, Katie Jennings. They wrote, indexed, designed, printed and promoted the book with nary a raised voice.
© Phyllis Harris
What made this project work? First, all four women had genuine commitment to the ideas behind the book. The Grammie Guide is a goldmine of information about children’s activities from sports to song. These women in the heart of the Silicon Valley urge Grammies to present children with other ways of having fun rather than attaching themselves to digital machines. They show how to embrace the ordinary, enjoy noise and make franks over an imaginary fire that Grampa builds in the bathroom.
Second, they knew how to use technology to stay in touch, do research and edit each other’s writing. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a tech wizard for a husband, but each of these women worked hard to keep up with technological innovations that make editorial and production collaboration easier.
Third, each woman played to her strengths. They divided up the work so that each could put her talents to work. Selection of the illustrator, working with the copy editor, organizing the research, attending conventions to network with distriibutors: each of these tasks was allotted to the person who could do the job best.
As their book moves into its second printing, the Grammies have enjoyed great reviews, big crowds for autographing and a distribution deal. They are better friends than ever, and Grammies all over the world have benefited from their wisdom and experience.
Grammie Guide Co-authors Laurie Mobilio, Lynne Noel, Jan Eby and Cindy Summers can be reached at thegrammieguide.com.