Every year I look forward to the BEA conference, a trade event for the book industry that over 1,000 publishers attend from all over the world. Fun fun fun. The event is sponsored by Huffington Post Books and National Public Radio, among others.
Held at the Jacob Javitz Center it is the premier gathering of publishers in the world. It is where deals get done, contracts get signed, and lifelong writing friendships get made.
Thousands of people attend and today I felt my heart beating rapidly as I walked into the center. Today I was proud to be a small part of the publishing community.
In every other year, I would walk into the hall, looking for children's books publishers. I came to the BEA as a 32-year veteran writer of entrepreneurship books for young people, it is how I view myself.
Lauren Bailey, Steve Mariotti, Paul Wisenthal, Corey Henderson
This year things were different. With an added bounce to my step, I said hello to the children's book publishers, spoke to my friends and colleagues at Random House and then went looking for legends like Simon Schuster and Penguin (who is now owned by NFTE's publisher Pearson). I took particular joy at meeting the Scribner folks and, although 30 years younger than me, they knew of their grand intellectual tradition history. I did fill them in on the details of perhaps the greatest editor of all time -- Max Perkins, and the wonderful biography of him: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978), by A. Scott Berg, a great book that I've read over and over again. It was a delight to walk around with three close friends all practicing the craft of communication -- perhaps the top youth journalist of our time Paul Wisenthal, and two young writers Cory Henderson and Lauren Bailey.
Eager to share stories about writing, I chatted at length with the folks at Beacon Press, which I was delighted to learn is a progressive publisher of legends such as Howard Zinn. Looking for bonds, I mentioned that I had been raised in the Unitarian faith, knowing that Beacon was owned by the Unitarian Church.
My self-image has changed. Now I know that I can write for adults. I have books inside of me on Vietnam, the Weatherman, love and poetry, world affairs, history and science.
My rebirth as a writer actually started seven years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Arguably the most influential organization in the world, I have been going to Davos since 2002 and NFTE has been a member since 2007. On a typical year the conference has 1,800 people in attendance, including over 70 heads of states and numerous Nobel Prize winners.To the best of my knowledge, I was the only k-12 teacher in attendance other the then-German chancellor, Angela Merkel who stopped to chat with me until her bodyguards ushered her along, when I said to her -- "I am a high school teacher, Dr. Merkel."
It was with that framework in mind that seven years ago I approached Arianna Huffington at Davos, timidly introducing myself. I approached her, one of the most beautiful and elegant women, at the bottom of the steps at the Davos Congress Centre: "I know who you are, Steve," she said, smiling. "Can you write about your experiences here at Davos and I will put it in my paper, The Huffington Post."
"I only write for kids" I said, surprised by her suggestion.
"Oh no," she said, "you can write for anyone."
It took five years to process and but finally on April 10, 2011, I sent her an email saying that I had a story about Ayn Rand that she might find of interest. She responded immediately and I got major coverage for my Reminisces of Ayn Rand article, which has made quite an impact on the Objectivist community.
Now I am a new kind of writer. I write more than 2,000 sentences every day -- half of those sentences are for young people and the other half are for adults. I am addicted to joys of self-expression and the power of the pen. In January, I earned my first book contract that was not for a textbook (from Templeton Press) and believe my regeneration as a writer is only just starting. And I look forward to writing for you.