Encounters in Publishing #3: Yes, I Work There and There, by Liz Mathews

One funny thing about where I work is that if you’ve heard of the publisher/my employer, then you’re probably a huge fan of at least one of our authors. Another funny thing is that if you’ve heard of the building where I work, that’s also probably sort of interesting in a “you get to work inside a national landmark everyday?” way.

I am happy to have a conversation with you involving the place where I work or the place where I work. Perhaps the funny thing about me is that either conversation will probably have the same ending.

One of my close friends was tickled when she found out that I work for the premier publisher of science fiction and fantasy. She’d been a fan since childhood, and had entertained fantasies of working at the place that produces the books she loves.

“Well, I’m happy to get you any book we publish that you might like,” I told her.

“But what’s it like to work there?” she inquired.

“It’s…the people are pretty great.”

She looked at me as though I were keeping a secret from her.

“I copy and paste a lot of things. Sometimes I add a word, or maybe italicize something. Maybe delete a comma.”

Her expression of disbelief made me feel like I was leaving something out—but I wasn’t. “We have pizza in the conference room for our annual holiday party?” I tried.

After several years this friend told me that she was glad I’d been honest with her. “Otherwise I would’ve continued to dream of working there someday,” she has told me. In my mind I like to fill in the rest of her sentence with, “Instead of becoming a successful attorney.”

The other thing about where I work is that it’s in the Flatiron Building. You’ve probably seen a photo, or heard about how it caused scandal back in the day by changing wind patterns and cementing the phrase “23 skidoo” in our national dialogue. It is a neat-looking building, at least from the outside. And the triangular shape of it has helped the wind blow up my skirt a time or two, revealing plenty of leg from me. Luckily men no longer cluster around the building waiting for just that to happen.

The lobby is pretty, with old photographs of the place through its history. And the elevators are swank when they’re fully in service—we’re told it used to be maddening when they were hydraulically powered. But inside inside it’s just another office building. There are cubicle walls separating employees from one another, and copy machines and printers and stacks of paper all over everywhere. There are two vending machines on the nineteenth floor. Because the building is old and oddly shaped, if ever there were to be a fire the only stairwell would probably serve as a chimney, leaving those of us with windowed offices to contemplate the less awful ultimate escape plan.

But…I guess we can see the line for the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park from some of the windows. And it is fairly straightforward to tell people where to meet me after work. And I know a person who has roof access.

Eh, what can I say? I’ve been at the SF and F publisher in the Flatiron Building just over six years now. Ask me about either anytime—I promise I don’t mind. It’d probably be good for me, honestly, to see it again, through your eyes.

Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.