Friday, August 16, 2013
Inane Ramblings of a Middle-Aged Publishing Professional
Here, reposted from the Young Professionals page at the High Calling, are excerpts from a conversation I had recently with Sam Van Eman about stewarding influence over the course of your career. I enjoyed the conversation; I thought you might as well. *** SVE: YPs [young professionals] are hot off the education press and want to know that they matter in the workplace. Give us a story from your twenties when your voice shaped something at work. DZ: I remember this time we were brainstorming a new corporate tagline. (I should mention here that IVP is remarkably flat in its hierarchy and wildly collaborative in its strategic planning.) Sally Craft, then leading our publicity team, floated the Wesleyan Quadrilateral—Scripture, tradition, reason, experience—a grid by which we make responsible decisions. We liked the flow of it, but our audience, we thought, is much broader than Methodists. I threw out the language of the Shema, which Jesus identified as the greatest of God's commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength" (Mark 12:30) “Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength.” resonated with everyone, and I developed a reputation as a bit of a wordsmith. Of course, when we announced our new tagline in our next catalog, we screwed up the order of the terms on the cover: "Heart. Mind. Soul. Strength." Sigh. SVE: At IVP, you work with Likewise, an imprint which focuses on making a difference in the world. The name itself comes from Jesus’ words to the lawyer after telling the Good Samaritan story: “Go and do likewise.” So Likewise has a voice; it has influence. How much of that voice is Dave Zimmerman’s? DZ: I'd say that even given the "all-in" collaborative culture of IVP, it's safe to say I've been the primary curator of Likewise's voice. I’ve served as the editorial liaison for the line (my colleague, Andrew Bronson, is our marketing liaison). Andrew likes to stay a bit behind the scenes; me, I like the attention. So I blogged fairly regularly about a “Likewise ethos,” and I wrote regular newsletters trumpeting the line to Likewise authors and readers. We’d also often gather together people who matched our "psychographic" within larger events and conferences, so we could commingle with them and reinforce what we saw as the core values of the line. There's a reverse process in there, of course; the books we've determined along the way to be Likewise books have shaped my worldview and informed my values, even messed with my voice. So I suppose it'd also be appropriate to ask, "Dave has a voice. How much of it is Likewise's?" SVE: Touché. I read a mystic who said the things we build “are outward manifestations of inward realities.” You’re implying that this goes both ways. Something to ponder. DZ: Thanks for that. I won’t be sleeping for a few days. SVE: How much "Dave" would we see in Likewise 10 years from now if you were to stick around? DZ: Likewise has always had a strong countercultural bent—for example, The Unkingdom of God by Mark Van Steenwyk calls for a posture of repentance as the basis for our discipleship, an orientation he arrives at by thinking of Christianity in anarchist terms. Given that, it's ironic that I'm the editor. I live in a single-family house in the suburbs. No one looking at me would think Who let that anarchist hippie in the building? Deliver Us from Me-Ville is available as an ebook for 99 cents for a few more weeks. If you haven't gotten the book yet, you can get it for a song right now. (Seriously; it's cheaper than "Come a Little Closer" by Cage the Elephant.) One reader called it "a joyfully sarcastic look at our own self-absorption from a Christian perspective." That reminds me: if you post a review of the book in the next three weeks, send me a link and your mailing address, and I'll send you a free copy of my booklet Parable of the Unexpected Guest.