I interviewed for an opening in the editorial department at InterVarsity Press over thirty years ago. My prospective boss, Jim Sire, was sick and couldn’t make it to work that day. So I interviewed instead with the publisher, Jim Nyquist, and Linda Doll, who was the only other employee in the editorial department at that time (and part-time at that). I don’t remember much about the interviews except that I had a general sense that they went pretty well.
I stayed overnight in Chicago with friends and was scheduled to fly out the next afternoon. So they asked if I could come back to meet Jim Sire in the morning, on the hope that he would be well enough to see me. He was and I did. After our chat he took me to the airport, and on the way he talked about books he was interested in writing.
He then asked me, “What books have you thought about writing?”
Maybe if I had thought better on my feet I would have said, “Oh, I think until I’ve lived a little I should leave the writing to mature, sophisticated thinkers such as you.” And in the intervening years I have written some. But when the questions was asked, I had no ideas. My mind was blank. So I said, “Oh, I don’t have anything particular in mind at the moment.”
Later, I learned that my answer almost put the kibosh on my being hired. In Jim’s mind, editors worth their salt had to be people with book-worthy ideas of their own. Fortunately (for me at least), Jim Nyquist and Linda Doll overcame whatever hesitations Jim Sire might have had, and I was offered the job shortly thereafter.
This goes back to the debate I’ve been having here and here about how important being a writer is to being an editor. Probably the question reflected Jim Sire’s own image of himself. He was equally adept at writing and editing. He had (and has) on the one hand a fertile mind that has produced over a dozen books, and on the other hand the skill to encourage many significant authors, including Francis Schaeffer, Becky Pippert and Calvin Miller.
Some of us are not as multitalented as the prolific Dr. Sire. But a love of books, of ideas, of good writing and of those who produce them seems, thirty years later at least, to have made the job a pretty good fit.