When and how did you decide to become an editor?
Well, I left university in the late 1960s with a bachelor’s degree in English. At that time, as a woman you either became a teacher or went into publishing and I knew I absolutely did not want to teach. So I landed up in New York and was offered a job at The Viking Press. It was an old, independent, very elite publishing house where salaries were low because you were honoured to be working there. The job they actually offered me wasn’t in editorial however, but in production. I was like, what’s production? I mean, what does that actually mean?
I found out quickly enough. Production meant doing cost estimates, choosing cloth for covers and paper and doing corrections. In those days all the correction work was done by hand. Sometimes we would get books from England and would have to take all the double “l’s” out and remove the “u’s” from “harbour”. It was wild. Viking had a fabulous list of authors, like James Joyce and John Steinbeck. I learned so much. We would visit printers and typesetting plants. Then slowly typesetting, which was originally done manually with lead, and letterpress printing, were phased out and replaced by electronic setting and offset printing. I always say this stint in production served me well. It taught me the real nitty gritty of the trade. And that’s how I sort of fell into publishing.
What brought you to the Netherlands?
I had worked in a couple of places in New York, then in 1970 I decided that I was done with Nixon, the Vietnam war and all of that. At that time, my cousin was already living in the Netherlands and was saying, ‘You really have to come over. You’ll love it. It’s swinging.’ And so like a lot of young people I did. I was just going to go for a couple of months and then I met Dominique Boer, the man who would later become my husband and well, I stayed. I was actually supposed to go back to graduate school at Columbia University to study creative writing because I really wanted to write. But I just decided, it’s okay, I’d rather be in the Netherlands. After a while I got a job at Elsevier.
There I started working on technical and scientific journals, editing the weirdest assortment of subjects. That was my first foray in publishing in the Netherlands. I lived in NL for seven years and was doing freelance work here and there, and had started a family. Then my husband, who was editor in chief working for the VNU, a large Dutch magazine publishing company, had the opportunity to work for them in the USA. So we decided to move. When that job ended, he didn’t want to go back to the Netherlands and we decided to stay in the New York area and start our own communications company. It was a challenge. But we both had exactly the same sort of inclinations in communications and anything that came our way we simply took on.
As chance would have it, we started working for the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in the USA, producing a magazine from scratch promoting Dutch–American relations. A mix of culture and business.
Then via via we were introduced to the new communications director for the Dutch tax office. We had developed a system using algorithms to improve communications and used that to redesign the form for payroll withholding taxes that you fill in when you get hired, which was 12 pages long at the time. There were no computers so they would mail the form to people. The postage costs alone were outrageous not to mention the paper costs. We reduced the form to four pages.
It proved very successful and is actually in a museum in Germany. The tax office had thousands of forms but they said it couldn’t keep working with an American company and needed a company somewhere in the Netherlands. So, we rented out our house in New Jersey thinking we wouldn’t be overseas that long, moved to The Hague and continued our company. We hired in a couple of people to join us and in a couple of years we went from a staff of two to 80 people.
How did you come to join IADC?
Boy Opmeer, who owned a printing company in The Hague that we used, walked into my office one day and said ‘I have a client who has a journal and they want me to do it, but I don’t speak English. Would you like to work together and bid on it with me?’ We made a presentation and they liked it, and we signed a contract for two years. That’s how I came to work for IADC, because we were both clients of Opmeer Printing. It was totally serendipitous. Truly. I feel like many things in my life were serendipitous and this was certainly one of them.