Monday, October 11, 2010

Victoria France Stavish Interview

Here's a written interview with Victoria France Stavish, who happens to be my sister. Vickie's stories about Detroit and Gale have always inspired me existentially -- I even ended up moving to Detroit and doing some freelance work for the Gale Group (now Gale, part of Cengage Learning). Also, I utilized her detailed article on Camus mentioned below to organize an approach for reading all of Camus' work in the 80s. Thanks, Vickie!

Erik: What do you best remember about your time in Detroit working for Gale Research?

Vickie: I remember the interview for my editing job at Gale, when the company was in the Book Tower in downtown Detroit. I was 23, and it was my first foray into the city by myself, having recently moved there from Charlottesville, Virginia. I knew nothing, parked in a city parking lot, and emanated fear as I walked to the building. The kindly British Human Resources Director at Gale had me take a general test to confirm a knowledge of English and editing, then gave me a typing test on a regular typewriter (not even an IBM Selectric II). She also gave me a cup of tea.

As I typed away diligently (not near as fast as nowadays, but aiming to pass the test), I noticed that my tea cup was moving to the tapping. I didn't want to miss a stroke, so I kept on typing. As I was finishing, the cup had made it to the end of the typing table and flew off! Tea splattered the floor and wall.

Luckily, the Director liked me despite my faux pas, I passed all the tests, and was offered a job in the Contemporary Authors Department.

While working at Gale for two years, I did have some amusing experiences. I thought that I would meet many famous people, but as it turned out, I simply corresponded with some (including Maria von Trapp and some international poet laureates) or talked with them on the phone. One author, however, called about me. It was Harlan Ellison. He called the head of my department to ask, "Who the f... is Vickie .......?!" When I wrote about him for the series, I had called him a science fiction writer, and he had taken umbrage to that description. Hey, I liked getting some attention from a well-known writer, even though I didn't intend to insult him.

The sketch I enjoyed writing the most was one on French (born in Algeria) philosopher and writer Albert Camus.I also got into writing about the family of ground-breaking (pun!) archaeologists, the Leakeys.

I would probably laugh at my style of the time, but it's nice to know this series is available in English speaking libraries all around the world! It was fun when in the New York Library one time with my sister in law who had worked as a librarian there, I picked out one of the Contemporary Author volumes to see if it was one I had worked on with a byline (which was looooong ago!). It was! She and my youngest brother hadn't known I had done that.

Erik: How did you become interested in the arts?

Vickie: It's a natural bent. I have loved books since I was a toddler and that has never waned. I love telling stories and sharing them with others, especially children (of all ages). Besides that, I love language -- the look and sound of words; their meanings and their beauty. And not just English (French, Swedish, Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Spanish....)!

Then the visual arts convey information and feeling, too! Color, form, movement, beauty, and more. It's a spiritual thing with me, like a prayer. I feel an energy that is working through me when I create art. People like it, so that makes me very happy. It's all experimental to me. My approach is, "let's see what happens."

Today's Rune: Protection.


the walking man said...

Hello Vicki...Nice answer on words and visual arts I often feel the same way. when did you leave Detroit?

jodi said...

Erik-I want Vicki for MY sister! She sounds almost as cool as you..

Susan said...


I wasn't able to email you my new blog. Here is the link:

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all for the comments! Mark, Vickie was in Detroit in the early 80s, but had moved out of state by the time I got there in the mid-to-late 90s. Gale had moved to Farmington Hills in the meantime.

Jodi -- haha. Sisters are *ALWAYS* cooler than brothers, arent't they?

Susan, thanks for the new link!

Cheers, all~

Charles Gramlich said...

Oh wow, that's cool. I've read quite a few of these publications, have used them in my own research on writers. I wonder if I particularly read any done by Vicki, or by you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I know quite a few people who started at Gale.

Johnny Yen said...

Very cool-- it's obvious that an artistic temperment and intellectual curiousity is a family trait!

Lana Gramlich said...

Nice interview, hon. Very interesting.