Monday, April 8, 2013

Goodbye to the Man Who Changed My Life

Peter Workman, founder of Workman Publishing, died yesterday morning. I did not know him well- we had a casual acquaintance- but I will be forever indebted to him.

Two years ago, he gave me a chance when nobody else would. He saw opportunity where others saw obstacles.

His prescient staff came to him with a novel idea- a dance photography book set in everyday life. He had reservations, but he did not close the door, as many had before him. Whereas other publishers loved the photos but felt a book would not sell, Peter felt a book would sell because he loved the photos. So he put Dancers Among Us on his list, and in the process he added yet another best-selling title to his distinguished record of achievement.

How many other authors will have similar words of praise in the days ahead? How many dreamers were given an opportunity that had been so elusive, simply due to Peter's innate ability to see clearly through the fog that so often blinded his contemporaries? Countless, I imagine.

There is a famous expression to describe corporate ineptitude: "A fish rots from the head down." If this is true, then the converse must apply as well. The staff at Workman Publishing is brilliant, enthusiastic, and resolutely unpretentious. The offices bustle with creative energy and uninhibited optimism. I'm sure these adjectives will be used to describe Peter as well.

This was Peter's favorite photo from the book, and one he seriously considered using on the cover. As I look at it now, I see a woman ascending to the heavens, bringing with her the beauty and simplicity she enjoyed in life. Those left behind have the satisfaction of knowing that her influence on their lives will be lasting and powerful.

Thank you, Peter.