It's the birthday of Alexandra Queen. She started the Piker Press (2002) and created memorable stories like The Grandmother Staff, The Rubiyaat of Ozzie, Tam Lin, and Extinction's Brink.
She's made us laugh, she's made us cry, she's made all the writers here at the Press wet ourselves with fear when the elusive deadline could not be met, or the dreaded typo somehow managed to get past our weary, whip-driven minds. Wife, mother, daughter, supreme editor--many words could describe her, most too offensive for publication.
How do you say, "Happy birthday!" to someone like Alexandra Queen? The question has plagued me for a while now. Five separate openings faded into the ether; nothing seemed to fit. The grim reminder of an editor unaware of the very work one of her writers attempts weighed guiltily upon my back. Such a powerful presence Alex has, such an ability to wrap her claws into people and trap them forever. Submit one article and you are hers for life.
Even those that have managed to escape her grasp are not truly gone. The constant memory of the editor dwells deep in the mind of all those that have passed through the halls of the Piker Press. They will never truly be gone, just temporarily misplaced.
Dear Miss Editor, Sir:
I've been meaning to submit something for the Press for a while now. I mean, just last week I sat down to write a thoughtful and meaningful essay on the current state of American politics, and what that means for your everyday man and woman on the street. But then I remembered I was late for my flea dip, and then I became involved in the construction of a doll's house for some local homeless children, and the article fell by the wayside. The week before that, I had a submission prepared, ready to send off, and then I remembered the beating I received at the hands of your hired goons after the last time I wrote an article and inadvertently misspelled 'concinnity'. Let me tell you, I couldn't sit down for nearly a week after that, and I was unwilling to invite a repeat performance. Although, I must say that they were the most polite and well-mannered goons I have yet encountered, and I commend you on your hiring practices.
In any event, I am still without a work suitable for submission, and for this I am deeply sorry. Perhaps this spring, if you would be so kind as to release me from The Dungeon of Lapsed Submitters, I could write a personal reflection on the plight of the downtrodden in our nation's capital.
In closing, let me say that your work with the Submission Encourager whip in The Dungeon is simply first rate. I can assure you that my back has never been so bloody and raw as it is regularly after your 'treatments'.
Please accept my humblest apologies for my transgressions, and I look forward to working for you again when I regain the use of my wrists.
Jon Renaut, The Tejon
So it's your birthday, eh Ed.? I wish I could say that I always imagined that one day I would have a daughter like you, but frankly you were a bit of a surprise. I thought Sand said to me "Come here, let me take care of that lint in your eye." Whoa, was I wrong.
You have been an unimaginable delight to know. Happy birthday!
Your Biological Father
But see, I knew her when ...
Concerning the Editor:
Whenever our dear Editor gives me lip about deadlines, I remind her that she was two whole, long, heavy weeks overdue in those days when I carried her around 24/7, and when she finally decided to make an appearance, took another 36 hours about it, bracing her enormous feet on the inside of my ribcage most painfully. She replies, "Yeah, but the deadline is still 8pm Friday." However she does stay out of my reach when she does so.
She read the novel "Watership Down" when she was in second grade. All of it. With no help.
I think that was when I stopped worrying about teaching her anything, and realized that all I had to do was make sure she was fed and that her socks matched. Anything she wanted to do she'd learn as easily as she learned to read.
One time, listening to Alex read aloud while we waited in the dentist's office, a woman who identified herself as a teacher berated me for pushing Alex ahead of her normal development by making her learn to read so early. She didn't believe me when I said I didn't teach her, she taught herself, but that is really the case.
Did you know that Alex was a teacher for a while? She volunteered as a religion teacher in one of my programs when she was 16. Teaching a class of twenty sixth graders, a task that few adults are willing to attempt. We had more teachers than classes that year, so I put a new teacher in with Alex (Alex had been subbing successfully for a while already). After the first class, the other teacher took me aside and confided that she thought she'd been put into that classroom to make sure Alex didn't get into any trouble handling such a large class. She was astonished to find that Alex was firmly in control and a really good teacher to boot.
One of my most vivid memories of Alex's personality is of a day when we both worked in a big retail hardware store. At ten minutes to closing time, on my very first day alone in the Industrial department, a customer came in and ordered one piece of cheap glass cut into sections -- six precise sections. My glass-cutting training had been all of three cuts on scrap glass, and I wasn't even sure of how to work the machine. I called the First Assistant Manager, but she didn't have the skill, either. We called over to the Electrical Department, where Alex had been newly installed as Department Manager. She came over to my department, looked at the scheme of cuts and told the customer that it would take at least half an hour to do the job. Alex had worked successfully in Industrial and could have done the glass cutting with ease, but it was the Fourth of July, and all the employees were wearing short sleeves and shorts -- except me, because Industrial can get kind of splintery at times. So I was designated cutter, no choice.
For the next half hour, I put myself entirely in Alex's hands, sweating bullets (I'd watched those cheap sheets of glass explode in the cutting process) while I listened to her voice, walking me step by step, calmly and comfortingly, through each cut and positioning of the glass. We made it through without a single breakage, and I came away from that afternoon in absolute awe.
That memory is what led me to trust her judgment again when she told me I should write a novel in November of 2001, that I could write a novel. Without Alex, I never would have known the joy of writing -- a fate I shudder now to contemplate.
Happy birthday Alex! Thank you for 28 years and nine months of association, and may we have many, many more!
P.S: She still can't match socks worth a damn.
As you can see, Alexandra "The Editor" Queen leaves little to be forgotten. However, even as the right hand cracks the whip, the pressure piles, and everything seems hopeless, the left hand extends the proverbial Scooby snack. Her praise abounds at every turn. Encouragement flows like the Nile. A taskmaster by any other name, yes, but Alex also carries with her the ability to lead, to inspire, to move people to create the best that they can and to never give up no matter how much they may think they must.
Remove her from the equation and we lose a piece of ourselves.
I round off this tribute to Alexandra Queen with a poem that speaks the minds of many Pikers out there.
An Ode to My Editor
By Cheryl Haimann
The boss keeps me 'round with her generous praise.
When I ask for more money, she gives me a raise,
And even promotions - unless I should laze -
Then she flays me for days for my brazen, crazed ways.