Rick Walton, prodigious picture book dispenser and future ruler of the world (to be proven hereafter), teaches a class on the children’s book publishing industry at BYU, I think once a year. This class alone gives Rick a good case for a prominent position on the next Mount Rushmore. It is a fantastic class where undergrad students can learn about writing and illustrating to publish and the industry that makes that happen. For those serious about working in publishing, either as writers or agents or editors, this class is priceless. I wish I’d had it eight years ago, and openly confess my belief that had I benefited from such a class, my journey to publication may well have been two or three years shorter. If any of you have the chance to take this class from Rick in the future, do it. Don’t think about it. Do it.
Wednesday, for, I think, the second year, I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist at Rick’s class. Long time (relatively speaking) friends Dene Low and Kristen Chandler were on the panel as well, as were new friends Elana Johnson and Aaron Hawkins. Much was said, some of it likely helpful as I didn’t talk the whole time. But the most interesting extrapolation of the evening was a successful test of Rick’s ever-building army of obedient authors.
For those who aren’t aware, Rick Walton is the godfather of children’s writing in Utah, and he’s making a major move on taking in a bunch of new territory. I’m not certain I can think of anyone who has been as influential at helping other writers start and advance their careers in publishing as Rick (though Dave Farland/Wolverton deserves a nod here, too). What is less commonly known than Rick’s beneficial influence is the quid pro quo arrangement he has with all of us: in turn for his patronage, we all agree to serve as foot soldiers when he judges it time for his domination of earth. Really. He once talked about having us all replaced by robot versions to increase efficiency—apparently wary at how sporadic we can be at things such as keeping butt in seat to write, which can’t be that much more difficult than conquering Earth—but has thus far not acted on the decision. I hope Wednesday’s performance helped further ingratiate us organics to him.
When Rick asks, people come, whether its speaking to students or assaulting a tank brigade. Because he earns that grade of gratitude and appreciation by helping people out. And over the years he’s helped so many of us that he really does have an army of grateful writers hoping to some day find a way to reciprocate however we can. Not excluding serving in his special brigade of stormtroopers.
So for anyone who is not interested in writing for children, and thus is unlikely to be absorbed into Rick’s indebted army of domination, take solace in this fact: if the world has to have an overlord—and we all know it does—you couldn’t get a kinder, more thoughtful dictator than Rick, who will even forgive me for this post.