I was terribly saddened to learn of the death of Dick Jackson, a good friend and one of the great editors.
Over many years I worked with him on some twenty books, but I had to go back and look at my list, because there may have been more. I worked with him more than any other editor.
I confess, though I knew him for so many years, I won’t pretend to say I knew him well. He was an intensely private man. He had let it be known that he wished no funeral or memorial service—utterly typical of the man I knew—and did not know. If there had been such services, there would have been hundreds showing up. Any list of the authors and illustrators with whom he worked would include a huge number of major artists who wrote many key books, books that changed the nature of children’s books. No editor’s books won more major awards than his. In the world of children’s literature Richard Jackson was a major figure. As editors go, he was the major figure.
Among his many skills was his ability to work with very different writers. I rather suspected the way he worked with me was not at all the way he worked—or was—with Paula Fox or Judy Blume, Brian Floca, or many others. In fact, during the few times I was with him when he was with a group of his writers and illustrators, he looked positively uncomfortable, as if he much preferred to be with us individually. Chameleon-like, if you will, but creatively so.
When working on a book, I could call upon him, and though I knew he was working on many other projects, (never named) he would be instantly and wholly by with me, and the particular work. We had a joke that we were matched very well insofar as he was dyslexic, and I was dysgraphic. He encouraged being bold, different, and radical.
When we worked on a book, and it was essentially done, he did not drop the book. Almost inevitably, perhaps two or three weeks later, I’d get a call. “I’ve been thinking,” was his preface, and he went on to point out something we had neglected to do, a gap, a small but vital point missed, a story beat dropped. He would be right, of course. Dick Jackson was rarely wrong. And he was right there for the production process. Moreover, he keenly and actively supported his books when they were published.
He was enormous fun to work with. So many of our editorial talks were punctuated with laughter, and rich creativity. To talk out a problem, a difficulty, was to find creative ways to solve the problem. I loved working with him. And while I know he would be embarrassed to have it expressed, I loved the man. And I have absolutely no doubt that in that emotion, I stand in a large crowd.