Last week a form letter arrived in my letterbox. It came from the Auckland-based New Zealand branch of Pearson Education, the giant international publisher which states on its website that it is "the world's leading education company. From pre-school to high school, early learning to professional certification, our curriculum materials, multimedia learning tools and testing programmes help to educate millions of people worldwide - more than any other private enterprise."
The letter confirmed that Pearson's education business in New Zealand - that is, its substantial local education publishing operation - will close at the end of August. It ended, "For further information, please contact [name of unfortunate staffer given this task] at [email address]."
I used to work as an editor for this company, back in the days when it was no longer Longman Paul, just Longman. But I never wrote books for it, and the letter was not addressed to me. Here's what I wrote in reply:
Dear ... Lord Pearson [I didn't write that, but I wanted to]
Thank you for your information about Pearson closing down its New
Zealand education business. I already knew this, but it is very sad news,
both for Pearson's talented and loyal staff, and for New Zealand education.
Evidently Pearson no longer sees the production of specific resources for
schools as worth doing.
My husband, Harvey McQueen, was a
pioneer in creating anthologies of New Zealand poetry for New Zealand
schools and had a very long association with Pearson and its predecessors,
right back to the days of Longman Paul (though there was, of course, no
mention of this in the form letter addressed to him,
and headed "Media
External Stakeholder Statement").
Harvey died on 25 December 2010. Your
royalties department knows this, because it has since been paying his
royalties to me as his widow. I would prefer not to receive any more letters
addressed to Harvey years after his death. As I'm sure you will appreciate,
this is distressing. Could you therefore please ensure that this information
is clearly recorded in every list of authors kept by Pearson, so that it
does not happen again.
In fact, except for the occasional royalty statement, I don't expect to hear from Pearson ever again. But after writing this letter, I felt better.