On the morning of my fourth birthday in 1971, my father snapped a photograph that captured an incredibly important life-changing event. There I stood pajama-clad and bleary-eyed, stretching my arms behind my neck with an expression that betrayed not the slightest inkling of the momentousness of what was happening. I was standing in the hall outside my bedroom beside a cedar chest on which my parents had placed my birthday gifts. There was a down sleeping bag compressed inside its stuff sack, some clothing that I have long since forgotten, a pink package of “Mr. Bubble” brand powdered bubble bath flakes, and a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, that greatest American fairytale by L. Frank Baum, which was first published in 1900. It was this last item and the genius of L. Frank Baum that changed my life forever.
Many people familiar with the famous 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland don’t realize that it was based on a book. Many more don’t realize the book was so successful that Baum wrote 13 sequels before his death in 1919. Over the span of his writing career, he published more than 50 novels, dozens of short stories and more than 200 poems. In his early years, he also was a playwright and actor, newspaper and magazine editor, traveling salesman and the owner of a retail store called Baum’s Bazaar. The Oz series and other books by L. Frank Baum introduced me to a whole new world of reading, writing and imagination. The droll humor and kind sentiments expressed in his books influenced my dreams, shaped my values and formed a fabric that was an integral part of my childhood. I have no doubt that my own career and life path as a writer, journalist and idealist were strongly influenced by L. Frank Baum, and for that I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that more than 40 years after that fateful birthday, I would become the editor-in-chief of the literary journal named after this very same L. Frank Baum. The Baum Bugle publishes popular and scholarly articles about the Oz books and other works by Baum and Oz authors and illustrators. It has been published continuously three times a year since the founding of the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1957. Considering my love for all things Oz and the fact that I have been a dues-paying member since 1975, it seems entirely appropriate that the Oz Club would become a client of mine. (I almost hesitate to call them a client, since editing their journal makes me an ex officio member of their board of directors, my work for them is pro bono, and everything I do for them is truly a labor of love.) I also am a natural fit for the job, not only due to my professional experience as a journalist but also because I am an avid collector of rare editions of the original Oz and Baum books. (I have written extensively about my collection on the Royal Blog of Oz, and you can read my individual blog posts here.)
From the beginning, my biggest challenge as editor-in-chief has been to publish a magazine that meets the highest standards of journalism while operating on a shoestring budget and with a staff comprised entirely of volunteers. Despite these modest resources, I have solicited contributions from top-tier experts and academics and award-winning artists. I have succeeded in using my vision and knowledge of my craft to integrate these contributions into a cohesive, compelling whole. The feedback that I have received from decades-long subscribers is that I have brought a new level of professionalism to a publication that has been around for nearly 60 years.
The International Wizard of Oz Club isn’t going to change the world in the same way as an environmental group or nonprofit organization with a social justice mission. Nonetheless, L. Frank Baum’s creations have a cast a light of love and wonder and tolerance for individual differences that has brought joy to countless children’s hearts. Many of these children have grown up into some of the finest human beings that I have had the privilege of knowing. Thanks to Baum and his imagination, the world is definitely a better place. For this reason, the Oz Club is a shining example of the kind of group that I am seeking to add to my roster of clients at Craig Noble Communications.
P.S. – Membership in the International Wizard of Oz Club costs just $25 per year and comes with a subscription to the Baum Bugle. If you’re curious, but not yet ready to commit to joining, there are a some great online resources to learn more about the world of Oz. First, of course, is the Oz Club website. There also are an Oz Club Facebook page and a Baum Bugle Facebook page. I manage the latter. If you’re curious about collecting the books, I highly recommend two online booksellers – Wonderful Books of Oz and March Hare Books.