The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia
25 July 2007
Tribute to Peter Banks, mentor and friend
Just last year, writer, editor, and publisher Peter Banks (1955–2007) seemed at the top of his career. Not only did he found Banks Publishing, a publications consulting and services firm, but Folio Magazine also honored him as one of the 40 most influential people in magazine publishing.
Today, people gathered in Virginia at his memorial service. He died Saturday, peacefully and in no pain.
Peter spent most of his career at the American Diabetes Association (ADA), but I first met him when we both worked at The Journal of NIH Research, a start-up magazine targeted at biomedical researchers. He was the production manager; I came on as 1/2 production assistant, 1/2 writer. This was in the good old days when production was like kindergarten—you cut up copy and photocopies of photos and artwork and pasted them down on layout sheets with wax. We got to be friends as we sat side by side, laying out pages, with him instructing me in the essentials of good page design. He also helped teach me how to write a magazine article. (I got hired as a writer at JNIHR because I could get up to speed quickly on complex biomedical instrumentation and techniques, but my most complex published writing before then was cookbook reviews for the Iowa City New Pioneer Co-op Newsletter. Obviously, I had a lot to learn.)
When Peter left JNIHR to become head of publications for ADA and I left to become a freelance writer, he often directed work my way. Because of him, I copyedited for the medical journal Diabetes Care for a while, was the editor/writer/layout artist for The Diabetes Advisor newsletter during its six-year existence, and wrote for ADA a variety of patient education pamphlets and booklets, advertorials, a book, and many articles in the patient magazine Diabetes Forecast. He became busier and busier at ADA, particularly after he became publisher, but continued to help me out.
I still keep by my desk a fax he sent me on November 23, 1993. I was, shall we say, not the most skilled or talented person at titling my articles. Peter talked to me about it a few times, but when my titles continued to be boring, he faxed me a list called “Ten Simple Steps To Catchy Coverlines Now!” Fourteen years later, I still use that list to help me come up with titles. (I’ll post that list another week for your enjoyment and use.)
Even after he became sick this spring, he remained a teacher to others through his thoughtful and often humorous blog about having cancer at the CaringBridge site. If you have the time, it’s worth a trip there to read it.
Farewell, Peter, and thank you. My medical writing career would not have been nearly as successful without your help.