Patricia "Pat" Buckley, the highly regarded, longtime director of children's subsidiary rights at Macmillan and HarperCollins, died on June 19 in Austin, Tex. She was 84.
Buckley was born on August 26, 1934 in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and grew up in Olean, N.Y., where she graduated from Olean High School. In 1956, Buckley received her bachelor’s degree from Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. Soon after college, Buckley arrived in New York City and embarked on a career in book publishing. According to her family, Buckley enjoyed being in the cultural hub of Manhattan, and frequently attended the theater as well as music and dance performances. She also took pleasure in using her skills as a gourmet cook.
In her professional life, Buckley specialized in representing subsidiary rights for children’s books, notably at Macmillan and HarperCollins. That expertise brought her to the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair for many years, a trip she especially treasured. Buckley retired from publishing in 2002 as v-p, director of subsidiary rights for HarperCollins Children’s Books. She had been living in Austin since 2014.
Several of Buckley’s friends and former colleagues paid tribute to her by sharing some of their favorite anecdotes.
Ginee Seo, children’s publishing director at Chronicle Books, said, "In the 1990s in Manhattan, there were two Pat Buckleys. One of them was a famous socialite, the wife of William F. Buckley, Jr., but I thought my Pat Buckley, the one in children’s books, was the bigger star. She was a subsidiary rights legend in the days when selling rights, especially paperback rights, was a huge deal, and she was one of my guardian angels and mentors at Harper, where she came after many years at Macmillan—the old Macmillan, bought by S&S, as opposed to the new Macmillan, formerly Holtzbrinck. Pat was the consummate lady, the consummate professional, and the consummate character, during a time when being all three was an increasing rarity. There are so many stories I could tell about Pat, starting with her voice, which was unforgettable. She spoke with an elegant drawl, stretching out the syllables in words and somehow making everything she talked about seem like a hilarious secret. But the best thing about Pat was her interest in smart people, no matter how junior their title. She was always aware at meetings of who was saying something intelligent, and she would always take note, sometimes saying to me, ‘I MUST get to KNOW So-and-So; she was QUITE arTICulate in that ENDless meeting today.' I learned so much from her, and I am so grateful for every connection she made for me, because she knew everyone and made sure I knew them, too. And I know right now she’s in a corner with a bunch of crabby angels, rolling her eyes and shaking her head and saying, "Reeeeaaaalllllly, Ginee, I think you are exAGGerating, to which I MUST say you are RATHer prone.' I will miss her forever."
Virginia Duncan, v-p and publisher of Greenwillow Books, offered, "Pat Buckley loved to sigh. Probably anyone who ever encountered Pat knows what I’m talking about. It was a long, loud, impatient sigh, always impeccably timed in its delivery. You usually didn’t want to be on the receiving end. She also loved the city and she loved everything the city offered—music, dance, museums, theater, and food most of all. She introduced me to New York City Ballet, to Paul Taylor, to David Parsons, to Alvin Ailey, to Martha Graham, and so many others. And although I never worked for Pat, when I was an assistant in the subsidiary rights department at Macmillan, I had the good luck of sitting in the hallway directly outside her office, and that meant that her mentorship extended to me. I sometimes wonder if I would have stuck with publishing (and the city) if Pat hadn’t taken me under her wing. She was generous and kind. She taught me how to present titles, told me what I needed to read, introduced me to colleagues, opened the door to the Bologna Book Fair (with Margaret McElderry behind the wheel of a rented car—terrifying), and helped me navigate the politics of it all. If she’s reading this, she just sighed. Thank you, Pat."
Neal Porter, v-p and publisher of Neal Porter Books at Holiday House, recalled, "I worked with Pat for the better part of 10 years at the old Macmillan building at 866 Third Avenue. Or, as Pat always pronounced it, MACKmillan. Anyone who knew Pat would say she had a distinctive way of speaking. The first time I met her was at a company dinner shortly after my company had been acquired by MACKmillan. I thought she’d had a few too many. ‘No,’ a friend whispered. ‘That’s just the way she talks.’ After that we talked a lot. About books, certainly, but about theater, dance, politics, you name it. We traveled together too, often before or after the Bologna Fair. Once, when we had agreed to meet in Rome, I found her arrayed elegantly on a couch in our hotel lobby, like Deborah Kerr at the end of An Affair to Remember. She had broken her foot, and I spent the next three days carrying her through the city’s insanely busy intersections. But I didn’t mind, because it was Pat. She was my colleague, my dear friend, and occasionally, on business-related matters, my frenemy. But I adored her, as did we all. An absolute, bona fide original, the kind the business is sorely lacking these days."