Kirk is vice-president and senior editor at Scribner, the New York publishing house. She specializes in crime fiction (Kathy Reichs is one of her authors) and is best known for discovering Patricia Cornwell. In 1989, after 15 years at her job, she married a man with deep roots in Natchez, Mississippi. The newlyweds tried to have a long-distance marriage, "but it was ridiculous," Kirk recalls. Within a year she had moved to Natchez and persuaded her company to let her try telecommuting for six months. The "experiment" is still going strong.
Most of Kirk's work involves inter-acting with writers who themselves are located all over the country, editing, writing book jacket copy, and going to mystery writers' conventions. But she does spend one week out of every five or six in the New York home office. "My trips are scheduled around major meetings, an author in town, or a book being published," says Kirk. "But I also think it's important to show my face once in a while. Although e-mail has become so important that even when I'm in New York, in the same building with my colleagues, that's how I do most of my communication."
E-mail has been "a real psychological boon. The company didn't have it when I started telecommuting. I find I communicate more often - you don't mind bothering people with a little thing that you might think twice about picking up the phone to say - but since the e-mail sits there, you can also communicate when you're thinking about something, whether or not the other person is available."
On the other hand, having to be her own PC support staff is not a job Kirk relishes. She has a full-time assistant in New York "who can usually calm me down by phone when there's a computer problem." But, "I spend a lot of time packing and unpacking and filling out Airborne and UPS forms and opening up the printer to change the paper - things I wouldn't do in New York. You become your own assistant." At one point, UPS mistakenly sent her the bill for the entire publishing company, and it took weeks to get straightened out.