WNC loses gifted publisher

The community of publishers and book designers in the Asheville area is a very small fraternity, and Bright Mountain Books might not even make the short list. Yet over the last two decades, one of the most experienced and respected designers has been, hands down, a man by the name of Eric Bright.

This talented craftsman, who worked tirelessly to showcase some of the region’s most respected writers, quietly passed away at his home on Nov. 27 at age 66. Since 1980, Eric and his wife, Cynthia, have published more than 30 books by local writers who had a story to tell or a life lesson to pass on to readers. His passing is felt not only by his loved ones and closest friends, myself included, but also by the many authors and readers who were touched by his life.

Eric was an extremely structured and meticulous man who sought perfection in every area. Those who didn’t know or understand him missed out on his compassionate nature. During Eric’s childhood, his parents owned and operated a five-and-dime. He was taught at an early age to appreciate the value of a dollar, and he never forgot where he came from. Eric always led by example, providing for his family by supplying books to local gift shops and small bookstores through Bright Horizons Specialty Distributors. He was the fairest, most honest man you could ever hope to know, and he lived by the motto”Respect is something that must be earned.”

I was privileged to work side by side with Eric Bright for close to two-and-a-half years. He hired me not merely to fill a position in his publishing company but out of the goodness of his heart. I answered no newspaper ad or job posting for a graphic-design position; as a matter of fact, I simply called the Brights and asked them for a job.

Granted, we didn’t always agree on philosophical issues (and almost never when it came to politics), but, in fairness, I’m probably too liberal for my own good. And despite our differences of opinion, I always had a great deal of respect for his convictions and views.

As a sort of hidden bonus, Eric offered me excellent advice and taught me a great deal about business and finance. He was easily the most intelligent man I’ve ever worked for and a great teacher of his craft. In a world where computers have completely taken over design, Eric’s concern always began and ended with whether the layout and type would be legible, on paper, to the reader. If I went to college and took every graphic-design course offered, I’m not sure their cumulative value would come close to equaling the experience Eric gave me. He even helped me advance my cartooning career by letting me be part of our most recent title, Lucy’s Recipes for Mountain Living. During my tenure at Bright Mountain Books, I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I am now married, and we’re expecting our first child in late June. Were it not for Mr. Bright’s kindness, I’m almost positive my life would not be what it is today. I am honored to have known him and to call him my friend.

There’s an old saying that the great ones aren’t appreciated until long after they’re gone. But I know that my future professional career will forever reflect my association with Eric Bright. A talented roster of authors — including Ann Williams, Bob Terrell, Eva McCall, Howard Eugene Alley, Joseph Earl Dabney and Lee Ann Woods — will no doubt echo these praises and add many more. Eric Bright was a pioneer, and one of the last of the old-school book designers. He was a husband, father, grandfather, friend and — equally important for Western North Carolina — a wonderful businessman.

Eric, I know I speak for all who remember your life when I say these two words: THANK YOU!

[Anthony Fair is a free-lance cartoonist and graphic designer for Bright Mountain Books.]

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