Saturday, June 30, 2012

Deborah Brodie

This past week my former editor, Deborah Brodie, died. She saw me through five books. Felt I had worth as a writer and provided the guidance I needed to shape my words into better stories. Her help was invaluable, and I was with her long enough to absorb a lot of her lessons. A lot, but not all. I will miss her wisdom keenly.

Then, as sometimes happens, things fell apart. Separate from the current tumble and toss the publishing world is experiencing due to e-books and Amazon, all on its own it sometimes rises up like a wild horse and bucks those clutching tightly to its back right off into the dirt. That happened to Deborah--though she quickly found her footing again and launched herself into a whole new career--and it happened to me.

I am of course thinking about her a lot. I'm a nature girl, but Deborah wasn't. She wasn't born in New York, but she was a New Yorker through and through. I remember, on the one visit I had with her in New York City, as we strolled through Central Park, her pointing to the far side of the park where trees stood tall against the buildings. "That's how nature should be," she said. "With buildings in the background." I laughed out loud.

I haven't had much experience with New York, but when I think of the city I always think of her. In fact, after the phone call when she accepted my first book, the very first email I ever sent to her was the week after 911. She was okay, but, of course, none of us were, really, and still aren't.

Deborah once told me that as the former wife of a rabbi, with all the social demands that entailed, she could make conversation with a stone. A good thing, as I was often a stone myself. A shy oyster, if you will, with limited social skills. But Deborah was always there for me, not only teaching me how to write a better book, but telling me what to expect in terms of reviews, conventions, interactions with others, even sometimes telling me, at my request, how to act in certain situations--because, honestly, I didn't know.

The last five years have been difficult for me. For a myriad of reasons, I have gone silent, my words have floundered, I have felt lost. I drifted, from Deborah and from my agent and from my writing friends--except for a couple who kept in touch with me even though, because I had wandered away, I did not deserve their attention. I only talked or exchanged emails with Deborah occasionally. She had agreed to read one of my manuscripts, and said she would read it again when I completed the revision I was working on--a revision based on her suggestions.

And then she died. A big shock.

The past several months have been a time of lessons for me--painful lessons--coming from many different directions. I have told myself repeatedly that I must change, that I cannot continue to drift away from everyone. But changing is hard, and I have despaired of making any real gains, knowing  that we are what we are. Still, I do have Deborah's example--of moving on, of continuing, of connecting with others, of refusing to stop doing what you love.

And so, here I am again. On the blog I had largely abandonned. Remembering Deborah. That's as good a start as any.