Thursday, October 08, 2009

Roses for Kate . . . and Ben

by Sherry Dare

Kate Duffy died last week. She was editoral director at Kensington books. I considered her a friend and mentor.

Through an odd set of circumstances I met Kate several years ago at RWA nationals in Atlanta. We hit it off and did a quick lunch at the conference site. She was interested in a fantasy romance project I was working on, and asked me to send it on to her in New York. We worked it over a bit, and ended up mutually agreeing that it wasn't right for Kensington.

I moved on in my writing and started writing darker, more mysterious stuff. Kate would email me every couple of months to check in and encourage me to submit, submit, submit. When she was here in Pittsburgh we even had a chance to meet for another lunch. I remember her telling me that we were now lunch buddies and to let her know if I was going to New York so we could meet again. Unfortunately that never happened.

Sometimes life gets in the way. And sometimes death does too.

Kate was a real friend to a lot of writers.She was warm and boisterous. And I've heard she could be tough as well. She was 57 when she passed. By all accounts she was winning her battle with cancer, but an infection took her life.

I've had one other mentor in my life, Dr. Ben McKulik, my creative writing professor from York College where I got my undergraduate degree. He and I were close friends, and he pushed me to excel in my writing. He critiqued me well beyond college. Ben was one of those genius people. He even knew Einstein. And though he wrote in a very literary style himself, he approved of my desire to write popular fiction. He forced me to look into my heart and follow what I love.

Twelve years ago Ben suffered a brain aneurysm. He never came out of a coma and died a week later. I had trouble dealing with the loss of not only my mentor and close friend, but to lose his great mind was disturbing on other levels as he was well versed in so many areas.

Today I remember both Kate and Ben not only as friends, but as champions of writers. As lovers of the art and craft of telling stories. And even the wanna be artists..Like me.

I hope you have had a chance to have mentors in your life. And I urge you to pass the favor on when you get a chance. I know I plan to. Who do you honor? Do you have a mentor?


Annette said...

What a lovely tribute to two special people, Sherry. Kate was on my invitation list for the Pennwriters Conference. I was sorry she couldn't attend and now I'm especially sorry to hear of her passing. I'd loved to have met her.

Sherry said...

Thanks, Annette. She was one of a kind.

Catherine said...

Hi Sherry,
Your tribute was beautiful, Sherry. Many people in Australia have spoken highly of Kate this past week. She must have been an amazing person.

People like Kate and Ben are the genuine souls that I love to meet in life... yet I always wonder why and how - Why do they take me under their wing? How did I get so lucky? They're special, treasured people. Thanks for the memory jogger to not let life take over :)


Joyce Tremel said...

Very nice tribute, Sherry. Kate must have been a very special person--I've seen tributes to her all over the place since her death.

I don't have a single mentor. Mine are my fellow Sisters in Crime--especially my local chapter, and my critique group (hi Sandy, Mike, Kristine, Jan, Becky, and Brian!).

Jenna said...

Well said, Sherry. I never had the chance to meet Kate - and obviously not Ben, who sounds amazing - but I think everyone involved in publishing is feeling the loss, just a little. She was a true champion of books and writers, and her passing leaves a void.

Cheryle said...

That was a lovely tribute, Sherry, to a special lady. Thanks for sharing.