Monday, September 28, 2009

In Memory of Kate

The publishing industry lost a giant this past weekend. Kate Duffy, editorial genius for Kensington Publishing passed away.

Kate was feared by some; revered by many; respected by everybody I know.

She wasn't my editor. I never even pitched a book to her. Instead, she was my friend and I'm proud to be able to say so.

I met Kate several years ago at a convention. We were introduced by mutual friend, author Heather Graham. It took all of ten minutes of conversation to realize that when it came to information or opinions, she could shoot straight from the hip with sharp aim and then settle back to savor her drink.

I can think of half a dozen times when I'd start to disagree and then stop because, again, Kate was absolutely right.

Intelligent, insightful, inspiring (although I bet she'd scoff at that one), intimidating, she could deliver a critique or pinpoint a problem in someone's work with laser-like precision. The truth wasn't always easy to hear, but a smart writer knew that if they listened to what she said, their work would be that much better. Even though I never worked with her, I saw her in action in numerous panels and workshops at conferences and learned from the experience.

Gracious, generous, funny as hell. An entertaining raconteur. I swear if you'd put Kate in the middle of a state dinner at the White House or at the famed Round Table at the Algonquin, she would not merely have held her own. She'd have held everyone's attention with her wit and stories.

I saw Kate mostly at conventions and conferences. I can't tell you how many times someone might pass by, realize who she was, and then widen their eyes with an expression very close to awe. The woman was a living legend, particularly among romance writers.

Yet, never once did I see Kate act like she was anyone special. Maybe she didn't feel it or realize that she was viewed as such by many. God, I hope that she knew what a major difference she made in the lives of many writers. And in the lives of those who are proud to have been considered her friend.

A couple of years ago, I threw a 50th birthday party for myself in my hometown Atlantic City. I'd seen Kate a few months prior at Heather Graham's Writers for New Orleans Convention, so I invited her to my party. To my delight, she immediately accepted. I will always remember her dancing in a group with me and several writer friends. We had a blast.

When I heard the news this morning that Kate has passed away I was shocked, although I knew that she'd been fighting illness since early this year. I prayed that it was an incorrect rumor and we'd find out that she was fine. Unfortunately, confirmation came pretty quickly. The shockwave spread quickly around the Internet. Heather Graham said it best in two words: Beyond sadness.

That's how those who knew and loved Kate feel -- a grief beyond sadness, but we also have our memories. One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that it really is a web that keeps us connected. Kate's friends and authors are spread out all over the country, and the world, but on the Internet, in blogs, on Facebook, on listserves, we can share our thoughts, memories, stories and tributes.

We lost a friend. Publishing and romance lost a legend. In the writers she taught and the books she edited, her legacy lives.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

I hope they have a Kindle waiting for you in Heaven.

1 comment:

Janet said...

Mary I'm stunned by Kate's passing. Can not imagine a conference or anything to do with romance that doesn't have the stamp of Kate on it. Met her on many occasions and she was one of a kind. Know how much she meant to you and my heart aches for your loss.
Love ya
Janet