I had plans for my blog post today, but I've put those aside for something more important. Over the weekend a dear friend and accomplished writer died. Kathleen Valentine had just completed the final draft of a Halcyon Beach mystery, which I had the pleasure of reading in near-final form a couple of weeks ago. She was getting ready to publish it.
Kathleen was a prolific writer, setting her stories in her beloved fictional town of Marienstadt, or the worn-out tourist town of Halcyon Beach, and even in the elegant homes on Beacon Hill. She brought to each story a love of her characters, and a curiosity about their lives, past and present. She was an old-fashioned story teller. When I read her books I imagined listening to her sitting on the sofa in a living room with lots of friends seated around, listening to her stories unfold.
When self-publishing first came on the scene, many of us were flummoxed and confused. But Kathleen, a well-established graphic designer, took one look at the possibilities and jumped right in. One of her first efforts was a knitting book and another was a cookbook. She published her novels and novellas, and sold thousands of copies. She sold so many of one title in particular that she earned enough in one year to pay cash for a new car.
A few of us got together regularly for lunch at one of her favorite lunch places. We brought books to share, told stories, talked about our projects, and got ideas for new ones. Recently she had started reading according to a personal goal--to read a story about women by a new author from every country. She was half way through Southeast Asia and part of Africa.
Kathleen regularly worked with men and women who had a story to tell but didn't consider themselves writers. She helped them get the ideas on paper, and then to get the book published. She designed covers, helped promote the books, and took them with her when she did her own book events. She was unfailingly generous with time and expertise.
Kathleen grew up in Pennsylvania, lived in Texas and Boston and other parts of the country, but chose to settle in Gloucester. She loved the ocean and she loved the characters she found in the vibrant mixed community that is Cape Ann. She created another community on FB, where she posted several times a day, sharing news of her projects and commenting on all manner of activity. She posted with humor and compassion, and tried to reason with unreasonable people during some of our most trying times, like now.
I was on the verge of emailing her to set up another lunch date. Now I'll wait to learn about the funeral. I can hardly believe it. Kathleen, you will be missed by all of us.