Monday, June 15, 2009

Remembering Gary

You know, just writing yesterday’s blog has brought back a ton of memories. Mostly about Gary Provost, whom I heard several people speak highly of at this year’s conference as we reminisced. Gary, also known as The Writer’s Writer, spoke at the conference I coordinated in 1989, then came back to speak at Pennwriters in 1995.

The Pennwriters conference is usually the second weekend in May, unless that weekend celebrates Mother’s Day. In 1995, Mother’s Day was May 14. So the Pennwriters conference was moved up a week that year. Gary was our special guest speaker. I was outgoing president, and sat next to him at dinner on Friday night. He wasn’t feeling well. He had a tremendous backache. I and the others at the table felt for him. What writer doesn’t have back problems, or get a backache that ‘just won’t quit’ now and then. He had also been traveling a lot, he said, and that can be hard on anyone’s back.

He completed his workshops the following day—another example of an author dedicated to delivering what he promised--and left the conference as soon as he could to go home and rest. Three days later he was dead of a massive heart attack. I later learned that backaches are a little known (at the time, anyway) symptom of what is called an asymptomatic heart attack. Today every heart attack website I checked lists back pain and nausea as something to watch out for. Not all heart attacks start with chest pains.

He was only 50, the same age I am now. Shocked along with the rest of the writing world, I wrote an article for the newsletter in his memory. Looking him up again yesterday, seeing the legacy his kind and gracious widow Gail has carried on in his absence, brought back all those memories. Gary and Gail asked me to be one of the first distributors of their Video Novel Workshop—an idea well ahead of its time. But, not being a salesperson of any kind of stripe, I didn’t do so well for them. In the end, I donated my copy to the Pennwriters library.

Still, my quote is on their video novel workshop promo page, and it lists me as the author of Ashton’s Secret, the same (but hugely improved, thanks to all I learned from Gary) book that is currently available on Amazon (with the purple cover) and will be released in ebook by The Wild Rose Press on June 26.

I’ve listened to all of Gary’s cassette tapes, over and over and over again. Watched the Video Novel Workshop. Read most of his books on writing. Corresponded with him directly. As I said yesterday, Make Every Word Count was my favorite of his books, and I recommend it to this day. I noticed just now when I clicked on the link for it from Gary’s site, it took me to the same Amazon page I had been on yesterday, and the number of copies had gone down by two.

Coincidence? I think not. Bless you, whoever you are. Your writing will improve immeasurably, I guarantee it.

The only thing left for me to do now is attend Gary’s Writer’s Retreat Workshop, a ten-day workshop currently running $1650, all materials, meals and lodging included. Not this year—I’m already going to RWA nationals in July, but it’s certainly something to think about for 2010. And it’s within driving distance….how could I have missed that all these years? I really need to step away from the keyboard now and then and see what’s going on in the world.

So anyway, that’s my little trip down memory lane, and I’ll be back some other time with memories of this year’s conference. I found the program, by the way. After looking for it for an hour, it was within reach from my keyboard. As my mother says, “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” I found it accidentally (of course), while searching for something else (of course), which I still haven’t found. Definitely time for a serious office cleaning.

P.S. I did find out why Tim Esaias was tossed out of the organization during the 2009 conference. It was at the Saturday morning business meeting. Apparently during a polling of the membership on some issue, he was the only NAY-sayer. So the president disenfranchised him on the spot. I’m sure he’s back in the organization’s good graces by now, especially after his wonderfully inspiring keynote speech. More on this later, too :).

1 comment:

Sheryl said...

Wow, I just read this and your previous blog. You are one extremely busy, professional lady, who still finds time to write excellent books! I'm in the UK, so the set up here is not quite the same. However, having shied away from attending such events, I think I just might in future. I realise now, not only am I missing invaluable advice from the experts, I'm missing out on the support and camaraderie. Thanks for the reminder, Liana.