A Piece of My Mind: Death
Comes in Threes
What do Robert Jordan, John Gardner and Madeleine L'Engle have in common?
Other than they are known best-selling authors, they all passed last month,
September 2007 . . . and I had the chance to meet and speak to all of them
in some point in my writing career.
Death is a fact of life, even to writers. However having met these three writers
brings home the point that life is too short.
Many years ago, John Gardner was one the few selected to write
new adventures for James Bond 007. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the
Rising Star fantasy convention in Salem, VA. At this convention, I ran the
writer's workshop and he was the guest of honor.
John and I bonded and became fast friends. This was due to his humble
beginning as critic and the fact that I was a critic. He remarked to me, "I
love hanging out with critics. You always know where you stand with a
reviewer. They keep you honest."
At this convention, as I said before, I was heading the writer's
workshop. John and I arranged to have lunch the afternoon after my
workshop. He had finished his panel early. He came in my workshop and sat in
the back of the room quietly. However, all heads turned to him, almost saying with their eyes "Why aren't you up there?" and then they turned to me.
I looked at him, "John, would you like to join us up here?"
"No," he said with a wisp of a smile. "I like watching good teachers
teach, so I will watch you from here."
I remember mouthing the words "Thank You" and he just nodded. Later at
lunch, we laughed about it.
I read his words about writing from
I am printing a small piece here for your enjoyment.
Yet when my life finally regained some equilibrium many people in
publishing seemed to be astonished that I wanted to continue writing.
But what else would I do? I have spent some forty years telling stories
and delineating characters. I am not about to give it up now.
Madeleine L'Engle was a sweet lady who spoke her mind. Be careful if you
got in the way, which I did.
She had made an unabridged recording of her classic novel A Wrinkle
in Time (which in 2008 will have the 45th anniversary of the print
edition) released in 1994 by Listening Library. I said in my AUDIOWORLD
review, "The production was good, except the author's narrative talents."
Madeleine met me at a Book Expo that year and immediately said to me. "I
read your review. So what's wrong with my narrative talents?"
I boldly told her. "Your teeth clicked through the whole narration. It
took much away from the reading."
She smiled. "So why didn't you just say in your review 'that her teeth
clicked through the whole recording?' We both laughed at that and she
Here are some of her words
I have advice for people who want to write. I don't care whether they're
five or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want
to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody
reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about
life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you
think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can't be a writer if
you're not a reader. It's the great writers who teach us how to write.
The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if
it's for only half an hour - write, write, write.
I met Robert Jordan at Balticon more than ten years ago.
When I met him, I came up and asked him to autograph a few of his books,
which he did. Then I said as an afterthought, "Sir, I am Bennet Pomerantz. I
am moderating the writer's panel which you are on."
He looked at me and said "But , of course you are." His tone sounded very
smug. I shrugged it off. I thanked him and walked off.
I was reviewing my notes in the writer's panel room before many came in.
Friends would come up. Some would hug and just a friendly " HI, how are you
Bennet?" was a popular phrase I heard from the audience.
Jordan came in the room and didn't even know I was there. He sat down at
the panel table, placing a few of his books in front of him in display.
Other writers came in and sat at the panel table. The room started to fill.
After a few minutes, the audience settled down. I took the microphone.
"Hi I am Bennet Pomerantz. This is a writer's workshop. Let me introduce the
panel. I introduced authors Margaret Weis, Hal Clement, and Casey Bird.
Then I stop looked at Jordan. He looked at me, and he suddenly flashed on
our earlier meeting. "The gentleman at the end of the panel table looks like
Robert Jordan . . . I could be wrong" I then added, looking directly at him
with a strong gaze. "But of course you are!" He got my point.
He was a gentleman in that knew he had wronged me earlier. So Jordan laughed and
verbally explained to the audience of our earlier meeting. The panel went on
smoothly. After it was over, he smiled and shook my hand.
His view on writing:
It goes beyond more than simply where the story is set. I believe
it is something we take in in the air and the water. It's a matter of
word choices - of the rhythms of sentences and the rhythm of speech in
I am so glad I had these moments with these authors. I just hope
you get the chance to meet a few authors you respect and make memories.
So until next time, Reach for the Stars
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