Last week the pet writing world lost a friend, and left our community deeply saddened. Now I’ve lost another friend, Jessie Stephens, and my heart is broken.
As y’all know, writing is a very lonely profession–perhaps not so much now as when I first started out as a writer. No Internet, no Email, few resources or folks to ask for help and support. I’d started writing a monthly column for the paper at the request of the local VMA, but I really didn’t know other writers in the community.
And then Jessie called and introduced herself. She invited me to attend a small gathering of local writers, a support/critique group. Lordy, was I scared and intimidated! But I went.
At that meeting more than 20 years ago, I met an incredible group of women. Jessie brought us together first as critique partners, nurtured and mentored us, and soon we became friends. And as we celebrated our successes, shared our frustrations, laughed loud and long, cried and mourned, and supported each other through all that life threw our way, we became more than a writer’s group, more than colleagues. We became family.
Jessie threw me a launch party in her home when my first book was published in 1992, the beginning of my book-writing career. And 20 years later, Jessie edited my thriller before I submitted for publication, leading to a series and launching my new fiction writing career. In between, we lost one of our members–Bobbi Grant–but she’s still with us as those who make such a positive impression never leave your heart.
Now Jessie has, as her husband eloquently stated, “…gone to that undiscovered country.” And we make room in our hearts for her memory, as well.
A reporter contacted me to ask about Jessie for a front page story in the paper about her–(She’s been a columnist with them for years now as the local expert on all-things-gardens and birds). I didn’t know what to say. She loved birds. She loved her garden. Her dream was to run a small garden shop–and she got to do that for a time. She loved writing, and mentoring others. She traveled the country lecturing about writing, and she taught on the college level. She wrote three books, created her own publishing company (before “indie” was cool!), and published countless short stories. She loved her friends. And she adored her husband Tony.
And we, the Cuchara Writers Group, loved Jessie.
Folks, I’m taking a break from blogging for the rest of the week, but will have a post for you on Saturday that you WON’T want to miss! (It’ll be a happy post, I promise *s*). Until then, please go find the people who matter most to you–and tell them. This isn’t a sad post–this is a celebration of a life well lived. May I be half the person to others that Jessie was, and is.
That is all.
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