reading tiger

Octavia Butler died yesterday.

She was an instructor of mine at Clarion, first week. She was stern and no-nonsense and I liked that.*

She was also, I understand, a very shy person, and thus came across as, well, stern and no-nonsense and cold even when she didn't mean it. I sympathized.

I pissed her off in our one-on-one conference. She went through a very detailed (but not very negative) critique of one of my submission stories. When I admitted near the end that I had already sold that story**, she quietly chewed me out for wasting her time. And I politely and quietly tried to express that the critique was nonetheless very enlightening and helpful for future stories I might write.

I wasn't just being mealy-mouthed. There was one point where she said, "I don't believe she'd say that. She'd say this." It was a, how shall we say this? Heterosexual romantic relationship conflict moment, and she was right.

Also, this specific bit of critique made me realize I'd had an affair with a married man a few years before.

Really.

After that, she asked me if I'd ever written a novel. I said no. She asked if I'd ever tried. I'd said no. She told me that she'd had the same problem, transitioning from short stories to novels that is, and that it might seem daunting, but if I went about it in the right way, I could do it. "Just write it one chapter at a time." I've carried that small piece of advice around like a talisman ever since.

I'd hoped, for selfish reasons, to see her again. Soon.

I'm sad that she's died, and so suddenly, with no warning, and so relatively young. But I am glad for what she gave us -- not just in terms of books***, but in terms of presence.





*She was also tall. Tall! Six feet tall! I imagine she intimidated a lot of people just by being tall and well-spoken and black. My sympathy only grows.

** I'd sold both my submission stories by the time I made it to Clarion (only one when I'd submitted). Don't hate me.

*** Wild Seed was my favorite.

Comments

This is the first I've read of this, and Google cannot confirm it as of yet. Source?
Found here.
this makes me real real sad. thanks for the sweet memorial post.

Damn!

I'll never have a chance to meet her :(