Wednesday, January 24, 2007

So happy and so sad...

By Cornelia

This past week may well have been the most incredible sequence of days I've ever experienced. I feel incredibly lucky and happy, but have also been hit by some sad news.

Here is the happy and lucky part: as Jacqueline and Patty very kindly announced, I found out early last Friday morning that I've been nominated for an Edgar award for best first novel. I am still in profound but giddy shock about that, to the extent that I remain prone to bouts of Snoopy dancing around the living room:

My fellow nominees have written very, very fine books, and I am honored to have my own work considered worthy of inclusion among them--especially in a year during which there were so many remarkable debut novels in our genre.

I am fit to bust with pride in our Paul, and so so so happy he'll be at the Edgars banquet in April. GO PAUL!!!

I've also heard wonderful news from two great friends over the last few days: First, Sandra Ruttan told me over the weekend that she and Ken Bruen will be co-writing a novel. On top of that, Heidi Vornbrock Roosa called half an hour ago to tell me that she's signed with my agent Rolph Blythe, who is tremendously (and justifiably) excited about her novel Taking the Village, which I read last week and was completely wowed by.

I am weepy with joy for both of these chicks--fine writers, but even finer people and friends, the pair of them. And Ken Bruen is just completely awesome all around, which goes without saying but I'm saying it anyway because he IS.

But in the midst of all this wonderful stuff, I read something on DorothyL that knocked the wind out of me, honest-to-God as literally as if I'd just taken a roundhouse punch to the solar plexus. This post contained the awful, horrible, awful awful awful news of Barbara Seranella's death.

I just stared at my computer monitor and started sobbing, which made my husband and daughter run into the living room to see what had happened to me. I couldn't even speak to tell them for a couple of minutes, and then finally said, "I didn't even know her... except she gave me an onion at a convention this one time and I could barely even say anything when she did because I wanted to know her so damn much, and I'm so stupid because I should have just told her right then how much her work means to me, and how much I admire her... and GODDAMN IT, she was so cool and such a survivor and IT SUCKS THAT SHE'S DEAD!!!!!!!!"

And it does suck.... shit shit shit shit it does. There are not enough writers in the world like Barbara Seranella. There are not enough people in the world like her--the ones who you just know have a take on the world, when they walk into a room, that changes everything... that changes you, just by being around it and them. I don't know how to describe that, to do it justice, what she had. The cliches--that she had an old soul... that she was wise--don't cut it.

I can only say that she had a depth of compassion so palpable it had become luminous, as though she had perfected alchemy, transmuting pain into light.

There is not enough of that. There is never enough of that.

When Julia Buckley interviewed me for her blog two weeks ago , she asked which writer I would most like to meet at a conference. I said Barbara, adding that I was sure I would just blush hugely if I were introduced to her, then say "Dude, you are so awesome," and then faint.

Louise Ure emailed me to say she'd be happy to introduce me to Barbara at Left Coast Crime, as long as I promised not to say "Dude, you are so awesome."

Here's the thing:

Dude, she was.


  1. Read (or reread) a Seranella book this week. And then tell her, "Dude. You're so awesome." She'll hear you.

    And once again, many many congratulations on the Edgar nomination. You know how proud I am of you.

  2. I've got all the books of hers I own lined up and ready to read....

    And thank you, dear Louise.

  3. from Jacqueline

    Life's is so full of these narrow lines between, say, joy and grief. It is the presence of one that makes us so very aware of the other, but that doesn't take the sadness away, nor should it take the joy. I received the news of Barbara's passing in one email, and in the next the news from a friend that the baby girl she and her husband had waited so long to adopt, was now home from the hospital. Barbara would be the first to understand such things, and would be the first to Snoopy dance with you.

    And, I thought I'd add this link to Barbara's obituary, published today in the Los Angeles Times (sorry, you'll have to do a copy and paste). It's a thoughtful reflection on her life and achievements - and what amazing achievements they were too:,1,1271989.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

  4. Such a lovely post, Cornelia. Life is weird, isn't it? The greatest joy, and the greatest sorrow, all within the span of mere hours.

    Barbara was just a great person, and she'll be sorely missed.....

    And you know how I feel about the Edgars... ;-)

  5. She was funny and full of wisdom. You couldn't help but love her.

  6. Jacqueline, thank you for that link, and for writing so beautifully about the poignancy of juxtaposition. And what wonderful news about your friends and their new baby girl!

    You guys knew Barbara far better than I did. The sense of loss I feel as her fan can't compare to what her family and friends must be going through. I am so sorry...

  7. Aw geez, Cornelia, you got me all weepy. And when things get all serious like this is when I'm at my most useless, so all I can do is offer Jacqueline's link in clickable form, and say we're all going to have a blast in New York, no matter what.

  8. Her death has deeply affected a lot of people, but not nearly as much as her life and her writing has. That's the one small point of light in this for me.

    On the other hand, never underestimate the power of the Snoopy Dance - it's a personal fav of mine. Great for celebrating & for remembering how good it is to be alive.

    Many, many congrats on the Edgar nom, Cornelia. I remember several months ago talking with Mindy about Field of Darkness & saying I was sure you'd win an award for it. Looks like you've got the first step taken care of!

    It's so awesome that two of my favorite writers/humans are working on a book together. Yeah, I mean Sandra & Ken. Great people & I'm really looking forward to seeing what they cook up between them.

    Life is beautiful, the sweet and the bitter just make it a little more complicated.

  9. Thanks to the efforts of Debbie Mitsch, who was Barbara's friend and her publicist, we're going to pull together a gathering in Barbara's honor at LCC. I won't call it a "celebration of life" because well I dunno, i'm not that sort of person. And I'm not in charge of it. But look for notices on Friday if you have the time and wish to come. I'm sure we all have stories and it's one of the only ways most of us have to deal with the grief.
    Barbara was my friend. That's not an exclusive thing I'm saying - i'm not bragging like i was in an elite circle. She was a hugely accessible interesting friendly outgoing woman so it's not unique to hear someone say "she was my friend." Nevertheless, I' still proud to be able to say that. She was an awesomely talented author whose work never disappointed me for a second; her short story "Misdirection" that won the Anthony was one of the most beautifully written, pristine elegant mystery short stories I've ever read. When I reviewed a Seranella book, NOTHING made me happier than to hear from Barbara that wonderful line "You got it. you got what i was trying for, what I wanted to say, what I wanted to get across." It's not that her stuff was subtle or full of underlying themes, but there was more than just story always.
    I really can't keep welling up like this. My nerves are pretty damn shot lately, coming into the last week before Left Coast, but you and I share this weepy tendency pretty strongly and I'm pretty damn weepy. I just am glad that she really knew how well she was cared for and loved by this gang of ours, that she knew the respect and friendship and love of her peers and her fans and readers and we got to say it before she died.

    Gone too soon.

  10. Angie, RIGHT ON... and Andi, SHIT, you made me cry again my sweetie.

  11. Oh, Cornelia - I didn't know Barbara either, but I read the posts of her passing in the midst of my own happy emails.

    It wasn't her passing that made me cry during one of my Snoopy dances this week, though. It was knowing that my Dad, from whom I know I got my love of books, couldn't share this, like so many of my joys he hasn't shared in the past twenty years.

    But then I realized something - it's a silly something I feel kind of dumb writing, but - Rolph is from St. Paul, MN. My dad is from St. Paul, MN. Maybe my dad knew more than I thought. Yeah, dumb, I know. But, sniff, sniff - I'll take it. It's a little thing, but I'll take it.

    So, go read a Seranella. I think, for a writer, that's the best way to remember her.

  12. Congratulations on your well-deserved nom!

    Barbara S.: you nailed it. Amen.

    Tom, T.O.

  13. Heidi, I am still totally kvelling for you--YAY YAY YAY!!

    And thank you, Tom!

  14. Yayyyyy! Congrats, Cornelia! And if you don't win, your bandmates will be round to ask why . . .

    Very sad news about Barbara. I've read a couple of her books in the past and have several more in Mount TBR. They'll be promoted up the pile this weekend.

  15. Hey Shaz!!! So glad the commenting worked for you at last, and thank you for hanging round with Team Naked!!!

  16. Ah, I'm finally getting the hang of these blog fings, and finding lots of congenial company round and about!

  17. You are DOOMED, Shaz! Doomed I say!!!

    Resistance is futile, you WILL be assimilated....

  18. Hi C!

    DeLurking to offer huge congrats on the Edgar nomination. RCY and I are thrilled for you and are keeping our parts crossed for a win!

    Sad sad sad news about Barbara. I first met her at the SoCal writers conference in SD; Fran and I were on the agents panel -- of all freaking places! -- talking about e-marketing (this was before MJ Rose cornered the market :-). Fran and I were so nervous. We knew no one and no one really wanted to know us, we weren't 'real' agents ... that was until Barbara --kind and generous Barbara -- took us under her famous literary goddess wings and voila! we were 'in'.

    A short time later Barbara invited us to speak at the Palm Springs Writers Guild's monthly meeting. Barbara thought the Guild members would like to know about internet marketing, personal web pages, etc., and I can still hear Barbara's giggle when Fran asked the audience, "How many of you have Internet access?" And a geriatric voice responded, "AquaNet?" And another answered, "I think she said hair net."

    Hoo boy. That was a lonnnng afternoon :-)

    Later, after the meeting, we went to lunch with a large group and Barbara regaled us with stories of the early days and promoting her novels; driving around in an old beater car with the trunk loaded with hardbacks and mini screwdrivers that she gave away at readings....I still have mine.

    My mom told me when I was little that when a special person died it's because God needed another Angel. With Barbara, he got one.

  19. GG my dear babe, you just made me get all teared up again, and I'm so glad you guys knew her. And that you kept the screwdriver...

    The Tall One is starting work in San Diego next week, by the way....