Sunday, September 8, 2013

Anything but an Archetype: Remembering Carolyn Kaufman

One of my favorite writerly endeavors has been writing for the Query Tracker blog.

Carolyn Kaufman
I remember the day I got an email from the blog’s coordinator, Carolyn Kaufman. I knew who she was, being a frequent visitor to the QT forum; I respected her as knowledgeable and generous in her advice to aspiring writers. She posted under the nickname Archetype, a theme that she used throughout her writings on the subject of psychology.

At the time, I was maybe three months into my career as a contracted novelist, nose-deep in editorial work on my first book, head spinning at the thought of establishing myself as the author I’d always dreamed of becoming. Carolyn said she knew me from the forums, that she was familiar with my posts and perspectives, and thought I’d make a good addition to the blog. I was floored. Me? A good addition?

Like so many writers, I doubted myself. I knew that blog. I followed it since the day it made its glorious renaissance. I knew the past bloggers, authors who I’d read on the forum, authors whose work I admired. I’d watched them travel the path to representation and publication and I was sure of one thing: I’d be a poor follow-up to such talented writers.

Carolyn didn’t see it that way.

Knowing it was an honor and too good an opportunity to pass up, I tried to push doubt aside as best I could and I let her talk me into it. I agonized over a suitable topic, then agonized over the writing, and agonized over the editing. I sent my first article to Carolyn for approval, and sweated into the keyboard until she wrote back. She said she loved it. I was flabbergasted. (I still am.)

On September 7, 2011, my first article was published on the Query Tracker blog.

Since then, I’ve written dozens of articles and Publishing Pulses, and each time I agonized whether it would be good enough for the blog. I never wanted to bring down the enterprise I respected most. Carolyn often assured me I never would.

Carolyn did more than encourage me and make me feel like a worthy contributor; she became my friend. We emailed, chatting about our projects and our personal lives. She allowed me to read her WIP, and she was kind enough to offer her fathomless and brilliant advice on mine—my main character is a social worker, so Carolyn and her book have been an inexhaustible reference for me. In fact, I made major alterations to the manuscript because of what I’ve learned from her. It’s made my book better.

She’s made me better.

A mutual friend recently described her as intensely private and all I could think was: not with me. Never with me. Although I never knew the sound of her laugh, or the color of her eyes, or the warmth of her hug, I knew she was truly my friend, always just a note away.

I’ve spent just as much time agonizing over the acknowledgements for that WIP—I wanted to dedicate the book to her and publically thank her for her support and her inspiration. I knew I’d have to keep it as a surprise because she’d never seek the praise. But now I find myself looking over that paragraph, wondering how I can find the strength to delete the word ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and type in the words IN MEMORIAM.

On September 7, 2013, two years from the very day Carolyn posted my first Query Tracker article, she passed away after a brief and unexpected illness.

The world lost a beautiful person and a talented author. We lost a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration. Many of us lost a dear friend. Tonight I take my comfort in knowing that she left behind a wealth of words, so that we can continue learning and growing and persevering.

That was her gift to the world—her words. And, thanks to them, Carolyn will always be with us.

God rest you, Caro. You can never be forgotten.

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