Somewhere in Time

I am blogging today about an author who died a few days ago. She was African American, and a writer whom I admired for her success as an author, her years in the business, many things, but mostly because she was also just too cool for words — but I’m going to give it a try by jotting down a few thoughts about her as they come to me.

Two years ago, Leslie E. Banks and I hung out over a weekend in October at an event called Phauxcon, a pop culture fan event created more than 10 years ago by my good friend Sierra Hurtt. Don’t ask me how Sierra manages to convince luminaries like LA Banks (Vampire Huntress series) and Jim Butcher (another dinner guest a year earlier) to join a group of no more than 20 folks to talk paranormal fiction, urban fantasy, gaming, role-playing, sci-fi television, Spike and Buffy, or you name it. But she does.

Well, on that first night LA, Sierra and I went out to dinner and had a great time, and then we spent the next two days, talking and laughing and sharing our experiences and ideas on books, careers, writing, comics, you name it. We were  joined by another 15 or so attendees over the weekend, and just had a grand time.

LA told us about her roots as a writer, how she lost use of her full name (Leslie Esdaile Banks) in a contract dispute, what motivated her to write, and what the essence of her stories sought to convey, and she spoke lovingly of her daughter. In all, we chatted like old friends for three days. So as you can tell she was generous with her time, and herself, just like so many other writers, editors and even agents I’ve met in this realm of publishing.

So much giving in such a competitive industry is surprising, and only something I think can happen in one dominated by women (yes, I do believe that, but that’s another blog).

Unfortunately, I don’t remember every word, or topic LA said or touched upon because I always planned on hanging out again–soon. We had several near misses, a casually discussed trip to Maui for a writer’s retreat with Rebecca Walker (which I recommend whether you write memoirs or not), attending one of LA’s workshops or book signings near DC, or just hooking up the next time I was in Philly. We emailed each other occasionally after we first met but then kept in touch via Facebook (where the dedications, photos and memories being shared are quite extraordinary).

This past spring, she posted photos of her trip to Egypt where she was on a fact-finding mission for a new book series. A few months later, a post on her Facebook wall let us know she was gravely ill. On August 2, 2011, a post let us know she had died.

She leaves a legacy of books for generations to enjoy. If you haven’t read her, please check them out. She wrote paranormal, contemporary, YA, and was one of a handful of New York Times, USA Today, African American bestselling authors who wrote genre fiction. We weren’t close friends, but we connected, as she did with so many others who she met.

But what’s important to me — in addition to the legacy of books she’s written and stories she’s told — is that I remember a weekend in Philly when I hung out with one of the coolest women I’ve ever met.