Judi’s passing did not come as a total surprise. She’d been in a coma for months, and though I heard no news of deterioration, I heard none of progress either. So when I saw her dear friend, Sherry Lawson, post the news today, I sat and stared at my screen, reflecting silently.
I met Judi at the Hampton Roads Writers Conference in 2010. Hers was one of the first seminars I attended. She spoke openly about money – something not many are willing to do. She lectured about repetitive writing and other common mistakes writers make when submitting their work. She regaled us with her quirky sense of humor, and kept everyone in tune and entertained. At the end of the hour, I approached her with a slip of paper upon which I had written a new word for ‘banana.’ Monkeyfruit. Judi swore, you see, that there was no other word for banana, but that most other words had synonyms. This was part of her ‘avoid repetitive writing’ piece.
Judi took one look at my paper and pointed at the woman beside me. “It’s been done,” she said.
The other woman held up her slip of paper. Monkeybait. Darn! That was way better than mine! We all laughed, and Judi passed me one of her cards, which I slipped into my purse.
When I opened my writers’ center and bookstore. I emailed Judi and asked her if she would be interested in being an author at the grand opening event. To my surprise and delight, she said she would. And thank goodness she did. It was an eerily quiet day. Few visitors and even fewer customers. Judi kept us all entertained and we hunkered around her at the conference table I had in the writers’ center while she shared with us her experiences in the jungle of the publishing world.
A few months later, I had her back as a part of a Romance themed panel for Valentines Day – one of the highest attended events I’d hosted. She came in again to teach a seminar about breaking into the business. Ever humble and gracious, she often tried to refuse payment for her troubles. It was enough for her to help new writers.
After the store closed, I fell out of touch with Judi, but when I wrote her and asked her to be one of the judges for a youth writing contest I was putting together, she said yes with no hesitation.
That was who Judi was. A talented writer, generous with her time and committed to helping aspiring authors.