As I do every year, last weekend, I attended the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book conference. I'd planned to write the recap over this past weekend, but I got majorly sidetracked, and that post will have to be postponed. You see, a very dear friend and critique partner, who'd been battling myelodysplastic syndrome, took a very bad turn for the worse and yesterday, she passed away.
Kathryn Attalla, or Kat Attalla as she was known in author circles, was an amazing woman – a great friend, a fantastic mother and sister, and one hell of a writer. I first met Kathy over 20 years ago, through the Hudson Valley RWA chapter. She had just recently published her first book, titled Homeward Bound. She always used to joke that since the book came out at the same time as the Disney movie (about the pets traveling across country to reunite with their family) that everyone thought she wrote the book that was turned into the movie. I can still hear the laughter in her voice as she told that story. She had a wicked sense of humor, and could be counted on to set us all off in fits of laughter.
If you've never read any of her books, you are really missing out. She wrote some of the spunkiest heroines I'd ever encountered, and every one of her heroes was delicious. She nailed her characters perfectly, they came to life the moment you started reading one of her books. Her dialogue was smart, snappy and often laced with quite a bit of snark. And when her heroes bungled things with the heroine, as they always did, she was able to put them in their place without emasculating them. Even her darker stories were infused with her trademark humor, emotion and sexual tension. One of the things Kathy did for me was make me a better writer, and not just from her critiques, but from reading her books.
I'll miss driving to her place to pick her up for critique group. Her company was always a joy and we had some terrific conversations. She never failed to find some way to get me out of the corner I'd written myself into with my books. Sometimes, I feel like I was so very selfish because she gave so much and while I strived to return that to her, I often felt that I fell short, mostly because her writing was tight and clean, I could never really find anything that she needed to fix.
I'm going to miss her terribly, not only her spot-on advice and writing tips, but her wit, her kind heart, her willingness to help whoever needed it. I take comfort in the fact that her battle, while not ending the way we wanted it to, is over and she is at peace. Even if I am selfish and want to turn the clock way way back to keep her here with us, I know she is in a better place and with her beloved Fouad.
She touched so many lives in her way-too-short time with us, but I will cherish the memories and re-read her books to keep her near in spirit.I know eventually the smiles will come easier than the tears, but for now, my heart aches.