Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Thanks, Valerie

Ten years ago, in the summer of 2001, I got yet another rejection from one of the two publishing houses I was bound and determined to break into (Covenant, the other being Deseret Book). This rejection had a lot of positives in it, and it included a request to revise and resubmit.

About two weeks later, I got an e-mail from an editor there who I knew personally. We'd crossed paths many times, at League of Utah Writers meetings, conferences, and so on. She was one of the most helpful and sweet people ever.

Her name was Valerie Holladay.

In her email, she said that she'd seen my work cross her desk over the years, and she knew I had the chops, but for whatever reason hadn't quite crossed the line into acceptance. Long-time readers of my blog will remember the story (HERE and HERE) about how Valerie invited me to lunch so we could discuss my writing and figure out how to fine-tune my work so it was more marketable.

I spent days frantically writing synopses of my novels so Valerie could read them in advance and give me feedback on the stories when we met for lunch. I remember the table we sat at when the light bulb went off over my head and I realized what ingredients my stories were missing. I remember talking to her in the parking lot, where she told me that if we could just get me in the door I'd "be an asset to the company."

She gave me permission to submit to her electronically, which wasn't the norm back then. But by the time that day came, I learned that she was leaving the company. At first I felt like the brass ring had been taken away from me; my advocate at Covenant was gone.

Sure, Valerie had left, but she'd taught me what I needed. That fall, I submitted what became Lost Without You, and by the one-year anniversary of our lunch, I had a novel on bookstore shelves with my name on it.

In the years since, we've corresponded here and there as friends and colleagues about topics ranging from cat training to typesetting. Most of my friends who are fellow Covenant authors came aboard after I did and never knew her.

In many ways, I owe a lot to Valerie for helping me and guiding me. She took me under her wing when I needed it the most.

I know I'm not unique in that respect. I've heard many other writers express gratitude for the friendship and help they received from Valerie.

Which is why the world lost something special on Sunday when Valerie passed away after a short bout of cancer. I didn't even know she was ill. When I heard, my heart ached.

I'm quite sure I'm not alone in saying that she will be missed.

Thanks for everything, Valerie.

14 comments:

Lara said...

I'm sorry, Annette. It's always so hard when someone who has influenced our lives so greatly passes on. She sounds wonderful.

Sherri said...

Thank you for sharing this note about Valerie. She was a sweetheart. She allowed me to be a pre-reader for Covenant and was always so approachable. I am sad to hear of her passing. Hugs to you.

Jennie said...

What a sweet tribute to someone who left her mark on so many of us.

samiam said...

She was a fantastic editor and a great lady. I am so sorry to hear this.

Sue said...

Such a sad loss.

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Anonymous said...

Dear Annette and Fans, I am surprised and grateful to see your tribute raised so fast. I am Valerie's brother David. I have been Valerie's roommate for 10+ years. I do not know if my efforts to contact her friends reached you or the efforts of other family members. I would like to invite Valerie's fans and friends to view my tribute to Valerie on my facebook page. It is titled "Death of a Giant".
A memorial service is planned on Monday 7/11/2011 at the local ward bldg at 222 south 100 east in Nephi, Utah for those who are able to attend. There will be no viewing. Valerie's body was donated to medical research.
Please share the news with anyone you know who may have been one of Valerie's friends. She Touched an amazing number of lives in a wonderful way and was loved and admired by nearly everyone she worked with. We don't have a full or current contact list so if you know of someone who should be told please pass this along.
Thank you for spendin the time to poast this tribute to our cherished sister and Hero. She became a hero to you by thinking outside the box and violating policy and procedure to coach you and get your career into the arena.
Best regards,
David Holladay

Ang said...

Annette, I just received a link to your blog via email. I am so sad to hear this news! I worked with Valerie on Irreantum for a couple of years while she served as co-editor of the journal. She was a wonderful woman: kind, encouraging, and smart. She will be dearly missed.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

She sounds like an amazing, generous-hearted woman. She sounds a lot like you.

Jessica G. said...

I am so sorry for your loss! But I am grateful that you had such a wonderful mentor.

Gale Sears said...

Thank you, Anette for sharing your good memories of Valerie. She truly will be missed by family, friends, and the writing community in which she so selflessly participated. We at V-formation will miss her tender and wise voice.

Andrew H. said...

A tribute to Valerie from The Association for Mormon Letters, including a review of her literary career, is not up at:
http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=2670
Please come by and leave your comments and tributes.

Melanie Jacobson said...

She sounds like a great example to learn from.

Andrew H. said...

That is, the tribute is "now up", not "not up".

Debbie Davis said...

Annette, I really loved your tribute to Valerie, I makes me wish I had known her. I know her sister very well,and I think they must be a lot a like, filled with love, encouragement, humor, and well, just an angel on earth. Her sister flew every weekend for a year to go help her through her struggles. I am glad that you were able to be touched by Valerie and learned what you did, because I in turn, get to reap from it all when you teach those wonderful classes at storymakers. Your experiences give me hope and I am glad you shared how she touched your life! I look forward to next storymakers when I get to learn more from you!