Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Barb Ross (Monday), Sandra Neily (Tuesday), Maureen Milliken (Thursday) and Dorothy Cannell (Friday).
On Monday, August 19th, Kate Flora and MCW alum Gerry Boyle will be at the Kennebunk Free Library at 6:00 p.m.
Maine Crime Writers lost one of our founding members this past week. Lea Wait was a good friend as well as a wonderful writer and so we’d like to share some our memories of her here.
Bruce Robert Coffin: Lea Wait was a true friend and inspiration to many. Her passing leaves a large void in the Maine crime writing community. One of the first people I turned to when it looked like my journey to publication would finally happen, Lea provided me with sage advice.
Whether she was battling life, cancer, or a manuscript deadline, Lea always faced the challenge courageously, and head on. My last conversation with Lea occurred while she was in the hospital following a heart attack. Even then her attitude was positive and she remained focused on overcoming another obstacle. I will always remember traveling to the last several Malice Domestic conferences, sharing conversation, a plane ride, and a cab with Lea and Kathy Lynn Emerson.
Rest In Peace, my friend.
Brenda Buchanan: Lea was a storyteller, through and through. She was a skilled and prolific writer of cozy mysteries, historical mysteries and novels for kids aged eight to fourteen. Her books reflected her knowledge of Maine history, antique prints and needlepoint. She also wrote non-fiction about her life with artist Bob Thomas (Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine) and won an award for poetry when she was young. If you’ve read her work, you’ve had the pleasure of spending time in the worlds she created with such a deft hand.
It makes all kinds of sense that Lea became a writer because she loved, loved, loved a good story. To spend an hour or two chatting with Lea was to be entertained from start to finish. I was honored to hear tell of her adventures raising four daughters as a single parent, her determination to kick free of the corporate world and live full-time in the beautiful, historic Maine home that had been in her family for generations and her long love affair with Bob. Her wit, energy and ability to captivate with words led to her to write, and her success was as inevitable as the tide.
I admired Lea for her insight, her courage, her pragmatic worldview and am so grateful to have had her in my life.
Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: I first met Lea way back in April 2003 when we did a talk and signing at a tea sponsored by the English Society at UMA. Her Bob and my Sandy met then, too, both schlepping books for the authors. I won’t say we immediately became best friends, but that was certainly the start of a long and valued friendship, both professionally and personally.
We didn’t live close enough to each other for many visits to each other’s houses–Maine is a BIG state–but we saw each other at dozens of mystery conferences over the years and we kept in regular touch by e-mail. Together with Kate and Barb, Lea and I were among the founding members of this blog. Back in the early days, the four of us had a memorable lunch in Portland to discuss where Maine Crime Writers was going next. A few years later, we got together for an equally memorable writers’ retreat. Those memories, and memories of talking late into the night when Lea and I roomed together at Malice Domestic and at other conferences, will be with me forever.
She was a wonderful writer, a true friend, and an inspiration on how to live life to the fullest.
Kate Flora: I first met Lea Wait when she was my student in a mystery writing class I taught for Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. As she became a member of the crime writing community, we became good friends. There were so many impressive things about Lea as well as her writing. Her dedication to her readers and the way she assiduously maintained a mailing list and notified them of new books. The way she
shared her life with all of us–the ups and the downs–so that we could all feel we knew her and were her friends. Her brilliant and far-ranging mind and her curiosity about things. The depth of her historical research and how she brought history to life in her books. And anyone who knew Lea could vouch for the fact that she was a fascinating conversationalist. I used to volunteer to drive her to book events just to hear her talk. I loved both Lea and Bob, even have three of Bob’s paintings, which I understand makes me a collector, and will miss them. The beauty of Lea’s being a writer, though, means that a part of her, and her voice, remains through her work.
Dick Cass: I first spent any concentrated time with Lea after her diagnosis, when I gave her a ride to last year’s Crime Bake. My first thought, after arriving in Woburn that Friday was this: “My God, that woman could talk for the Olympic team.” And then I realized how much I’d learned in that two hour ride about her, writing, and being a professional in this crazy business. Later on, when Anne and I visited in Edgecomb, I was struck that her largest worry seemed to be whether to sign a contract to write more books. What she accomplished in the last year was a great testament to her work ethic.
Through all this time, though, I’ve been most struck by her grace and courage in the face of very difficult times: loss of her husband Bob, her own initial diagnosis (with its eventual ambiguities), the chemo sessions, the broken ankle, and then, as if her body hadn’t been insulted enough, the recent heart attack. And yet the first thing I heard from her in the Cardiac Unit was this complaint: “I’m bored. I don’t have anything to read.” I delivered a stack of books and enjoyed her being very direct with a senior cardiologist about what was and was not going to happen. No one who knew her would be surprised by that.
Her absence leaves a very large hole in this tribe of ours.
Maureen Milliken: I knew who Lea was, but hadn’t had much interaction with her until we started selling books at craft shows together. It was an eye-opener. If a passserby showed the least bit of interest, Lea was in action, pitching. She had it down. It was a little scary at first. She’d encourage me to do the same with my books, but I’ve never really gotten the hang of it. She’d pitch mine for me, though, and made them sound better than I ever could. She also had the best stuff for setting up a display, and she was generous with it.
A year ago last spring, at Malice Domestic, I was in the nearly empty bar during the banquet — I was a rookie and didn’t realize that EVERYONE went to the banquet — when Lea came in. Her husband had recently died and she said the dinner had tired her out. We sat and talked for some time. She was sad, but philosophical. Once she was diagnosed, every time I talked to her, she was upbeat and matter of fact. I learned a lot from Lea about selling books, dealing with the public and living as a writer, but the best lesson she gave was just how to live. I will truly miss her.
Barb: I am laughing and crying reading these remembrances. Lea was a talker! But she was never boring or monopolizing. She wanted to hear about you, too. I’ve talked in other places about Lea and Bob’s impact on my life–my writing life and my life-life. I will miss her terribly, but I am so happy to have the books, three of Bob’s paintings (I guess we’re collectors, too!) and, of course, my memories.
An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share.
And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora