This entry was posted on Apr 20 2011 by

A Sad Passing

Today brings the tragic news that yesterday, April 19, writer Jeanne Leiby was killed in a car accident in Louisiana at the age of 46. 

Jeanne was one of my creative writing instructors at the University of Central Florida, and, as my thesis advisor, she guided me through the writing of what was at the time the largest work of prose I’d ever written.  She was one of those twice-talented people who could not only do (I highly recommend her collection of short stories, Downriver), but also teach.  Anyone who has ever had a truly good teacher—and I believe all of us have had at least one—knows what I mean.

Beyond that, for me Jeanne was one of those people who Eddie Campbell might describe as being “at the crossroads,” meaning she appeared at just the right time in my life to nudge me along the correct path to my future.  My short story “Dads,” originally submitted as one of my assignments in her workshop class, was my first work of fiction to see publication.  Had that domino not tipped over, I might never have mustered the confidence to pursue a writer’s life. 

At the time of her passing, Jeanne was editor-in-chief of The Southern Review, one of the most respected literary journals in the country.  I found out only two days ago that I would be attending the American Library Association’s annual conference in June, which just so happens to take place in New Orleans this year.  New Orleans being a short trip from the home base of The Southern Review in Baton Rouge, I’d hoped Jeanne might be at ALA as well, and I intended to drop her a line and arrange for us to get together.  We’d exchanged emails over the decade since I left UCF, but we hadn’t seen each other.  It saddens me to know that we never will.  I’ll remember Jeanne not just for her own accomplishments, but for the way she encouraged and championed others.  She will always be missed. 

For a good example of the kind of person Jeanne was, in her own words, go here.

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