Because now the good ones have started dying

Read the article about Barbara Robinette Moss’s passing here.

In college I liked to browse the library. Actually, my whole life I’ve browsed the library. Wherever we’ve moved and no matter where I’ve gone, I always feel at home in a library. I moved in the middle of my Junior year of high school from a school of about 500 to a school of about 4,000. From a graduating class of over 100 to a graduating class of almost 800. It was overwhelming. I had no friends and no one to eat lunch with. So, I hid in the library and read and reread “The Story Girl” and walked among the books, getting courage for my next rush through the crowded anonymous halls.

This is how I’ve discovered books like Change Me Into Zeus’ Daughter. I found that book in college, on one of my many escapes to the library in search of friends. I checked the book out and read and reread it twice in the course of a week. The pages were full of beauty and heartache and unflinching honesty. And the lovely moments of the book seemed to encapsulate a longing that pervading my own childhood. The book opens with a scene, where Barbara describes her siblings stealing money to buy Cokes (or RC Cola’s I believe) and that secret joy of stolen luxuries. It brought me back to me when I was 12-years-old. I would sneak coins from my mother’s purse and dig pennies from the dirt in my yard, hording them away until I had fifty cents. Then, I would creep down the street to a tanning store and buy a Coke and secret myself away from the chaos of my family and read a book and drink a Coke. The secret joy of stolen luxuries. Until it was all shattered by someone screaming, someone crying, some one yelling for something to be done. Barbara’s words so accurately pierced through to that little girl who would hide away, clutching a book as her only protection from world that seemed to constantly tilt and slide away. If you are a reader, then you know, you don’t forget moments of connection like that.

Years later, in Iowa I heard her on a radio program and I called in. I asked her how she could write with such courage. She told me, “If it happened to you it’s your story. You need to tell your story and let others have the job of telling theirs.” Those words were so simple and so powerful. And have given me the courage to write things that make me afraid and to write about things that have kept me afraid. The year after that, I was talking about books with a co-worker and I mentioned Change Me Into Zeus’ Daughter. “Oh, I know her,” the woman said. “She is a dear friend. You should write her.”

And so I did.

I began writing Barbara Robinette Moss in 2008. Just as I was applying to graduate schools.Her emails were full of wisdom and wit and vivacity. I cherish them. When I was rejected from the Writer’s Workshop she told me the same thing had happened to her. She wrote, “Move on, I say! Write your heart out. . . and let the chips fall where they may.” She wrote, “The most important thing is that this is what you have decided to do – and do it.” She told me of her own journey as a writer, “I worked hard. I went to readings at Prairie Lights, took summer classes, took advice from the writers I knew (and threw some of their advice away) – and more than anything, I followed my heart. I cried, and got over it, and cried some more. But I followed the voice inside that said I could do this.”

I printed those words out and pasted them over my desk. I’ve been following her advice ever since.

Today, I learned that she passed away.

I don’t know any of the details. Just that she is gone and I am going through her emails and her writing and hording away her words like a sacred currency.

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