Jan had an appealing, occasionally disarming, frankness. She told it like it was. She didn’t care for sports stories or teen romance, and didn’t mind saying so.
In critique sessions, no detail was too small to escape her notice. She noticed problems that the many of us missed or ignored. When I stressed Mary Borden’s diminutive stature, she pointed out that, at 5 feet 6 inches, Borden was hardly petite, especially in 1916. When I couldn’t account for the name of the Columbus Driving Park in my Rickenbacker chapter, she took the matter in her own hands. She went home–somehow remembering the question–Googled it, and passed on what she found.
The most important part of this discussion of Jan’s strengths as a critiquer was her openness–passion, even–for getting her own writing critiqued. Every month she wanted as much critical feedback as she could possibly get. Bring it on! was her operative mode. On those nights when I left early and she shared late, she felt gypped that she would have one fewer set of eyes to gaze on her work. I would take the MS home, or ask her to send it to me, and give her feedback by email. She was highly appreciative.
In her last email to me, just a few weeks ago, Jan told me that she had, at long last, read my Bunion Derby book. She admitted that she had put it off for a year and more, not being especially interested in the topic. But she was pleasantly surprised, and gave me high praise for making my narrative more than just a “sports book.” I will treasure her commendation, but it is no compensation for the loss of her presence every month in our group–the loss of a sharp mind, a forceful personality, and a reliable friend. Alas,
Good bye, Jan. I will miss you.