Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Personal Tribute to Kate Duffy

Let me say up front, I was a Kate Duffy fan. Nothing could have shocked me more than hearing about her death. I always thought—and still do—that I would be a much better writer if I’d had the privilege of being in Kate’s stable of writers.

I met Kate at the Golden Triangle Writers Guild conference in Beaumont, Texas. Each time she attended our conference, she was always kind and cordial to me. I think she recognized that I was quite the wimp, totally intimidated by her presence. I stood in awe of her, sat on the fringes and listened to everything she had to say about writing, publishing, editing, acquiring books for whatever publisher she worked for at the time. As far as I was concerned, her word was the law back in the late 80s and early 90s.

One of my most prized possessions is a rejection slip from Kate when she was editor in chief at Meteor Publishing in October, 1990. It's priceless and I’d like to share it with you:

Dear Jessica,
As you may know, while I was at Tudor I was involved with publishing the book IS ELVIS ALIVE? And that project turned my phone into an Elvis Presley hot line. I, in fact, had calls from two Elvi. I had somebody call and offer to sell me Elvis’s hair brush with Elvis’s hair still in it. I was offered, for a considerable sum of money, the table on which Elvis was embalmed. People called my office claiming that Elvis was speaking to them through various appliances. And, last but not least, I heard from a significant number of the population who decided to name various children and animals “Elvis.” I have to be the only editor you will run into who has had this kind of experience and, therefore, I am the least likely to be interested in a book that has anything to do with Elvis.

Without prejudice, I did read your query letter, and it does sound like Love You Tender is not a romance. Therefore, I cannot encourage you to submit this book to us. Best of luck in placing this project elsewhere.

Sincerely, Kate Duffy
Editor in Chief

I have no idea if Kate was in a hilarious mood, just feeling creative or if her tone was total sarcasm, but this rejection slip made my day because it was funny, and it was definitely not a form rejection. I have a feeling this letter is a perfect example of Kate Duffy’s quirky personality, and I have no doubt she touched many lives and left many of us with wonderful memories.

Love You Tender eventually became a romance and sold to Silhouette Romance of which Kate was founding editor. The title was changed to The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes. I wonder if my editor at Silhouette was contacted by any Elvi.

Rest in Peace, Kate. You were loved.


Debra Harris-Johnson said...

Sympathies to you Jess as what sounded to be your mentor. Every writer needs one and I am so glad you are mine. Judging from her rejection slip I think I would have definitely liked her.

Jess said...

I suppose could be called my mentor but only in the sense that I read every interview with her and watched her career. She was a savvy woman when it came to writing and publishing.

The Voice said...

I offer my sympathies too. I'm reading about her on a lot of other blogs. Sounds like her spirit rubbed off on a lot of people. Much as yours has. Have peace today.

Mindy Blanchard said...

OMG I had no idea Kate Duffy passed. I saw her at the heather graham conference I went to. A conference that put me on the right track. Its funny that I am reading this now, the day after I watched the movie the kite runner. at the conference, kate said that the kite runner was an example of a book she feels did not have one extra/unnecessary word. It made me buy the book and the book has been in my too read shelf. Since I can't read a book until I watch the movie, it has been unread for almost 3 years now. But I rented and watched the movie yesterday, in hopes of getting to a book that was so highly praised by such a remarkable lady and editor. This saddens me so to hear this news, jess!

Shalanna said...

What a cool rejection slip! I spoke to Ms. Duffy by phone about my novels a couple of times, and she was very straightforward about why she wished she could accept them but felt she couldn't (they do not have the level of hot sex that she wanted for the line--Lori Foster was her perfect example of her fave writer). She was definitely a character, a tough bird with a soft center. She will be hard to replace.

Hey, I've probably seen you at the GTWG conference in the past! Hope to be able to afford to come next year.

Haven't I seen you on the Textnovel site as well? I have a book up over there that needs votes to have a chance to be published by Dorchester. If you feel like it, I'd love it if you checked out my first few chapters.
You don't have to vote for it unless you like it--but if you have ANY comments, please leave them. SONG FROM THE HEART used to be in #20 place in that contest but has been overcome by the BIG winners, sigh. Still, I don't give up easily.

SONG FROM THE HEART by Caitlyn Young (free read)

I invite anyone and everyone to take a look--please!