Last month, a writer I knew passed away. It was a sadly familiar tale of misdiagnosis, radical and aggressive treatment, apparent respite, then recurrence, treatment, recurrence, and so on. Each treatment seemed more debilitating. Each respite less certain. Throughout this lengthy ordeal, Tracie kept writing.
I didn’t know her well. Or rather, I only knew her well as a writer. We met for the first time in late 2010. I was joining an already established writing group, a group of which she was a member. They had been together for a few years, meeting each month, sharing and critiquing each other’s work. I was fortunate they took me on. Eight years later, we still submit a short portion of what we have been writing recently to the others for comment.
I’ve been going back over the pieces I submitted to the group through the years in order to recall Tracie’s typical comment. She was naturally good-humoured herself and loved writing that raised a chuckle. “Funny!” she would write in the margin. “Too much!” But she also, perhaps due to her career as a family therapist, knew when you were getting to the truth of an experience.
Back when I first joined the group, Tracie was mostly submitting poetry. But once she submitted something entitled, “A Short Story.” That short story grew. And grew. And grew. A novelist was emerging. Later there was another novel, still being written furiously over this last year. And there was also Pecky.
Some time in 2016 we read the first of the Pecky books. Pecky is a talking duck who lives with a family in the suburbs but who has another life as a Hollywood star. “Funny!” It turned out that Pecky was a perfect vehicle for Tracie. She poured her time into the Pecky books, found a wonderful illustrator in Shirley Fowley, and managed the process of production, publication, publicity and distribution. Tracie’s readings at local bookstores were special events, complete with a real life Pecky who accompanied Tracie. Later Pecky would travel to Yellowstone, the Everglades, even Ottawa. “Too much!”
Tracie’s enthusiasm for writing, her generous critiques, her busy full life even through the worst of these past two years — I’ll always remember. She wrote for the love of it. And though I know she did many other things well — therapist, musician, mother — it was as a writer that I knew her. She will be missed.