Linda and I met three years ago at Books by the Banks, the annual Book Fair in downtown Cincinnati. We’d been randomly thrown together, as you always are at these events: two — possibly three — authors sitting side by side for a solid eight hours, smiling till your cheeks ache, signing books till your hand hurts, answering questions, pitching your story over and over again, hearing your table mate pitching her story over and over again to parents/grandparents continually strolling by, unsure of what type of book they want to buy for their child/grandchild.
I’ll be honest. You don’t always get along with your table mate at these events. You are always cordial, of course, always polite. But by the end of the day, you are often tired of hearing about the book the other writer is selling, and when you pack up and say, “Oh, let’s keep in touch,” you don’t always mean it.
This was not the case with Linda Sanders-Wells. Over the course of that day, as we began to really talk, to exchange stories and experiences, we just clicked. When we both said, “Let’s keep in touch,” there was no doubt that we would.
In this modern world, it’s easy to keep in touch, but it’s harder to actually spend a lot of quality time together. I’m sad to say that over the past three years I did not see Linda as much as I would have liked. We lived three hours away from one other; we were both busy with work and family and writing. But in that time Linda became somebody I knew I could go to for advice and encouragement. She was smart and funny and self-deprecating and wise. She was a writer, a true writer. She had a way with words. She had a lot of stories inside her; she had a lot of stories left to tell. I was hoping more of her work would be published. I still am. She had/has a voice that needed/needs to be heard.
Here is a picture I took of Linda at my favorite bookstore, The Blue Marble, in northern Kentucky. She’d come in support (of course) of my latest book, Dream of Night. When I went back last week to look at the photos, I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a picture of the two of us together from that day. But I’m so glad I at least have this one: a photo of Linda surrounded by something she loved — books.
I will keep you in my heart, Linda. I will remember you always. Thank you for your friendship.
Here is a cut and paste of the obituary which appeared in Cincinnati newspapers, along with the link:
MADISONVILLE – Linda Sanders-Wells introduced herself on her blog this way: “I’m a writer. Since my first poem at about age six, I’ve been trying to put stories into words in a way that would connect with other people.”
Ms. Sanders-Wells, 54, died Oct. 20 at home after a long struggle with breast cancer.
In her 33 years in the publishing industry, Ms. Sanders-Wells wrote for companies ranging from the Louisville Times to Mademoiselle Magazine to F&W Publications.
Most recently, she was a communications consultant for Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, devoted to improving results in secondary education. Her friend Carri Schneider called Ms. Sanders-Wells a model of “how to live a life of joy, acceptance and loving kindness.”
Ms. Sanders-Wells’ passion was as a children’s book author and editor. Like the best writers, she drew on her own experiences to tell a larger story.
She had great success in 2009 with her children’s picture book “Maggie’s Monkeys,” about a little girl who believes a family of monkeys has moved into the refrigerator.
Ms. Sanders-Wells told her fans “Maggie’s Monkeys” was inspired years ago by living with her daughter Abigail’s “invisible-to-us friend.”
Ms. Sanders-Wells had her own invisible monkey friend as a child, when her family lived in Central America, “where some children had actual monkeys. And yes, it lived in the refrigerator. Not the family refrigerator, but my toy one.”
“Maggie’s Monkeys,” a Junior Library Guild selection, is included in the Bank Street Best Children’s Books of 2010 and was on the Master List for the Kentucky Bluegrass Awards for 2011. It won raves from teachers, librarians, parents and kids.
The book celebrated what Ms. Sanders-Wells called two powerful forces: love and imagination. She was “thrilled – and humbled” to meet fans at events like Cincinnati’s Books at the Banks.
A devoted member of a local children’s book writing group, her good friend and colleague Sally Derby of Cincinnati called Ms. Sanders-Wells “an old soul,” and said her stories delved deeper than the regular children’s book.
“I still have hopes her other books will be published,” Derby said.
Filmmaker and author Eunice Charlton-Trujillo of Cincinnati has dedicated her next book, which will come out in 2012, to Ms. Sanders-Wells.
“I decided long before she was sick,” Charlton-Trujillo said. “Linda was very inspirational and an incredible motivator for me to keep writing. She had faith. She believed in people.”
Ms. Sanders-Wells wrote: “The special books we encounter as kids go straight to our hearts. That’s why I write for children. In the hope that perhaps something I have to say will register with one other person.”
There are plans under way to publish at least one other of Ms. Sanders-Wells’ manuscripts. “Sometimes Friends,” which explores how friendships are made, will be published by Charlton-Trujillo and Sanders-Wells daughter, Abigail, 17.
It’s a book, Charlton-Trujillo said, that will change young lives.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include her partner of 24 years, Howard Wells; her parents, Robert and Sue Sanders of Indianapolis; two brothers, Neal Sanders and Alan Sanders, both of Chicago; and a sister, Laurie Sanders Squire of Chicago.
A memorial and celebration will begin 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at Grailville, 932 O’Bannonville Road, Loveland. For directions, www.grailville.org or 513-683-2340.