Things That Matter: A Tribute to Lea Wait

Lea Wait

No one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I’d spent more hours at work,” or “If only I’d bought more stuff.” When we’re faced with the end of life, the fog of materialism dissipates, revealing the things that really matter: faith, family, purpose, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom, a legacy that lives on—the list will be personal for each one.

Most of us in the mystery-writing community knew, or knew of, Lea Wait, the prolific author from Maine, who died recently of pancreatic cancer. She outlived the doctors’ predictions by almost a year and continued to write, publish, and attend conferences until the end. At New England Crime Bake last week, Lea was honored by her dear friend Barbara Ross, who has given me permission to share her words:

I’ve been asked to say a few words about Lea Wait, who was a friend to so many here. Lea was the author of twenty-seven published books, eighteen in two mystery series, the Shadow Print Mysteries and the Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries, along with seven books of historical fiction for middle-grade readers.

Lea was a faithful attendee of Crime Bake. No fair-weather friend, she came whether she was on a panel or not, whether she was teaching a class or not, whether she had a signing time or not. She came to support her work, of course. She also came to mentor others and pay it forward, as many of you who have benefited from  her manuscript critiques over the years can attest. Most of all, she came to see her friends.

Many of you will remember Lea here at Crime Bake a year ago. Bald from chemo and already two months past the date her doctors had given her for her certain death. She lived on nine months more. In her final year, Lea, who was for so many of a model for how to live a writing life, became a model for how to face death with grace.

Through the miracle of time travel that is the publishing industry, Lea’s last book, Thread and Buried, releases at the end of this month. Lea’s not here to blog or visit bookstores or libraries, and I would love to see us as a community support this book. Do it for her adult daughter, but most of all, do it for Lea.

I was one of those fortunate people who benefited from a manuscript critique with Lea at Crime Bake 2017. What I remember isn’t the critique itself but the way she treated me. Her encouragement and faith in my writing gave me courage to press on. She embodied the truth that the mystery-writing community isn’t a competition but a family. I am forever grateful. She left a rich legacy.

Who in the writing community has encouraged you? If you are a published author,  how are you paying it forward?

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