On January 10, 2018, my dear friend and writing partner, Darcy Vance, lost her battle with cancer.
This is my tribute to her.
We met only twice in person, once in May of 2000 and again, nine years later, for our book launch, but I first encountered Darcy in an online writing workshop sometime in 1998. We took a few classes together and ended up in the same “study group.” From there, we quickly became friends.
Darcy often told me I was the writer she wished she could be. The thing is, she was the writer—and the human being—I wished I could be.
When I shelved my novel The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, Darcy wouldn’t let it go. She loved it too much, thought it too good to let me simply abandon it. So she jumped in—like she did with so many things in her life—started working on it, converting the prose from third person point of view to first.
This might sound easy, but ask any writer: it’s not. There’s tone and style and voice to consider. The way a third-person narrator might phrase things or relate an event is far different from the way a first-person narrator would.
Here’s the note she sent me when she first started working on the novel:
I would like (very much) to play with the first three chapters of your novel. If I’m pleased with what I come up with (a big IF) I would show it to you. After that, we’ll talk. No commitments on either side.
Here’s what I didn’t know: She’d already jumped in and started, so when I said yes, I had those three chapters in my inbox almost instantaneously.
After I got over the shock of reading my story in a completely different voice, I was entranced. Darcy had done something incredibly special. When I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at a line she had added, I knew we were going to sell this novel, and we were going to sell it because of her.
Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance’s debut THE GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING, the story of a self-confessed debating dork whose practical joke lands her a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad, where she realizes that if there’s one thing worse than blending into the lockers, it’s getting noticed!, to Jennifer Klonsky at Simon Pulse, by Mollie Glick at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.
Magic happened when we worked together. It was no longer simply my story; it wasn’t Darcy’s; it was the main character’s story. We managed to transcend both our egos and insecurities (and writers have plenty of both) and create something special.
It’s true that magic comes with a price. We fought, we fumed, we’d give each other the virtual side eye. If it was a plot issue, I usually won. If it was humor related, Darcy did. (The funniest bits in both our novels? Those are pure Darcy.)
But even when we butted heads, neither one of us wanted to call it quits. Not when we had each other.
In May of 2009, I was lucky enough to see how incredible Darcy was in person, too. My kids and I arrived in Danville for the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, but due to various circumstances, our luggage did not.
Without blinking an eye, Darcy got us to the closest Walmart before they closed and entertained my daughter while my son and I ran around the store gathering up the supplies we’d need for the weekend. By the time we met up at the cash registers, Darcy had already purchased a pair of sparkly glitter jeans for my daughter. Then she took us all out to dinner.
This is how she was in every aspect of her life. She knew what you needed whether it was a pair of glitter jeans, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or the missing plot point in your story.
That she was the same in person as in my email inbox doesn’t surprise me.
You can’t write and revise thousands of words together and exchange an untold number of emails without becoming part of that person’s life. While working on revisions in instant messenger, we often typed the same idea at the same time. One year for Christmas, we bought each other the exact same book. In 2015, we sent each other candles.
One night, I was booting down the computer when my daughter, about five at the time, said, “Goodnight, Darcy!”
I said, “You know Darcy doesn’t really live in my computer, right?”
My daughter didn’t answer.
Maybe Darcy didn’t live in my computer, but she certainly lives on through it. As far back as 1999, I started saving our exchanges. I have countless emails and replies from her, all written in her wonderful voice. I’ve been rereading her messages over these last few days, and I’m in awe of how blessed I am to have them. I know, in the future, whenever I need her advice, I’ll be able to find it there.
It’s been two years since I placed that Christmas candle on my nightstand. And while its wonderful scent has faded, I’ve never moved it from its spot. On the evening of January 10th, I inched it closer to me so I could see, if not smell, the candle while I reread her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn.
At around four in the morning, the cat became agitated in a way she never does. Something had woken us, but I couldn’t say what, exactly. I bolted upright. The cat was staring at the space above the headboard in that freaky way cats have. I held my breath and listened hard.
Then I caught the scent of the candle, the aroma stronger than it’s been for more than a year.
I know what logic says about this—grief, imagination, wishful thinking. I also know what Darcy would say.
I like to think she found a way to tell me goodbye.
My writing and my life have been so intertwined with hers that even when we weren’t working on a project together, I never considered a story truly done until Darcy read it. She helped me become a better writer, and more importantly, a better person.
Rereading her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn was a revelation. Somehow it was the same story and yet completely different from what I remember, very much like reading a brand-new story of hers. This is yet another gift she’s given me.
In a mere nine pages, she managed to convey so much about love and loss, and taking leaps of faith, making those scary jumps.
Near the end, there is this exchange between the two main characters:
Kathleen set down her glass and reached for her grandmother’s hand. She gave it a squeeze. “Oh, Nonni, what will I do without you?” she said.
“Jump,” the old woman answered, and she squeezed back.
I don’t know what I’m going to do without Darcy. But I do know this:
She would want me—and all of us—to jump.
More than anything, a writer loves to be read. Please take the time to read Darcy’s work.
I’ll be running a free Kindle promotion for Dating on the Dork Side between January 13th and 17th. Darcy loved our free promotional runs, was always amazed that by offering our book for free, we ended up making money. Our last run in May was so good, it caught Amazon’s eye, and they selected Dating on the Dork Side for their curated Prime Reading list over the summer.
The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading
- 2012 Popular Paperback pick in the Get Your Geek On category
- First Place: 2010 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence
- Available on: Kindle Nook Kobo iTunes GooglePlay Print
Dating on the Dork Side
Less Than Three
- Darcy’s solo YA novel
- Read for free on Wattpad
On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn: A Short Story
- A contest-winning short story
- Available for 99 cents on Kindle or read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
18 responses to “On Learning to Say Goodbye, in Winter”
I followed from a distance your collaboration with Darcy, and though I can’t comprehend the magnitude of your loss, I send my heartfelt support.
And the story about the cat is amazing.
Thank you, Connie. I appreciate your kind words.
You two gals were so Blessed to have each other. I’m truly moved to read your story.
Thank you for stopping by and thank you for your kind words.
I don’t know you or her, but this made me cry. What a lovely, wonderful tribute.
Thank you so much, and thank you for stopping by.
Charity, this is a wonderful, heartbreaking, heartwarming tribute to Darcy. I’m sure her family will treasure every word, and bring them smiles when they’re lost in grief.
Thank you, Helen. Sara’s (Darcy’s daughter) best friend read a version of this at the memorial service on Saturday.
Darcy was one of the most genuinely nice people I had the privilege of knowing, if only online. She was kind, thoughtful, and just really awesome. I wasn’t anywhere near as close to her as you (or so many other folks) were, but the world is a much lesser place without her in it. Your tribute was lovely and I’m so sorry for your loss.
Thank you, M. She truly was as wonderful in real life as she was online.
I was so sad to hear this news last week. My only experiences of Darcy were from a distance, but I always appreciated her bright presence and deep affection for all of us flawed human beings. She will be sorely missed. Thank you for this beautiful tribute; thank you, too, for this list of links to her writing. I am so sorry for your loss.
Thank you so much. She was such a bright presence.
This was a beautiful tribute to Darcy. She was such a truly amazing person. I have never met anyone who was as full of love as Darcy. I know that she would have loved the words you have written here & would also have insisted that she really wasn’t all that great, that she was just like everyone else and trying her best to be a good person. I don’t think she every truly realized how amazing of a person she was or how profound her influence was on those around her.
Thank you. It’s just like you say: she would’ve insisted that she wasn’t all that great–and then we would’ve argued about that.
What a heart felt tribute she saw it. I truly believe that people that “can finish your sentences” will be a part of you forever as she is to us as we read the novels she was part of us! And your cat she was shock at first to see Darcy but much like the kiss on the cheek from a loved one when they pass. I truly believe that and what a TREMENDOUS GIFT you have left of her! All her words of comfort, love and happiness when you became one as you wrote. Thank you for sharing.
Karen, thank you so much for your kind words. I do appreciate them.
I’ve read this last year when I first discovered your books. It still brings tears to my eyes. Such a lovely tribute. A truly blessed friendship.
Thank you for your kind words. I still miss her so much.