My Friend Andre

by Jean Rabe 2005

I became friends with Andre not quite six years ago. I’d been handed my first anthology to edit– Historical Hauntings, and the packager told me to pick several authors, and they would select some “Daw authors” to round it out. Among the latter was Andre. She wrote a beautiful tale about a bead weaver. Then the time came to gather brief bios of the authors, and I received one from everybody except her. The packager said they would use a “stock” bio. But this was my first anthology, and so I wasn’t going to settle for “stock” anything. I dug out my SFWA directory and found a phone number, gave it a call, and she answered (I was expecting a secretary or something). She had this thin voice that sounded like crystal windchimes, and she said she was delighted that I wanted a new bio . . . said no one had asked for such in quite some time. We talked for an hour, and later I sent her a thank-you note for being in the anthology.

We corresponded from then on. In fact, Andre wrote me more often than all of my relatives put together–a few times I’d get two letters in the same week, the second brief and mentioning something she forgot to put in the first one. I have many of her letters in a thick file folder in my desk, along with a handwritten list of historical books she thought I should acquire. Often she wrote about her cats . . . I wrote back about my dogs. She called them our “fur people.” She’d call once in a while just to say hi and to ask what I was up to. Invariably, we’d talk about books and books and books . . . and our fur people.

She blessed me by calling me “an amazing writer” (I’d sent her my hardcover Dragonlance books), and she was kind enough to write reviews or “blurbs” for some of my novels.

Sometimes I’d send her books that I’d read and thought she might enjoy–usually ones that had cats in them. And sometimes she’d call and say “I’ve just finished the most wonderful book that someone sent me. You must get it!” I’d reply: “I’ve read that one . . . I’m the ‘someone’ who sent it to you.” Then she’d giggle in her windchimes voice and tell me her memory got slippery from time-to-time.

We’d talk about hobbies. A few years back I was into embroidery, and I tried to work seed beads into my designs. I told her I was having a tough time finding a needle small enough for the beads. She lectured me I was doing it wrong, said I needed to get beading wire. Then she sent me a big catalog on beads and beading supplies. And hence she got me hooked on another hobby–making necklaces and bookmarks out of various beads. My husband is not particularly fond of this hobby, as good beads are not cheap.

After that, we talked and wrote each other about books and books and books, politics and the war in Iraq, our fur people . . . and beading. I’d send her extra cat beads I’d pick up. Actually, I’d pick those beads up just for her. I’m a dog person, remember?

Some years ago she agreed to edit an anthology with me . . . Renaissance Faire, which came out this February. The packager wasn’t sure she’d be very involved. Boy, was she! Andre read every story that came in, and we’d confer about them–what we liked and disliked, what needed to be rejected or rewritten. We discovered we had much the same taste in tales and liked the same authors. What a joy that project was!

And then an even better project appeared–Return to Quag Keep, the sequel to the first “D&D” novel–Quag Keep--that came out in 1979. Andre did a line-edit on my first draft, which I have tucked away in a treasure box. Quite a bit of work she put in on it, and quite a lot she taught me. To get a lesson by the “Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy” was priceless. I fully believe she has made me a better writer, and made me see things through different eyes.

When she closed her High Hallack Library, she selected a big box full of historical mysteries and reference books for me. It was a great present that I will enjoy for many, many years–a treasure tucked away on the shelves of my office.

But the best treasure . . . that was enjoying her friendship, her letters, and her windchimes voice.
I so very much miss my friend.

"I keep my friends as misers do their treasure, because, of all the things granted us by wisdom, none is greater or better than friendship." -- Pietro Aretino (1537)

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