Many years ago I spoke at NCTE. After my presentation, a woman came up to me. She was full of life, had a loud voice, and a terrific smile. “I’m LuAnn Staheli,” she said, “and I teach in Utah.” She went on to tell me that she read my novels and loved them. She was especially fond of If I Forget, You Remember as it reminded her of a family member.
I was so grateful to see a friendly face in Colorado. To have LuAnn approach me several times that weekend. To have her show me around. Let me know what I was supposed to do. She pointed out the famous people. We talked books. Writing. Teaching.
It goes without saying that LuAnn and I became fast friends.
What a pleasure to know her.
To know she loved me.
Over the years I have gone to LuAnn when I’m sad, happy and when I needed advice. LuAnn knew everything. About books. About writers. About writing. She had me visit her classes. We did a presentation together. She showed me how to save money. She tried to get me to talk more about myself and my books. And when The Chosen One was nominated for a Whitney Award, I asked if I could sit with her at the ceremony. “I would love to sit with you, Carol.”
By the way, The Whitney Awards are a fancy affair. I bought a dress. Wore a pushup bra. Heels. Was completely out of my element.
Not LuAnn. She took me in, introduced me to everyone and before the announcement of who won in the YA category, she leaned close. “The girls look like they’re fighting to get free,” she said of my bosoms. I laughed and rearranged ‘the girls’ right before I was called on to the stage as the YA winner.
LuAnn was ballsy. She spoke her mind about writing. She loved fiercely.
And I loved her right back.
I’ve known for a while my friend was sick and had a chance to go see her a couple weeks back.
We’d been keeping in touch on Facebook, but I needed to tell her, with my mouth, that I loved her.
That afternoon, I let her know she was the 2015 mentor of the year for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. We talked that maybe she could accept the award from home. That we could film her acceptance speech. That maybe she would be at the conference in June.
As she worsened, several friends and I prepared to go to her house this morning.
To award her and speak our love to her in front of her family.
Here’s what I would have read from Chris Crowe: LuAnn, thank you for being, not just a champion of good books for kids, but also for being a friend and supporter of education. Many of our graduates are now successful teachers because of you. We always knew we could count on you to provide our students with great experience.
From Ann Edwards Cannon–a blurb from her book The Shadow Brothers: “Everything in life changes. Everything. Seasons, styles, the two you grew up in, the people you know, even the way you feel about all the people you know. All those things change. In fact, change is about the only thing you can really count on. Still, it’s like Diana said the night I first heard her sing. You can still decide to care. You can decide to love someone even though they’ve changed. Maybe you can even learn to love them because of it.”
From illustrator Julie Olson: LuAnn, a fellow Spanish Fork writer, was one of the most kind-hearted and generous people with her talents and knowledge. I sincerely enjoyed working with her occasionally on the youth writer workshops at the jr high in town and greatly appreciated her support and friendship through the years. LuAnn truly made a difference.”
That didn’t happen.
LuAnn passed away last night, peacefully, at 2:18. All night I tossed and turned, waking at one point because I couldn’t breathe, worrying about my friend.
It’s been a hard few months.
And now here’s this writer without words.
This is what writing has done for me–given me friends that I will love forever. Sure. There are books and having them published is fun. But the best part of writing are the people I have met. My best friends. The people I am at home with. The people who have changed me.
LuAnn. Thank you for your friendship. I was at home with you. You changed me. You are a part of me.
I will miss you terribly.