|My first panel at Malice with Sally Goldenbaum, Liz Stauffer, Bonnie, me, and Wendy Tyson|
by Paula Gail Benson
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
― E.B. White,
― E.B. White,
When we learned last week about B.K. “Bonnie” Stevens passing, Shari Randall (writer, librarian, blogging partner, and friend) reminded me of E.B. White’s novel and his description of the barn spider Charlotte who, by weaving carefully chosen words into her web, saved Wilbur the pig’s life.
Bonnie embodied the phrase, “true friend and good writer.” Her life was a testament to the importance of constantly reaching out to others, eagerly opening your mind to learn, and joyously communicating.
Like Charlotte, Bonnie spoke truthfully, honestly, and with respect for the complexities of the world. She also understood the power and wonder of individuals sharing their lives with each other.
Chronologically, I did not know Bonnie for a long period of time, but our connection and friendship is enduring. I know that her inspiration, advice, and encouragement are part of my life forever.
Maybe one thing that drew us together, besides my great admiration for her prose, was our backgrounds in and appreciation of education. Bonnie spent a good portion of her life as an instructor and I came from a family of teachers. From that environment, you realize how delightful discovering new facts and information can be.
As I read Bonnie’s longer biography on her website, I realized that her philosophy of remaining open to whatever life brought her continued to enrich her own experience. Through her fiction and nonfiction, she passed that joy along to her readers.
While reading Bonnie’s stories or being able to discuss writing with her were incredible treats, experiencing her generosity of spirit was truly humbling. I once got up the nerve to ask if she would read one of my stories and give me feedback. She did so promptly with excellent suggestions, but also asked what others had told me about the story. All perspectives of the writing process were fascinating to her. Later, she asked me to read and react to a play she had written. I hesitated, wondering if my comments possibly could be of any help to her. After all, she had won an award for this play. She assured me that she wanted to hear from me because I wrote plays and directed them for a drama ministry, and my view, as someone who had staged a play, would give her valuable insight.
One of the kindest and most incredible gifts that Bonnie and her husband Dennis gave me was a phenomenal birthday celebration during Bouchercon in New Orleans. In advance, Bonnie sent me a list of possible venues, each sounding more wonderful than the last, and asked me to pick the location. She gathered good friends Art Taylor, Debra Goldstein, and Riley Miller to join us. By the end of the blissful evening, we had a table full of desserts (including the most delicious jalapeno lime cheesecake as well as an Almond Joy chocolate cake) and the great satisfaction of an unforgettable time spent in lovely conversation. [Please look for Art Taylor’s “Remembering Bonnie Stevens” message and other tributes by fellow bloggers on SleuthSayers.org and Debra Goldstein’s “In Memory of Bonnie (B.K.) Stevens” to be posted on Friday, August 25, 2017, here on The Stiletto Gang.]
Bonnie gave selflessly to so many. Just recently, I saw Kaye George’s remembrance of meeting Bonnie when she came to Kaye’s book signing at Malice Domestic. Kaye asked, “Are you the B.K. Stevens?” Bonnie said she was and asked Kaye, then President of the Guppies, the online chapter for Sisters in Crime, how she could join. From the time she became a member, Bonnie was constantly sending out words of welcome and congratulations.
When she began her blog “The First Two Pages,” Bonnie set out to highlight other writers’ work by allowing them to analyze the beginning of a short story or novel. Her initial post came from Kaye George and the latest messages are from the contributors to Kaye’s anthology to celebrate the solar eclipse, Day of the Dark (Wildside Press), some of whom are making their debut publication.
As I prepare to post these words on Monday, August 21, 2017, the day our country experiences the eclipse from coast to coast, I’m reminded of a special theatre tradition to recognize the passing of well known members of the Broadway community -- the simultaneous dimming of all the marquee lights for one minute at the 8:00 pm curtain hour. When the lights come back up, the shows go on.
While I experience this solar eclipse, I’ll remember Bonnie, my true friend and good writer, and think about all that she has done for the many lives she has touched. Thank you Dennis and daughters Sarah and Rachel for sharing her with us.
|My New Orleans Bouchercon Birthday|