Sunday, May 1, 2011

goodbye my friend

I hadn't known Kim Ricketts a long time when she passed away last week; it will be a year ago this May that I first met her. But in that short time, she had a big impact on my life.

This time last year, I was feeling lost. I had moved back to Seattle over the winter holidays and was trying to figure out what in the world to do with my life. I had left New York with the intention of going to grad school but the longer I was home, the less that idea seemed appealing. I was working part time for my dad and writing a lot and I was happier than I'd been in New York but I was adrift; I didn't even know where to begin. And then along came Kim.

Kim ran an eponymous book events company here in Seattle; she hosted visiting authors of all stripes and was known around town for events that were both thought-provoking and incredibly fun and lively (which you know is extraordinary if you've been to half as many literary events as I have) that left even the most demanding authors pleased as punch and forever singing her praises.Whenever I told someone in the New York book world that I was moving back to Seattle, their immediate response would be 'oh you have to meet Kim Ricketts. She's amazing.' Everyone in publishing seemed to know her and love her; and it's really something when a bunch of big bad New Yorkers all rave about someone working out of the far-flung hamlet of Seattle.

And so, once I'd officially nixed the grad school idea, I asked one of my buddies at Doubleday for an introduction to this famous Northwest book maven. As serendipity would have it, Kim's publicist was leaving and she needed a new one. I went over to her office in Freemont on one of those rare, glorious spring Seattle days to meet with her about the job and we hit it off like a house on fire.

How do I even describe what Kim was like? She was about half my height and bursting at the seams with energy. She was as warm and generous as anyone I've ever met but would never hesitate to tell you when she thought someone was being a moron and she had one of the all time epic withering looks for those who really trying her patience. She was that rare combination of biting wit and generous spirit; of straight talk and straight-up kindness. She was mother-hen-meets-scholar-meets-Grand-Marshall-of-the-whole-goddamn-parade. She was passionate about books and incredibly insightful the complicated industry and its many foibles.

Working for Kim was a blast; I've never had a job I enjoyed more. But it was more than that for me too. Working with her made me feel for the first time like I belonged in Seattle, like I could really make the place my home again as an adult. And when Kim decided to stop doing public events last Fall (therefore negating her need for a publicist), it was she who encouraged me to go out on my own and she who introduced me to all of the people who have helped me out along the way.

Far more eminent voices than mine have piped in this past week on the many ways in which Kim was a wonderful human being and an irreplaceable force in the book world. She meant an awful lot to a lot of people; I share my sadness with a cast of hundreds of those who knew and loved her. I was lucky to have had her in my life and I miss her. My heart breaks for her husband and three children, one of whom I'm lucky enough to call a friend. There's no doubt that Kim's time here was too short, but she did more with half a century than most people would do with a millennium. She was a legend in the industry and there will never be anyone else like her.

She was a terrific boss and a dear friend to me; I never didn't feel better about life after seeing her. Kim guided me and inspired me and gave me a sense of belonging here that no one else could have. In short, she helped me find my way back home.

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