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.
At the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading
Signing books at the launch
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
Dating on the Dork Side
- 1st Place: 2016 International Digital Awards, Young Adult Novel
- Available on: Kindle Print
Less Than Three
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.