To our regret, the Word Wenches must announce the death this morning of Edith Layton after five years of very private struggles with cancer. During those years, she continued to write her wonderful books, post blogs, and welcome two much adored grandsons into the world.
If any of you met Edith in person, you know what a warm, incredibly funny person she was. And if you’ve read her books—you know exactly the same thing.
She was a born New Yorker, with all the wit and sassiness that implies. She was proud of her Jewish heritage, and adored blond men with English accents. She loved her three children and two grandchildren deeply, and they returned that love.
Edith was one of the first writers I met at my very first conference, when I’d just sold my first Signet Regency, and she has been a friend and mentor ever since. I could go on about her for a very long time, but this blog is a tribute to Edith, and there are many, many people who remember her with equal warmth. Below are some of those tributes. Please add your own—later we wish to collect these for her family.
From Wench Andrea Pickens:
I remember very vividly my first meeting with Edith. I had just sold my first Regency to Signet, and was attending my first RWA Conference. I was completely clueless about the publishing world, having by sheer blind luck managed to stumble through the process of finding an agent and actually selling my manuscript. My editor, Hilary Ross, rolled her eyes at my dumb questions and said, "I think you need some advice." Looking around, she spotted Edith having a cup of coffee in the lounge. "Oh, there's Edith Layton. She's the perfect person to talk to."
I froze in my tracks. THE Edith Layton? The goddess whose books I adored? No way I would dare approach her! I tried to dig in my heels but Hilary had me firmly by the elbow and marched me to the chair—or rather, the throne. Edith, as always, looked perfectly regal decked out in her jewel tone florals and gorgeous jewelry. I was probably tongue-tied, but it didn't matter. She smiled and with her pithy wit and warmth spent the next little while making me feel welcome to the sisterhood of writers. I'll never forget her incredible kindness—and her generosity in sharing her experience and advice with a total stranger and unfledged author.
I was lucky enough to become friends with her over the years, and as a person and author she enriched my life more than I can say. Oh, I will miss you, Edith!
From Wench Jo Beverley:
I'll always remember Edith smiling. She's always been a warm and vibrant member
of the romance writing community, especially the regency romance writing
community. She'll be missed for her liveliness and her wit both in her person
and her books.
From regular Wench guest Margaret Evans Porter:
It's hard losing someone I've known since before I was published--more than 20 years. When I first met Edith in person, at an RWA conference, I was an over-excited fan-girl who had just sold her first Regency. In the blink of I eye, it seemed, I became not only her fan, but her friend. We often corresponded by letter, way back in the pre-email days, and then by email.
There are so many memories, mostly associated with writers' conferences, but some were not. Like the time I was at her house on Long Island and Abraham, her huge Bernese Mountain Dog jumped right into my lap, and we laughed and laughed. Her home was full of love and laughter, with an eclectic mix of art and antiques. I remember her study, her writing room, where she crafted all those memorable stories--the crammed bookshelves and books piled on the floor. I adored Norbert, her delightful doctor husband, who accompanied her to many a conference (as did Abraham the dog, sometimes!)
I fondly remember more than a few dinners together in various hotel restaurants--good food, entertaining--and often hilarious--conversations. Eventually I met Susan and Adam and Mike, the kids of whom she was so proud. She didn't have many years as a grandma, but how thrilled she was to be one.
She was incredibly talented and a consummate professional and so very brave. I'm thankful for her body of work. The phrase associated with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire: "the face without a frown." I've always thought of Edith that way, and told her so. Because whenever I think of her, I see her smiling.
From Robin Rue, a former agent of Edith’s:
From Wench Susan Holloway Scott:
When I was first published as a romance writer, one of the greatest compliments a reviewer paid me was to say my writing reminded her of Edith Layton's. Of course Edith's writing was in class by itself, full of the same wit and charm that were hers as a person. While books fall in and out of print, that special spark will continue through her much-loved children and grandchildren.
The world is a little less merry today without her in it...we miss you, Edith!
From Wench Susan King/Sarah Gabriel:
The first time I saw the legendary Edith Layton was at an RWA conference, when I was a newbie in awe of her and she didn't have a clue who I was. Someone said, "Look, here's Edith, let me introduce you--" I turned, and there she was riding alone down an escalator in bright sunlight -- what a grand entrance! Dressed to kill, red hair and lips, and the biggest, warmest, most wonderful smile. She grabbed me in a hug - didn't know the trembling newbie but was sweet to her - and she was deliciously friendly, then and each time we met and chatted over the years.
What a Grande Dame she was, and showed the rest of us how to be the best - the bestest, as she would have said - that we could be, as writers and people. I was delighted each time I saw her, thrilled when she joined Wenches, and deeply grateful when she read my Lady Macbeth, loved it, effused in e-mails as we discussed writing medievals, and gave me a kind and generous quote that I will always treasure. That quote is frameable art to me now.
What I'll also remember about Edith is how funny she was just by her bubbly nature, without ever trying. And I will remember her wonderful, whimsical way with words (though she didn't like a string of "W's" in speech for some reason, sorry, Edith!). I learned new words from her, like: bestest, luff, lurvings, lurve, mostest, and she was all of those -- the bestest, the most luffing, the mostest ever.
Thank you, Edith. We adore you.
From Wench Patricia Rice:
I remember meeting Edith first at a conference when she and Joan Wolf were sitting behind me, discussing horses. I was a brand newbie, and they were two of my absolute favoritest authors. It was all I could do not to fall on my knees and worship, but I was too backward to do even that much.
Later, after meeting Edith through our NAL editor's dinners, I learned she was the funniest, warmest woman I've ever met, par none. Even through the devastation of the loss of her husband, she was reassuring others that she was fine, and she was making jokes in his memory. She and her wonderfully talented children showed me the real NYC nightlife and created evenings I'll never forget.
My life would not be the same if Edith hadn't been in it. I'm not certain my life would have been the same even if I'd never met her, because it was wonderfully witty books like hers that enticed me into writing. Beautiful amber and sunshine to you, Edith--I know you're up there, shining down on us all and laughing right now.
From Wench Anne Gracie:
I've only known Edith cyberly, on Regency loops and author loops great and small, but even on line, out of thousands of voices, hers always rang true and clear and original. And funny. As for her books, I have a pile of keepers here in which she will live on forever.
My deepest sympathy to her family and her many close friends. And to her dog.
Vale that Layton Woman.
From the beginning I liked Edith's books very much and enjoyed being her editor. Then she needed a title for the last book in the Love trilogy. I suggested the title Surrender to Love. Edith wrote me that it sounded cheap, like something out of a movie magazine. I wrote her back that it was a quote from Virgil. I then received an hysterically funny letter from Edith full of pseudo Latin along with agreement to use the quote as a title. From that moment on I knew I had to have Edith as a personal friend. It did work out that way and I will always From Wench Loretta Chase: So there I was, a million years ago, trying to decide if it made sense to write romances. My sister gave me some traditional Regencies to read. One of them was The Duke’s Wager. At the time, I still had a bit of snobbishness about romance. But Edith cured me. “She can write! She can actually write!” thought I, astonished. Lots of writers can tell a story, but she had a style, distinctive, and a true love of language. Oh, those wonderful sentences! I met her at a New Jersey Romance Writers conference, where she was responsible for my first fangirl episode. There she deservedly won an award for that very book. The speech she gave was exactly like her writing, absolutely, totally Edith. I was exchanging emails with her only a short time ago. I can’t believe That Layton Woman, so full of life, is gone.
remember our close friendship and all the wonderful times we had together. I will miss her tremendously.
From the beginning I liked Edith's books very much and enjoyed being her editor. Then she needed a title for the last book in the Love trilogy. I suggested the title Surrender to Love. Edith wrote me that it sounded cheap, like something out of a movie magazine. I wrote her back that it was a quote from Virgil.
I then received an hysterically funny letter from Edith full of pseudo Latin along with agreement to use the quote as a title. From that moment on I knew I had to have Edith as a personal friend. It did work out that way and I will always
From Wench Loretta Chase:
So there I was, a million years ago, trying to decide if it made sense to write romances. My sister gave me some traditional Regencies to read. One of them was The Duke’s Wager. At the time, I still had a bit of snobbishness about romance. But Edith cured me. “She can write! She can actually write!” thought I, astonished. Lots of writers can tell a story, but she had a style, distinctive, and a true love of language. Oh, those wonderful sentences!
I met her at a New Jersey Romance Writers conference, where she was responsible for my first fangirl episode. There she deservedly won an award for that very book. The speech she gave was exactly like her writing, absolutely, totally Edith. I was exchanging emails with her only a short time ago. I can’t believe That Layton Woman, so full of life, is gone.
For more information about Edith, go to her website, http://edithlayton.com/ Or click on her name on the bottom of this blog, and that will bring up a page of her wonderfully witty blogs. Here's are links to two delicious posts written by her daughter, Susie Felber, and titled Daughter of Romance 1 and Daughter of Romance 2. They have lots of great pictures of Edith at work and at play.
Plus, in the column on the right under "Additional Pages," you'll find a file for a downloadable commemorative Layton bookmark.
Mary Jo and all the other Wenches
PS: Several people have expressed regret that they've read the last Edith Layton book. In fact, she finished one two months ago, so there is one more by the grande dame still to look forward to--MJP