The Island Of Lost Books

By: Shelly Reuben

The Island of Lost Books

Today, I had one of those ‘gone but not forgotten” moments. It involved my friend, Betty Ulius, who died many years ago. Like me, Betty was a writer. Unlike me, Betty’s home was Hollywood and her success had been in radio and television.

We met late in her career, after she had become fiction editor for a slick women’s magazine. I submitted one of my short stories to her. Betty rejected it.

I don’t know whether I was a glutton for punishment or a good judge of character, but I sent a friendly response to her rejection letter, she wrote me back, and out of that correspondence a friendship grew.

Being older and more successful that I, Betty often gave me writing advice. And it was always good. She had never bothered with books or stories, but she knew everything there was to know about characterization, balance, pacing, and plot. Whether it is a radio script, a novel, or a screenplay, the rules of making fiction credible and getting the listener/reader/viewer to care about the characters are all the same.

Our relationship changed, but only slightly, after my first novel, Julian Solo, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of American for an Edgar award. Then, probably for the first time, Betty looked at me as though maybe ... just maybe ... I might know something that she didn’t know.

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