Lately, I’ve been thinking about one of my first mentors, Diane Freund (pronounced Friend), who died of brain cancer in 2010. And I guess I want other people to think about her, too. So, here she is.
My dear friend, Robbie, introduced us at a small writing conference in Southeast Arizona, where Diane was a frequent presenter. I wasn’t actually attending the full conference that year. I’d had a baby the week before and had slipped away for an hour or so to hear Diane speak.
Later, she agreed to work with me on my novel, offering what turned out to be two years of invaluable critique and encouragement. Her own first novel, Four Corners—the frightening, beautifully-written story of a young girl’s life after her mother is admitted to a mental hospital—won the Pirate’s Alley/Falkner Prize but was ultimately overshadowed by the events of September 11, 2001, four days prior to the book’s publication.
Still, Four Corners eventually aided her in receiving an NEA fellowship. When I wrote to offer congratulations, she gave me this:
This was the third time over the course of six years that I’d applied. When I was denied the grant in 2005, it came on the same day that I was diagnosed with cancer, so it seemed especially hard to receive that news. Now I realize that it wouldn’t have been a good time. I was sick and heart sick. This is just to say that I know how hard it is to be passed over, but you must persist against all odds. I am certain that with your incredible talent, you’ll one day be recognized for your achievements, that the stars will align just so, over your house.
During our first interaction, moments after we’d only just met, she gave me a book—a guide to writing poetry. A gift. She made me feel important. Special; of course, this was her true gift—she made everyone feel special.
At her memorial service, a familiar gathering inside a Bisbee restaurant, I looked around at her friends: a group of poets and artists and activists, each one hunted out from beneath the rocks of this remote small-town cluster in the desert. Diane’s power was drawing out beauty from every well.
*To donate to the Diane E. Freund Memorial Writing Celebration Fund—offering financial assistance to writers unable to afford the referenced writing conference—click here and specify Diane’s name in the donation scholarship space.
18 thoughts on “Diane Freund”
Beautiful tribute. I’m glad the stars aligned so that you two had the chance to meet.
Diane did have a knack of making all around her feel special. I miss her, and hope in some way, we all can give back to the universe that special gift she bestowed upon us.
Thank you for honoring my beloved mother…it is a great comfort to know she continues to touch the lives of others.
Katherine, I’m so glad you found this post. I think about your mother often. She left a perpetual mark on my world.
Your mother has touched my life. She encouraged me to become a writer. I took a class with her in Sierra Vista. Then we became friends. I honestly miss her and she will never be forgotten.
Did Diane live briefly in Easton, Pa? This would be at least 25 + years ago.
Yes she did. Near the Court House on top of the hill. Wolf Street, in 1985 if I recall correctly. Thank you all for you kind words about my mother. We all miss her dearly.
I’m not sure, Dolores. I only knew her briefly in the last years of her life.
While re-arranging my bookshelf, I came across “Four Corners” and wonder if Diane had written any new books. I Googled her name and discovered her death. I took a writing class from Diane at Pima Community College in 1992 as a pre-requisite for Dental Hygiene School. Her class was the most difficult and rewarding class I have ever taken. She changed the way I approach reading, writing. I am so sorry to hear of her demise. I will re-read “Four Corners” tonight.
I loved Diane as well and I find her heavy on my heart tonight. She was my mentor as well, but she encouraged me much more than I deserve, as I now realize since I haven’t written in ten years due to a marriage, three teenagers, and taking a full time job. I spoke with Diane after her diagnosis. My own insecurities, fear and worries about interrupting such a beloved teacher, author, and cheerleader for writers left me afraid to contact her as often as I’d wished. I didn’t know what to do except offer my services. Which I did, but she never called or emailed for help. She said she was throwing a celebration party soon; she was moving to New Jersey to be with family. I see now that I should have made it a point to meet Pat. I should have stayed in touch, no matter how annoying I might have become. I emailed her one day, telling her of a dream I’d had. She was at a party–one of Diane’s ‘happy places,’ and she was smiling, surrounded by a large group of people, Diane the center of attention. It made her happy and I pray that it helped in some small, insignificant way…at least for a little while. I will forever regret not being at her memorial because I wasn’t invited. I’m guessing mine was only a name that came up occasionally, since i was not in the Bisbee ‘fold’ anymore. But I will cherish my memories of Diane forever and I still hear her voice in my head. I love you Diane!
My path crossed Diane’s in the 70’s, before she started a writing career, but her way was clear in the beauty of her words, even then. I have always lamented my poor memory, but I recall many of Diane’s words that touch me still, after all these years. And her eyes – how they made one feel like the only person in the world!
I ran across this when I googled Diane this evening. My book group is reading
Four Corners. I wanted to find when she’d died. I was at her memorial but just couldn’t remember how long ago.
Diane was my friend, my mentor. I told someone she is the only person who could read something I’d written, not like it very much, but give me feedback in a way that made me feel good.
I loved her dearly.
Tonight, up late reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, I felt that it just might be time that I got back to my writing. I never knew I was a writer until I met Diane at the University of Arizona. I’d taken one writing class before at Cochise College and enjoyed it, although many of my fellow students were bored because I wrote humorous sweet stories about my children. During Diane’s class, she saw talent and encouraged me to write, and my stories became deeper, darker, more honest. She taught me how to create a scene, how to develop dialogue, how to bravely tell my truth, how to work and keep on working until my story was finished.
I took a detour in 2000. I married, and we combined our children–three young teenagers. I also took a full time job. Diane said then that I might have to wait until the kids were grown before I would finish my novel. She was right, although I had no idea just how right she was until now, sixteen years later, my novel untouched so many years.
I cried tonight when I thought of Diane. Of how angry she must be, after working so long and hard to become a published writer, after focusing her energy on writing, finally becoming published, and with her second book well on it’s way to completion. The unfairness of it! I miss her; always will. Few days go by without her in my thoughts and in my heart. We spoke a few times after her diagnosis and she seemed in good spirits, if also tense and worried. However, she assured me that she was going to throw a huge party, invite everyone, and celebrate remission when she reached that goal. I believed her until the day I called and she was talking about moving back to New Jersey, to be near her family. I knew, down deep, that she was not doing as well as I’d hoped. Again I offered to provide help any way I could. Rides to appointments, shopping for her, anything at all.. I loved her. And I believe that she loved me. We were much alike; similar upbringings, experiences, and similar ways that we related to other people. I’ll never forget her saying in class one night, after a difficult student had yanked her chain one too many times, “I may seem easy, but I an NOT easy!” Most of us didn’t really believe that Diane had a hard bone in her body, but she did. She’d put up with tomfoolery only until it got on her very last nerve, and that student was gone.
My biggest regret is that Diane died. She’d quit smoking years before she was diagnosed with lung cancer,and we discussed how unfair it was that she gave up a habit she loved only to die from it anyway. I, knowing nothing about cancer, gave her space. Space that I now regret. I wish I had run to her, sat and held her hand, read poetry and her favorite excerpts from the book she was writing, patted lotion on her body, bathed her. Anything just to be there comforting her through the last phase of life. But I was insecure, not knowing if my presence would be gratefully accepted, or if my presence would cause her more discomfort. She was a popular teacher with many friends, so I waited for her to call me. She never did again. I learned of her death in the newspaper obituary section. Since it said “Invitation Only” to her memorial, and I didn’t receive an invitation,I was not there. I should have called Pat, although I’d never met her, and should have invited myself, but I lacked courage, which is such a whimpy thing when you consider how much I loved Diane.
Diane, you were a natural in everything you did. You worked hard; you raised fine children; you praised and uplifted everyone you met; you were down to earth, funny and fun. And you weren’t afraid to tell anyone exactly who you were or where they could go .I will love you and miss you for the rest of my life.
Amen to all of this. Whenever I fall into a writing slump, the thought of Diane and how her life and talent was cut short, pull me out of it. Onward!
Thank you for the kind words about Diane Freund. I miss her. Tell you a true story. When she was about 15 my parents got a notice from her high school counselor. When my Mom got to the school they informed her that Diane cheated on a reading test. She had gotten a 95% score on a speed reading test, reading at 2000 words a minute. They were convinced she cheated on the test. Diane asked to take the test again, they smugly agreed. Gave her a different test, the results stunned them. Over 2000 words per minute, 100% on the test under their direct supervision! That’s my big sister, raised 5 kids then went to college and graduated with honors. She will be in my heart always. Tony Freund retired institutional Parole Agent Calif Corrections.
Thank you for sharing that story, Tony. Your comment brought me to this blog after months of neglect and I realized that I had many other comments on this post pending approval! It’s so fitting that Diane is still so deeply felt and remembered.
You checking us all out? Sure miss you sis, remember the bottle of wine you brought up to Big Bear? What a dilemma, no bottle opener in the house, what to do? You were in remission then, there we were, you with the bottle between your legs, me behind you with a pair of pliars gripped on the cork, Jean and Pat watching us in our desperate attempt to release the cork, all laughing. Boink, out came the cork, I landed on my butt, you retained possession of the bottle, nary a drop missing. All of us laughing histerically. Sweet memories sis. Crazy times in this world right now, hope you are at peace….love ya t. freund
I don’t know….I just found a signed copy of Four Corners at Your Thrift Store in Bisbee. I am always stunned at the things I find there…mostly books, signed ones too. Each one offers me a new way into meeting people that I do not know and sometimes brilliant authors, poets and cooks. Yes cooks….I’ve discovered ways to make Japanese food and read about what the mafia liked to eat.
Diane’s book….well. The book cover itself tells you what the author loved. She loved the canyons. It’s right there.
Peace and blessings to her family….what a sad and tender loss. She was obviously a beauty inside and out…you can tell from her picture and this inscription on the book dated October 2001:
“For _____________, you are so creative and model joyousness for all of us. Thank you so much for your praise and for your faith. Love Diane.”