The unthinkable has happened. Okla Elliott has shuffled off this mortal coil. It is also fair to jettison the euphemism and to point out that he died, but the truth is that he accomplished so much and touched so many in his years that he could only have died in the biological sense.
Okla was one of the most brilliant people I have ever met, though one of the most giving. He devoted so much of his limited time on this planet helping other writers in large ways and small. In the few days since his passing, I have been comforted by reading so many anecdotes from writers he took under his wing at a conference or who received hours of counsel about their manuscript.
I started Great Writers Steal on December 2, 2012 out of the same kind of desire to serve the writing community. Even though he was deservedly a zillion times more successful than I am, he was always happy to help out with my endeavors. This, combined with my love of his work, means that there’s a lot of Okla in GWS.
Here he is on my podcast to talk about his epic novel The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (co-written with Raul Clement):
I featured him in a QuickCraft:
I built upon an argument Okla put forth in an essay about the big MFA debate:
I reviewed his novel for Serving House Journal. He deigned to publish some of my thoughts on As It Ought to Be. You get the point. I am pleased to know that he had affection for me and I certainly returned that affection.
I am very grateful to have known Okla during his all-too-short time on this all-too-often cold and unfeeling planet. Please do yourself a favor and check out his work.
When I was looking for a real writer’s story to reprint in and thereby add value to my collection of essays about the 2012 Best American Short Stories, Okla instantly volunteered one of his own. I’ve changed the price of the book to free; please download and read his story. (You can ignore the bits I wrote.) Download from Amazon here. Download from Kobo here. Download from Barnes & Noble here.
You don’t even need to act on my recommendation. Okla was the best and he earned laurels from the best:
It is somehow unthinkable that life will go on in the face of our loss, but such is the nature of human existence. I was and remain distraught at the news, but Okla (who was as alive as ever mere days ago), would not want us to mourn to excess. He might ask us to remember his kindness, to remember his work, but most of all to remember that those who remain deserve to be treated with human dignity.