It is a pleasure to pay tribute to my friend, Harry Rubin, while he can see how much he is loved by his peers.
I learned of the Southeastern Writers Association Writers Workshop from Harry Rubin via my husband Allen. “Tell her she needs to attend,” Harry had told Allen. “It will take her writing to the next level… Plus, she’ll love everyone.” I remember it like it was yesterday.
I attended that year by signing up on a whim at the last minute. It changed my life. If not for Harry, I may not have found out about the workshop for years. But his invitation to attend started my process of learning to be a professional writer. I met writers that year, including Harry, who have continued to be lifelong friends.
As I returned to the workshop through the years, I found Harry with a ready smile. I could count on visiting with him at registration and in the bookstore.
Sure, he could be a bit cranky, opinionated, and blunt with a loud, booming voice that carried through the silence. But how refreshing! I could always count on Harry to be honest.
Harry was also a hoot at the banquet. A highlight included the results of his limerick contest. The naughty ones always had an edge for winning. I can remember prim and proper Sydnea Miles causing me to raise my brows and giggle about the risqué limerick. Harry inspired everyone to think outside of their genre and to take a bit of a risk in the name of fun.
After the conferences, Harry and I developed an email friendship. He critiqued several of my stories. I read his novel drafts. He’d check on me, and I’d check in to see how life was treating him. Usually, he’d have a book project underway.
Harry provided great inspiration for me because he started his writing career after military retirement. “If I can do it, you can,” he told me on many occasions. But the truth is that he didn’t just talk about it. He did it. He wrote, published, wrote, and published until he had many books to his credit.
Actually, once he got going, he was prolific. I was surprised when reading one of his books to find a character named Debra Brown. Though startling at first, it became fun to see what kind of trouble came her way.
Through the years, Harry became “Uncle Harry” for my daughter Meredith. He even wrote glowing recommendations to a long list of colleges under consideration. To this day, I remain thankful for his assistance in her college quest.
Not too long ago, Harry said to me, “I don’t really feel like writing now. I am more into reading.” He admitted he’d lost some of his zeal for living with the unexpected loss of his beloved wife Dee. But even then, he asked, “What are you writing now? How is Meredith? Are you attending the next workshop?”
I’ve really missed him at recent conferences. For me, he’ll always be a “first thought” when I think of Southeastern. But Harry will always be a member of my family – both my writing family and our beloved “Uncle Harry.”
~~ Debra Brown
Debra is the Marketing and Social Media Director for SWA and a magazine writer, humorist, columnist and business owner. Learn more at her website.