...the kind that when a picture of an old friend and fellow author pops up on the screen…you get excited. But when I answered, “Hey, girlfriend,” instead of the voice of the smartest, most prolific writer I ever met, it was someone else…a kind stranger telling me that “Carolyn Schriber” had passed…and asking me to run an errand for her in death that I would have been happy to do in life as well.
Carolyn has not been well for a long time, but she remained prolific, filling the days allotted to her with research and writing. She’d been an academic for most of her life…teaching and studying abroad in her younger years, turning to Historical Fiction in the time I’ve known her. All of her books are wonderful, but my favorite is, ”The Road to Frogmore,” where long passages are in Gullah. I panicked when I saw that the first time. I wanted to flip past them until someone inevitably spoke English. But without the pressure to speak it out loud, I realized that the language was graceful and elegant. I cried when I suddenly realized I understood it! I knew what the character Carolyn had created was saying. Thrilled, I went back and read it out-loud to prove to myself that I really was stepping into the shoes of the freed-slave woman Carolyn was writing about…I knew that the work Carolyn put into this book had to have been immense, but by going the extra mile, I really did feel I knew this character who lived in a different century, with a different culture and under different circumstances...
The time before the last time I saw Carolyn in person, she was frail…but she was researching another book and she wanted to see an old building in Gettysburg that had been a tavern. Coincidentally, I’d planned a Military Writers Society of America program in Gettysburg that Spring. I remember her excitement when we found the place and chuckled as she got out of the car to explore. The rest of us were there for The Angle or Little Round Top, places Carolyn had already explored many years before. When she finished her tour of the empty old building, camera in hand, she was ready for a nap.
With Carolyn tucked away at a B&B where she could have a room with no steps, my husband and I joined the rest of our group at the Angle where we coincidentally ran into to a Park Ranger. In conversation, we told him who we were and why we chose Gettysburg for our event. When he heard that we were writers, he wanted to know what kinds of things we wrote. He was pretty disappointed that none of us had written about Gettysburg at that point…until I told him about Carolyn.
He perked up. ”Carolyn Schriber is here?”
”Yes,“ we told him.
”THE Carolyn Schriber?”
From that point until we took her to the airport, Carolyn was busy being kind to a crowd of educated admirers. It made me smile to see them so happy to meet her.
I spoke with Carolyn often…mostly online…these last few years. We both are…were…workaholics. I’ll miss her though…maybe I’ll reread. ”The Road to Frogmore”…I always learn something from Carolyn.