A Note About My Good Friend Earl

There’s a joke by Jay Leno that goes something like:

Go through your phone book, call people and ask them to drive you to the airport. The ones who will drive you are your true friends.

And
there’s another saying, in publishing: Only work with authors who you
wouldn’t mind being stranded with in an airport for 8 hours.

In 2003, at my first year speaking at the Midwest Writers Workshop,
I spent a lot of time in an airport with Earl Conn, one of the founders of the
organization.

My airport memory is my fondest memory of him, when we traveled together to Indianapolis, about an hour’s drive, to pick up the famous George
Plimpton, the MWW keynote speaker. Plimpton’s flight was late, so
Earl and I ended up chatting in the airport for a couple hours until our
VIP arrived. (Read a personal essay I wrote on the experience of meeting Plimpton here.) Earl bought me a pretzel, talked about his years of
teaching and writing and Ball State, and he was also the only person at
MWW who knew the exact location (and claim to fame) of my hometown of
Oakland City, Ind. (That’s because he wrote a popular travel column
about Indiana.)

I got news this week that Earl passed away. It’s
a great loss for the Midwest Writers Workshop, and he’ll be greatly
missed. One of our last conversations was about whether some of his
essays and book ideas should be developed further and taken to
publishers, or whether he should look at independent options. He was a
devoted and energetic writer to the end, and I’ll miss his wise and
insightful presence at MWW.

My thanks to Judy Joslin for sending me the above photo of me & Earl at the most recent MWW.

For more that I’ve written on MWW in general:

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