Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BERTRICE SMALL (1937-2015)

There are many tributes circulating about Bertrice Small since her passing on February 24, 2015 and there will be many more, for she touched thousands of lives throughout her long career as a provocative historical romance writer. Some bloggers will emphasize the professional aspects of her works, while those who were fortunate to know her will give a more personal slant. Knowing Bertrice as long as I have, I would be remiss if I didn’t have a tribute of my own.
          To say I will miss Bertrice Small is an understatement. She was a mentor and dear friend who was always there to help without question. There will never be another person like her, because her true uniqueness could never be duplicated. We both belonged to a writing group on Long Island, New York, called the Long Island Romance Writers or LIRW for short. Bertrice’s generosity was legend. Every October, Bertrice would arrange a special day for all the members. Whether it was a trip to a museum, a hayride at an orchard, a visit to a working farm, a winetasting or lighthouse tour, it was always instructive and fun. Afterward, she’d take the group to a restaurant for lunch. The entire day was her treat.
          One of my most amusing memories of Bertrice occurred during the first LIRW Christmas party my husband, Robert, and I attended. Everyone was schmoozing and a dozen conversations were going on all around the room in the restaurant where it was held. Robert decided to play Mr. Congeniality. He proceeded to walk around the room asking all the writers what they wrote. Of course, he approached Bertrice, who was dressed in her usual green. Looking like a typical sweet, suburban housewife, the only thing that hinted she was so much more was that twinkle in her eyes. So Robert asked Bertrice what she wrote. Her reply was, “Why erotica, of course.” Obviously, he wasn’t expecting her to say that. He quickly excused himself and rushed back to me. Our ensuing conversation went something like this:
          “Do you see that lady across the way— the one in green?”
          Of course I replied, “Do you mean Bertrice Small?”
          “Yeah, that lady.”
          “What about her?”
          “Did you know that she wrote erotica?”
          “Uh-huh. What about it?”
          “But… She doesn’t look like an erotic writer.”
          I began to chuckle. “So what does an erotic writer look like,” I asked. (Note: at that time I didn’t write erotica, but I do now, which might have altered our conversation.)
          He was speechless. Without a doubt, erotic writers come in all shapes and sizes, but Bertrice Small was a pioneer. She and the other Avon ladies blazed the way for today’s romance novels, making them more exciting and much more sexual. And Bertrice loved to push the sexual envelope.

          Bertrice Small was indeed a special lady. She was one-of-a-kind and the “Grande Dame” as we referred to her in the group. Though she was gracious, she held true to her beliefs and would fight to defend what she believed was right, especially when it pertained the publishing. I learned a great deal from Bertrice and will miss her dearly. I’m glad we met along the road of life which we traveled so well together and because of her I’ll always think of pearls differently.


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