Dru Campbell: Purveyor of Words, Writing Mentor, Friend

photo credit: San Diego Writers' Ink
Zoe Ghahremani and Dru Campbell                                                       (photo credit San Diego Writers’ Ink


*The following piece was originally published in Dru’s Best Book a collection of stories and anecdotes about Dru’s impact on other writers.  San Diego Writers, Ink presented the book to Dru some months after she was diagnosed with cancer.  I never managed to see Dru after our last phone call in January, but had hoped to at least be able to read the piece to her before she passed.  Sadly this is no longer possible.   I’m posting it here to honor her memory. 

Water rushing over river pebbles: this is what Dru’s voice sounded like to me – rough but oddly soothing. I was writing my first novel at the time and thought Dru’s novel writing class would expand on the feedback I received from the read and critique group I attended. It did.

To demonstrate how cause and effect was crucial to one’s plot, Dru recounted a recent domestic disaster. Saturday morning, gardeners had lined the path up to her front door in coconut husk chips. Her dogs devoured the husks, fell ill, then threw everything up on the carpeted floor of her den, hours before a large dinner party. Only Dru could find a teaching moment in dog vomit, but I never forgot her lesson on causality.

I’ve read only one of Dru’s many novels, but the first pages of The Good Sister were so compelling that I devoured all the rest of them in one decadent day-long stretch on the couch. Later that night, bleary-eyed from reading but besotted with her tale, I wrote her a fan letter. I’ve only done this a handful of times, but felt compelled to thank her for such a delicious escape from my everyday life.

Years later, Dru returned the favor and agreed to read an advance copy of my novel. I like to think the blurb she subsequently wrote for The Mango Bride constitutes “fan mail” from a most discerning reader.

Dru’s generosity and concern for her fellow writers extends beyond the classes she teaches. Last Christmas I wrote Dru again, despairing over the lack of progress I’d made on the second novel. Talking in her water-over-river-pebbles voice for over an hour, Dru helped hold down my unruly beast of a plot, showing how I might eventually train it to behave like a decent story.

In her many years as a purveyor of words, Dru has wrestled with with everything from retching dogs to wretched writer’s block, so this latest plot twist? That cancer thing? I bet it’s already feeding her next tale.

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