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In Memoriam: Linda Palmer

“I always begin with an emphasis on the positive…and I have yet to find a student who didn’t have some strength.”  –Linda Palmer

Linda Palmer

A light has gone out in the universe.  Linda Palmer, one of UCLA Extension Writers’ Program’s most cherished instructors, has died after a heroic battle with cancer on Sunday, April 21, 2013.

When Linda applied to UCLA Extension to teach—I still have her letter of inquiry dated March 2, 1990—she had already been a published novelist; an award-winning nature photographer; the Production Vice President of Tri-Star Pictures; a network soap opera writer; and at the time she came in for her interview, a produced feature film writer.   I will never forget the Writers’ Program door swinging open and seeing Linda—resplendent in a turquoise silk dress—stride across the office suite with grace and confidence.  Almost immediately, I knew she had the intelligence, expertise, and communication skills that would make her a slam dunk in the classroom.  What I gradually learned over the years is what an extraordinarily kind, generous, and positive person she was.  A sweetheart.  A gem.

Linda stepped into her first Writers’ Program classroom on September 25, 1990 and taught almost continuously (a total of 126 courses) over the next 23 years.  For the first 15 years, she taught feature film writing, and in 1994, received the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Screenwriting.  After many years in the film industry, Linda reinvented herself—this time as a successful mystery novelist, publishing eight novels in eight years.  Her mentor, who became a close friend, was Claire Carmichael, whose advanced Writers’ Program novel writing workshops Linda took for many years, and after whom her first series’ heroine was named.

Without missing a single quarter, Linda moved from teaching screenwriting to teaching novel writing—and in 2010, won the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Creative Writing.   The day after the ceremony, Linda wrote me this email:

Dear Linda,

          I should have headed this note “From a grateful Linda Palmer.” Yesterday’s award luncheon was a marvelous experience for me.  Beautifully done, but even more special was that the room was full of genuine emotion and appreciation.

          It is a strange thing to admit, from someone who makes her living using words, but I don’t know if I can adequately express how much yesterday—and your beautiful (and too generous) introduction—meant to me.  I have so much joy teaching the classes, and so much deep satisfaction watching students grow in their craft.  The fact that teaching has also made me a better writer is an embarrassment of riches.

       Thank you for this honor that I will always cherish.  Thank you for such a very happy 20 years as an instructor in your program.  I will be here for as long as you will have me.

Love,

Linda

Rest in peace, sweet Linda.  Your light continues to shine through everyone whom you touched.

Linda Venis
Director, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program

17 Responses to
In Memoriam: Linda Palmer

  1. Marcie Geffner April 29, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    I am saddened beyond any more words than: best teacher ever, very much missed and never to be forgotten.

    • Linda Venis April 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

      Dear Marcie, I know–Linda was truly one of a kind. Thank you so much for writing.

  2. Hannah Dennison April 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    This is a beautiful tribute to a truly special person. Linda will be deeply missed by so many of us.

    • Linda Venis April 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

      Dear Hannah, Thank you for writing–Linda was a cherished part of the Writers’ Program for over 23 years…we loved her.

  3. Peter Dunne May 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    So sad to hear this news. What a light she was. I know this loss is especially deep for you, Linda V. My condolences.

    • Linda Venis May 2, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Dear Peter, Thanks so much…everyone whose life Linda touched was lucky–and now so sad.

  4. Maureen Connell May 2, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    This is a most moving and lovely tribute to our beautiful Linda whom I had the privelage of knowing before she joined UCLA. Her warmth and humour and grace will be always with me….

    • Linda Venis May 2, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      Thank you for writing, Maureen–I had forgot how long you knew Linda and it is wonderful to be reminded of that.

  5. Maureen Connell May 2, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Dear Linda,
    Thanks for letting me know about our Linda. She will be missed so very very much by us all but her essence is with me as I write these few words. And so it will be. I know how fond of her you were and my deepest condolences on this heavy loss.
    As always,
    Maureen

  6. Hilary Hattenbach May 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I’m so sad to hear of Linda’s passing. She was a brilliant and kind teacher. Witty, sharp and supportive, she taught her students a ton about craft but also to cherish the mystery of discovering the story inside all of us. She will be greatly missed.

  7. Bill Becker September 20, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Linda, Linda, Linda – We met in college, datred sseveral time, we played in Laura and in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. She flew in from NY memorized Cat in three days and was superb in the part. I lost track of her for a number of years yet finally found her through a colleg friend, whereupon she sent me all of her mystery novels as well as one she hoped to be published – “a serious mystery” as she put it because it was not one of her cooking mysteries. The most wonderful thing about linda for me was her authenticity – she looked, talked, and moved like a beautiful actress, yet she was probably one of the most down-to-earth friend I ever had. Love her and miss her – always in my heart…

  8. Tracy Gumulak November 8, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    I am so heartbroken to hear of Linda’s passing. She was a wonderful mentor to me, and her guidance changed my writing life. I have a degree from another university, but I found myself remembering her words of wisdom over all other professors I’ve encountered throughout my life. I’m so grateful for the time I was able to spend in her classes, and for the advice she gave me. She was a wonderful woman and she will be missed.

  9. Howard Heard November 30, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    The ability to give good critiques may be rarer than the ability to write itself. I had the great luck to be in Claire Carmichael’s legendary classes when Linda Palmer was there as a “student.” Throughout our lives, maybe the truth is that we never come to the end of our learning process but I have trouble imagining Linda Palmer as a student. I always assumed she liked to be there for the workshopping. I was the beneficiary because I got two teachers for the price of one. Linda’s critiques were insightful and kindly delivered. She was beautiful on every level.

  10. lynn harper December 1, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Linda was my “big sister” and I was her “little sis.” She “adopted” me when I was 14 and I have loved her dearly ever since. I am still not over her passing … I miss that beautiful velvet voice saying” little sis, its big sis.”

    She sent me galleys of her latest books to read before they were published and the one she was working on when she died featured a character based on me and a recipe i gave her created by my late husband, Bill.

    She made sure I had copies of everything she has ever written and I keep them all in a special place along with the envelopes and cartons in which they came.

    I love you, big sis, and my heart aches for you still.

    all my love

    your little sis

  11. Barbara yates December 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    I had the privilege of meeting her in the last year of her life. She struck me as someone so positive, despite her health declining. Truly a master if living life to the fullest. I am blessed to have known her…..just thinking if you, Linda. Thank you.

  12. Michael Schonbach December 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    This makes me so sad. I never met Linda but I got to experience her warmth and generosity in a strange way. About five years ago I received an e-mail from Linda inquiring about a record album by the late folk singer, Ed McCurdy. Ed had issued a series of albums of bawdy songs in the late 1950s. It turned out that Linda was the buxom blonde on the (then) risqué cover of an LP called Son of Dalliance (1959). She was 18 at the time she posed and hadn’t seen the record in fifty years! She was so excited to find it through my Website that she couldn’t do enough to thank me. We exchanged e-mails in which she told me about her fascinating life from model in NYC to wildlife photographer in Africa to writer and teacher in L.A. She sent me all of the crime novels she had written to that point, and continued to send new titles as they were released, each one signed to my wife (who had struck up her own correspondence with Linda) and me. She was very special and I’ll miss her terribly — my only regret is that we didn’t meet (and that I never found out why each of her books had a thank you to Motown Records founder, Berry Gordy)!

  13. Greg Sirbu July 20, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    Linda was my inspiration to write. I just recently heard of her demise. I was searching for her and now I know why I couldn’t find her. Goodbye my friend.

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