Transcript of my tribute to Lu

Here is what I said in my tribute to Luciana Ricciutelli on CIUT’s Howl radio program, March 9, 2021. The host, Valentino Assenzi, dedicated the entire show to Luciana, and many of her other authors also contributed memories and tributes:

My name is Brenda Missen, and I’m the author of the literary thriller Tell Anna She’s Safe. And I’m a proud Inanna author — one of Lu’s many authors. Lu and I actually first met in a small book club in the Madawaska Valley, where I live, maybe 15 years ago. She and her family had moved up here from Toronto to run a B&B called the Wingle Inn. I don’t know how she managed to run the inn with her husband and work as Inanna’s editor-in-chief, from a distance, but she did. There was a little cabin on the property she used as her office. I remember it being so piled high with Inanna books there was barely anywhere to sit. I didn’t know her very well then, but she was an enthusiastic member of the book club — always contributing her insights to the discussion — which of course often veered to our personal lives. Lu was very open about hers, and if anyone was going through a hard time she always had a word of kindness or wisdom to offer — or one of her famous all-enveloping hugs.

At that time I had been trying to get Tell Anna published for I won’t say how many years… After the millionth rewrite, I asked my book club if they would read the manuscript as a book selection and give me their honest feedback. When I asked, I actually forgot Lu was a publisher. And I was totally surprised, not to mention overjoyed and overwhelmed, when she came to the meeting with what was essentially an offer to publish.

Working with Lu was amazing. She had boundless energy and enthusiasm — and pretty much ran the company single-handedly. She edited my book herself, designed the gorgeous cover, arranged three book launches, sent out copies for review and consideration for prizes, and gave me grant money whenever she could for travel expenses for all the readings I was doing — and I know she was doing so much more I wasn’t even aware of. All this and she somehow made you feel like you were working together, as equals, to bring your baby into the world. She made you feel, too, like your book was her only priority — I think she made all of her authors feel that way.

When I finished my spiritual memoir Tumblehome, I wasn’t sure Inanna was the right fit. I also thought I wanted a literary agent, though I wasn’t getting anywhere finding one. In 2019, I was in Toronto for Christmas, and Lu and I met up for coffee, to say hello and catch up. Of course we got talking about my manuscript, and she suggested I do a formal submission. I also told her about the new memoir I’m working on now (about my sister Kathryn and me), and she asked if she could have first read when it was finished. I think it was her saying that — and experiencing again her incredible encouragement and support — that made me feel I had found my publishing home, even before Tumblehome was accepted.

Her death was such a shock, a huge loss. Her death made me realize it wasn’t primarily the company Inanna that I felt was my publishing home, but Lu herself. She was a powerful advocate for women’s voices to be heard, and if she hadn’t taken a chance on an unknown author living in rural Ontario, I might still not be published today. I’m so grateful to her. I want to say I miss her — and I do — I was so looking forward to working with her again. But it seems whenever I begin to dwell on her absence, I feel her presence. Which is warm, loving, generous, and fiercely supportive, just as it was in life — even more so if that’s possible. I almost feel Lu is Inanna now — a goddess of powerful, nurturing, protective feminine energy. And I can’t help feeling she’s continuing to work behind the scenes — or maybe more accurately now above or beyond the scenes — to help Inanna keep publishing the wonderfully diverse range of books it does.


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