In September 2008, I went to the Kidlitosphere Conference here in Portland. Of the many people I met that day, one of the most delightful was Lisa (L.K.) Madigan. Like many authors, Lisa had spent years pursuing her dream of publication, and that dream was about to come true: her debut YA novel, Flash Burnout, was published in 2009.
I liked Lisa immediately for her sharp sense of humor, her wit, her kindness, and her down-to-earth good sense. At the launch party for Flash Burnout, the loving tribute of thanks she gave her husband and son moved me to tears. As one of the Portland KidLit, Lisa was an enthusiastic cheerleader for all of the rest of us. Even in the midst of her own publishing ups-and-downs, she always made us laugh with her dryly funny, spot-on comments.
Her talent was immense. Flash Burnout is told from the point of view of 15-year-old Blake, and Lisa nails Blake's teen male voice. To our delight (although not our surprise, because the novel is that good) Flash Burnout won the American Library Association's William C. Morris Award for a debut YA novel. Lisa's second critically acclaimed novel, The Mermaid's Mirror, was published last year. After the years of writing and revising and struggling and waiting, Lisa had earned her place among the brightest lights of YA literature. I looked forward to many years of devouring her books and enjoying her friendship.
Those years are not to be. On February 23rd, Lisa passed away from pancreatic cancer.
I last saw Lisa in December, shortly before she was diagnosed. She'd been ill, but was already back at work and looking forward to getting back to her writing. Less than three months later, she is gone. She leaves behind her husband and the son who was her world.
The video below, in which Lisa thanks the William C. Morris Award committee, gives a taste of her wonderful humor. Lisa's tremendous grace and strength shine through in her last blog post. I will miss her. Godspeed, Lisa.
If you would like to donate to a college trust fund for Lisa's son Nate, please click here.