Aspiring writer, loving mother, and dear friend Chris Eldin took her life at age 46 after a long and baffling absence from public view. Her writing friends have only just now learned of the tragedy.
I met Chris on 16 December 2006. The reason I know the date is because that’s when she posted her Magic Gameboard query to Miss Snark’s Crapometer—breaking all of Her Snarkiness’s rules about what form a query letter should take. I had just started blogging that year, so Chris was one of my earliest friends. She shared her manuscripts. We skyped regularly. We talked about the industry: what good scenes are made of, the best agents to query, how to break through. How, oh how, to break through.
Her voice surprised me at first. Here I was, talking to the self-annointed Church Lady, of all people. To an avatar of a rhino in a thong bikini. To a community leader. And I expected something more . . . authoritative. Her voice was soft and disarming, even deferential. That’s not to say she didn’t have convictions, and didn’t press them. She listened. Whatever you were saying, no matter how much she disagreed with it, she listened, she took it in. Then she responded in that soft, genteel voice, almost in the manner of a southern lady, without the southern accent.
As funny as she was online, I never once heard her tell a joke. In person she was serious, all-business, get-the-job-done. To me, anyway. At the time, that’s all I wanted from my writing friends. At the time, success was equivalent to getting an agent. Chris was committed, at least as much as any other aspiring writer I’ve ever known, to punching a hole in the thick glass ceiling we perceived separated us from the agents who we perceived separated us from the fat-cat publishers who we perceived were squatting on mounds of advance money, thumbing their noses at us. Or so we perceived. There are agents and editors out there whose ears should still be burning.
She recruited me to work on Bookroast with her, and with Jason Evans, Phoenix Sullivan, Shona Snowden, Sarah Laurenson, and others. She’s the reason I know Juliet Grames, Brian Jay Jones (I hosted him!), and other cool people. She conducted online events; one of my favorites was a party for Evil Editor that generated hundreds of comments. Her blog was what I called a “crossroads blog,” a place everyone visited. Everyone who was anyone. Back when everyone blogged.
And then, one day, she went away.
I think I know why, because she spoke of her domestic troubles too, during those Skype calls. She apparently decided it was in the best interests of her children to withdraw entirely from the writing community. She was also deeply disappointed her books weren’t published. She didn’t pussyfoot around about that. She had written two; nobody wanted them. “Write a third,” I said. “I’m done,” she replied.
For every person who needs an intervention, there’s a point in her life when her friends need to actually intervene, to rappel onto her roof from a Black Hawk helicopter and storm her house, “Hut, hut, hut!”, bash in some doors and windows, beat up the bad guys—POW, KA-BLAM!—like Batman. Snatch the imprisoned maiden. Haul her to safety.
Key stirring symphonic music. Wide-angle pan of jubilant warriors silhouetted against a low evening sun. Hoo-ah! End credits.
That’s where I fucked up.
Chris withdrew from most of her community, including me, in late 2009, maintaining contact with only a few very close friends. Later she withdrew from them too. I wrote periodically, as did others, never receiving a reply. I wrote as recently as this year, unaware she’d killed herself last year. Unaware I was engaging in that wheel-spinning, shadow-boxing thing friends engage in when they’re trying to track down a ghost.
I find myself reminiscing about another time, a time when Miss Snark was still kicking up her heels and we were all still blogging, still visiting, still commenting, still nurturing a community. A time when we got together by the handfuls, by the dozens, sometimes by the hundreds.
It was a better time. Because it was less about marketing and promotion—back then—and more about making friends and being mutually supportive. Because social media—back then—was more about the community itself than the individual pipsqueaks who comprised it. Because Christine Elizabeth Eldin—back then—was still among us, making us laugh, pushing us, and herself, to break through.
So I’m hanging out in the northbound emergency lane of I-95 in Harford County, Maryland, just north of exit 85, around 8:45 p.m. on 9 August 2012. Seems like a good place to be, and a good time to be there. A Volvo parks on the shoulder. The female driver appears to write a letter, then steps out of her car. I race up from behind and wrap my arms around her. Locking her in an embrace. She turns her head and recognizes me. “Steve? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Taking you home,” I say. “Hundreds of your friends are waiting for you. And God knows how many more, strangers until now, who are eager to hear the sound of your voice.”
Stephen Parrish is the editor of The Lascaux Review.
Beautifully written Stephen and in that sense, the greatest tribute of all.
Thanks for this essay.
This is beautiful Steve. I really barely knew Chris. We met via a Clarity of Night contest, probably back in 2008 or 9. I think we had one or two minor exchanges on Facebook before she disappeared. I observed her as pleasant, but one of the very many online people who I just barely knew. Your essay here has really filled in the dimensions, thank you.
Beautifully written, and that last part, in particular, made me cry. How I wish we could do that.
Beautifully written, Stephen. As always.
We had a blogging circle that had an unusually high success rate – there are a lot of reasons I think that is, but they’re kind of unimportant here. I didn’t realize at the time that Chris had decided to stop writing. I doubt that was the whole of what played into this, but it was likely a huge factor. I know what that is, to give it up, because I’ve done it. It took the air out of my lungs. I literally couldn’t imagine myself ever truly happy without it – better off financially, maybe, but definitely not fulfilled. Chris was about the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever met online. I have to say, it does get a little hard to keep being happy for your colleagues successes when they’re achieving the very thing you want more than anything, which feels impossibly out of your reach.
When she disappeared from the blog-o-sphere it went unnoticed, because many of us had done the same thing. I imagined that a lot of my friends were wrapped up in their lives, had thrown in the towel, or went on to success that didn’t give them as much time to blog for fun. Besides, I couldn’t really question why anyone else wasn’t blogging, when I wasn’t either.
I wish one of us had been there. I wish she didn’t get to that point. I wish we could’ve stayed in that mindset, when we were all so sure we’d beat down the doors and find fulfillment on the other side of the transom.
I wish we all could’ve been there. I wish that with all my heart and soul. Lovely tribute, my friend. Thank you!
Beautifully done, Steve.
Moving. I totally understand.
A beautiful tribute to a wonderful person. How sad for us that she couldn’t share her pain.
This was a 2 tissue post.
The Anti-Wife in another life
A simply beautiful, yet powerful tribute, Stephen. I believe I was one of the first to guest post on Book Roast. As I think back over the years I’ve known Chris, I’m awed by the support she gave so many people. I believe Merry mentioned what a cheerleader Chris was. She, of course, wanted to be published, but she had no envy when it came to others realizing that dream. She’d be the first in line with heartfelt congratulations. Sad how we never truly miss someone until they’re gone. I have no doubt the volume of friends Chris had would’ve completely shut down the highway that August evening.
Hi Stephen. I heard about your friend’s suicide. I didn’t know Chris, but I’m sorry I didn’t. My sympathies to you and others who are feeling the loss.
I don’t presume to know a damned thing about such matters, but I hold to the hope that for every one of us who failed to snag Chris before she ran, there were a thousand others waiting on the other side, arms opened, to catch her when she crossed.
Thank you for launching this prize in memory and honor of Chris. I was her good friend for many years but in recent years, we had grown apart. I knew there were problems, but I didn’t appreciate their gravity. She used to come to my house with her two sons to celebrate Christmas. She was a gentle spirit, and I treasured her and appreciated her many talents. She adored her children. Thanks again for this wonderful tribute. Margo
I just found out tonight, as of August 5th, 2014. I was writing my performance review and somehow I thought of her name, as I typed her name, the powerful google search engine brought up the word ‘obituary’! I was hesitant to select that option but I did. I have been wondering why she has not responded to my email, to my letter, my x-mas card, my phone calls my facebook message for the past few years. She was my roommate 3x when we were in college and after college. We kept in touch after i moved to Northern California. She often send me her pictures with her kids. She is beautiful, serious, her smile is very soothing, and yes she is a soft lady, soft friend. Her sister passed away before her, due to cancer. Chris, why? you have two handsome sons. Chris, I miss you. Chris, I wish you communicate openly to the support group and to your good friends! I know you keep things to yourself most of the time. I am so sorry I didn’t know … I am so sorry I didn’t look hard enough to see how you are doing … obituary is “never” in my mind. I will send you prayer. Thank you Stephen for writing this tribute.
Hi Meilani. Thanks for the nice comment. If you’d like to participate in establishing a permanent memorial for Chris (a writing fellowship in her name) please contact me at stephenparrish at hotmail dot com. We’re very short on photographs of Chris and would welcome any you happen to have.
I followed an old link from a blog I’d long abandoned to find out Pacatrue, a kind, chatty visitor to my website had passed on. I agree with you, Steve, I was part of that author-supporting-author community. First had a blog in 2004. Met many fine writers online who helped each other, read each other’s work and tried our hardest to get noticed.
I know Pacatrue, as I knew Chris, would be so pleased to know about my now-published works. I may have made very little money on them, but a publisher finally took a chance…after many failed attempts.
I wish I had known she was going through troubled times. She was always so supportive and kind to me. I think of her fondly and long for a time when writers online were a different sort than they are now.
Thank you for your very kind tribute to a lovely woman.
I don’t know why after all these years I’m writing on here. Chris was my sister and I miss her so damn much
Margo she spoke of you often. You held a special place in her heart.
My name is Michael from Nigeria. I was a friend of Chris and her husband Sami Eldin. Sami and I met sonetime in 1988 when i was a student at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). At that time I was renting a room at my land lady’s house in Beechfield Road and I invited Chris’ husband Sami to join me there. So both of us were renting two separate single rooms and were attending UMBC. I was studying Political Science and her husband was studying engineering. It was during that time that Sami met Chris. In 1990 I went back to Nigeria as a result of my father’s death. The last time I saw Chris was sometime in 2007 when I attended a conference in Massachusetts and had decided to visit another friend of mine in Colombia, Maryland. It was then I decided to check on Sami and Chris in Baltimore Maryland. Fortunately, I met Chris in the same old address at South Beachfield Rd. She was so happy to see me and I likewise. It was then I learned she and Sami had married with two wonderful boys. I also learned that they had also bought the house from my landlady whom I learned from Chris had passed away not long ago. Unfortunately, she told me that Sam had travelled to Egypt on a business trip but she called him for me and I was able to to talk to him. I’m just learning now, to my greatest surprise that Chris committed suicide. I’m really very sad and don’t know what to say. She was a kind woman and very understanding. I’m really really sad and shocked. Pls I would really be grateful if anyone could help me get in touch with her husband Sami or even her husband’s brother, I think his name is Sharif Eldin. What about her children? I hope they are doing well. May her soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!