That was Kim's, his wife's, message to us on Facebook and it immediately sent shock-waves through the Canadian writing community.
Denis McGrath passed away last night.
It got me thinking about a lot of things, but, primarily, how much Denis cared about us - not just Writers, but Canadians. In the moment, I wrote this as a tribute:
Denis was among the first "real" writers to stop and give me the time of day when I was but a baby writer. He'd sit and listen and converse and be generous with his time, considering, well, who the heck was I? He had a big voice and a big heart - and sometimes a big opinion that didn't mesh with your own, but there's not a person who'd met him who could say, honestly, that he didn't care.
And that was his thing, really. He cared. A lot.
He cared about stories and the people that wanted to tell them, and especially so if you were a Canadian trying to tell Canadian stories in this country (of all places). He fought for us and informed us and made us feel passionately about politics and about this industry. I'll never be able to thank him enough for that. If there's any fitting legacy, I hope that it's found in the spark, the passion that he first ignited (or re-ignited) within us; that we fight to make sure that The Best Idea Wins and that Canada becomes a place where our stories have value.
RIP Denis, thank you for caring about us.
And it says a lot of things but one thing it leaves out is, well, context.
Just how big of an impact Denis had made on our landscape.
Dead Things on Sticks shook up the industry at a time when people were still reading things like blogs (and had time to write them). Denis built his platform and then worked hard to make sure that it was used for good. Consistently.
Yet one of the reasons that it'd gained such a following, in my humble opinion, was that Denis... Denis wasn't a guy to pull his punches.
And yet, even then, in those moments he'd have this way about him, this way of inviting us all in, explaining things -- unleashing hell on the Powers That Be -- that made you feel like it wasn't just possible, but plausible, for you to take part and get invested too.
His passions became our passions - and why the hell not? Why were we so quiet and polite in the face of, well, sometimes less than savory practices? Why were there so many whispers instead of action? He made us ask ourselves hard questions and expected answers.
That was just his way, I guess.
In finding my way back to the blogosphere today, looking back through the old posts -- I was going to reminisce about our meeting at the Canadian Writers Guild rally (in support of the writer's strike) and ended up finding another memory that I'd somehow lost along the way, from back when I was still finding my writer's legs:
He let me run his blog once, way back when, while he went off on vacation. He handed me the keys to the kingdom.
I look back on it now and I realize how hard it'd hit me then -- I'd never had anyone do something like that for me before: tell me that my voice mattered, let alone in such a tangible kind of way.
He'd trusted me with his soapbox.
I'd like to think that I didn't bugger things up too much (I probably did) but I'll never forget how he gave me a shot and made me feel valued and valid at a time when I was still figuring things out.
... so thank you, Denis, for that and so much more.
There's an Ink Drinks tonight, lots of us are going to be there. Please come by and raise a glass in his honour.