I was saddened to hear of the death of my wonderful writing teacher, Les Plesko. I met Les in 2003 and took a series of classes with him at UCLA extension, workshopping my first novel, "Swimming Upstream, Slowly."
We were asked to bring only one page weekly to read aloud and get workshopped, and I was extremely put off by this technique... at first. I soon realized that perfecting that one page was an exercise of epic proportions. It forced the writer to tell the story, create the scene, in as succinct a way as possible.
Les threw little chocolate candies at us over the break, introduced us to literature we may not have heard of otherwise, and helped us all craft our novels with his generous and prescient feedback. It was also through his classes that I made some lifelong friends in David, Mary and Irene.
A beautiful memorial was held at Beyond Baroque last week, where countless writers eulogized our teacher, mentor and friend. In fact, I "borrowed" this blog title from his ex-student Jamie Schaffner, who ended her remembrance with a poignant, "Rest, rest, rest Les".
Here is what I contributed to his memorial book:
Les Plesko was integral to my growth as a writer. After taking 3 classes with him, I completed my first novel and found a publisher soon after. Les focussed on the page, the paragraph, the sentence, the word. I have yet to meet a better editor. After one of his readings, I went to get my book signed. He asked me, "How do you spell your name again?" I said, "Hey, that's code for you don't remember my name!" and we both had a good laugh. "I'm so sorry," he said. "There are so many people here I'm just drawing blanks on everyone!" Les was authentic, generous and supportive, and I will miss him.
Les will live on through his novels which can be found here.
Janet Fitch, his friend, has also started a website to memorialize him, which can be found here.