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Saying goodbye

DerekAs many of you probably already know, Quill & Quire’s esteemed editor-in-chief, Derek Weiler, passed away unexpectedly last Sunday. All of us here at the magazine knew he had had lifelong health problems, but he was always very private about them, and it is only now that we’ve learned he suffered from a congenital heart condition.

When a co-worker dies, it’s not like the death of a family member or close friend. It has a different quality, characterized chiefly by the sad, blunt realization that you didn’t know the person nearly as well as you thought you did. Over the past few days, we’ve sat numbly at our computers, scouring the Web for more info about Derek’s life outside work – Facebook photos, old blog entries, tributes from friends – and a more rounded portrait of the man has emerged. It’s been great – a revelation, really – to read so many stories of Derek’s childhood, of his school days, and of his life with Sari, the wife he was so clearly crazy about. (And for the kooky Facebook picture of Derek dancing in a hippie-freak costume at a Halloween party circa 1992, we will be forever grateful.)

The flip side of the coin, of course, is that we all spent more time with Derek over the past few years than with practically anybody else in our lives, and came to know him like family. He cracked jokes with us, goofed around, steered us through stressful days. Sometimes he got angry with us, because that’s part of being the boss, and of being family. But what we’ll remember most is what a smart, funny, gentle guy he was, and how great he was to work for. With him in charge, the office was a free-flowing symposium on the arts, and talk of his favorites – Philip Roth, The Wire, Yo La Tengo, Flannery O’Connor, The Squid and the Whale – was never far off. His enthusiasms were contagious, and if, for some reason, you had never encountered one of his personal faves, he would immediately offer to bring it in and lend it to you. He was generous like that.

If there’s one image that best captures Derek’s in-office manner, though, it is of him walking around with his miniature Louisville Slugger bat. Derek – a huge baseball fan – would brandish the comically tiny bat for tongue-in-cheek displays of editorial pique, slapping it against his palm and muttering, “Derek don’t like it!” It was how he always wielded authority: firmly, but humorously, and with a self-satirizing edge.

Ultimately, Derek was the heart and soul of Quill & Quire, and it’s hard to convey how difficult it’s going to be to carry on without him. We’ll do so, of course, but it’ll probably never be quite the same. Derek, buddy, if you’re reading this: we’re going to miss you something terrible around here.

The staff of Quill

Over the past few days, an overwhelming number of tributes to Derek have been pouring in from all areas of the publishing industry. Included below is a small sampling.

“I had the good fortune to work with Derek for five years at Q&Q. He was a thoughtful writer and a gentle, judicious editor who taught me a lot about taking care with other people’s words. He also had a keen sense of humour and a loud, carefree laugh, which brought a smile to my face every time I heard it.” – Scott Anderson, editor of U of T Magazine and former editor of Quill & Quire

“Derek was more than just a beloved champion of indie publishing in Canada. He was a ray of light in a tempestuous industry.” – Chris Reed, This is Not A Reading Series

“He was a lovely man and a champion of Canadian literature.” – Doug Pepper, president of McClelland & Stewart

“Derek was always thought-provoking, and took the Quill in bold directions while keeping his eye on what mattered. And along the way, he was a great guy. We’ll ne’er see the likes of him.” – David Caron, co-publisher of ECW Press

“Derek was a sensitive and intelligent critic of literature, and a positive force in Canada. He will be missed.” – Russell Smith

“He was always warm and welcoming to me and I feel so fortunate to have known him.” – Ami McKay

“Derek was a kind and wonderful man. I was always very pleased to see him and I will always remember him with great fondness.” – Kenneth J. Harvey

“There aren’t a lot of people who get to devote their lives to thinking, writing, and partying about books. I hope his family and friends can take some comfort in the fact that Derek got to be one of them. I’m not sure what sort of consolation that might be, but it’s something, and it’s good.” – Bert Archer

“He ennobled this industry when he wrote about it, and through the years he edited Quill. He was serious, without being earnest, and he had a wicked sense of irony – which he could spot a kilometre away. He had my admiration and respect, and he holds them still.” – Marc Côté, publisher of Cormorant Books

“He was so interested in authors, books, music and the publishing industry, and we turned to his column first every month. Such a sad loss, but we in the industry are better for having known him and had him as the editor of the Quill.” – Kim McArthur, president of McArthur & Company

“Derek Weiler infused Q&Q with his love of literature, wit, respect for quality, and belief in Canadian writers.” – Charlotte Gray

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