Friday was an emotional day at the Grotto, as we received news that our friend and role model Victor Martinez had died in the early morning hours, from cancer.

Victor was the author of a fiercely beautiful novel, Parrot in the Oven, which won the National Book Award for young adult literature. He also wrote two not-yet published novels, and many poems of uncompromising honesty and passion.

Victor’s friend Francisco X. Alarcon has posted a remembrance of Victor here.

In the last year of Victor’s life, Writers’ Grotto member Elizabeth Bernstein coordinated a rota of Grotto writers to drive Victor to medical appointments. For all of us who participated, it was a privilege to have time alone with Victor during the driving and the waiting in hospital rooms, just to hear his wisdom on writing and life. During one of these hospital trips, I told Victor how much I looked up to him as a “real” writer, and he was horrified, protesting that he hardly made any money from writing, and didn’t care about publishing, and I said yes, exactly, that’s what I meant–the way he stayed true to the work for its own sake.

Elizabeth circulated within the Grotto some of Victor’s thoughts on how writing changes you, how “just the working itself has value, I think.” I’m so tempted to share more of Victor’s candid correspondence, but I know those emails were intended for an audience of friends, and despite their eloquence, I know Victor often made apologies for the writing in his emails. But I hope his words will keep emerging, and that more and more people will read them. He lived in truth.

The Grotto has posted a photo and a tribute to Victor here.

UPDATE: Victor’s obituary in the LA Times.

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