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Saturday, February 11, 2012

I certainly can't claim to have known Jeffrey Zaslow nearly as well as many of my colleagues in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Certainly, I likely passed by him at many of my early annual conferences, but there was always so much to take in, and so many new, welcoming face to meet, I may not have been on the lookout for him.

In our Ventura event however, I did take the time to introduce myself, and ask him to sign my copy of "The Last Lecture", which he co-wrote with Professor Randy Pausch. That book and the related YouTube video became an early internet sensation back at that time. 

Prior to meeting Jeff, I had read the book, and lined the pages with Post-It Note flags. He found great humour in that, and added to his signature "P.S. - love the decorations".

Regarding that book, for years since I've told the story to other writers and in my humour-writing classes that I once attended a Writers' Guild Of Alberta presentation on publishing, where the speaker was delivering the sombre news that a Canadian author could hope (at best) to receive about a $5000.00 advance, should  they be lucky enough to sign a publishing deal here.

At that exact moment, an e-mail arrived to my SmartPhone from the NSNC, congratulating Jeff on being part of an advance agreement for "The Last Lecture", worth about...well, let's just substitute millions for the thousands. Our moderator nearly fainted...

In my term-and-a-half as Membership Chair for the NSNC, it always seemed a no-brainer to me when people wrote in and asked about the benefits of membership. I would highlight the obvious, but always expanded on the wealth of talented writers that have long been a vital benefit of our organization - and the many up-and-comers since I became a member. Jeff did our organization proud in so many ways.We're one light less bright now. 

If you weren't aware of Mr. Zaslow's work, you may not know that his writing career outside of the Wall Street Journal focused on the great potential we have within us, as evidenced in co-written books that exhibited that in spades - Professor Randy Pausch, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, and his latest on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

In my copy of "The Last Lecture", having only just met my wife and I at that time, Jeff wrote:

"Dan & Ruth, I hope Randy's story reminds you of the love between you, and the dreams you fulfilled together".

Gone far too soon. From our family to his, I extend the same wishes....


Mrs That Dan Guy said...

Well said.

ThatDanGuy said...


dan said...

Dan Guy in Taiwan says:

Dear THAT Dan Guy, my take on the freak accident and seemingless senseless nature
of Jeff's death: my blog at "say it in 17 words" explains why i felt
his PR people never should have let him go on this book signing event
for just 40 people in the dead of winter. Summer time yes , not now.
This DID NOT have to happen is what i am saying and i realize that is not a popular thing to say but Zas would want to at least put it out there and gatthe reax:

But top reporter in Chicago tells me "Dear Dan --

In a world where too few people care, you get impassioned about
things. That's a positive. But in this case, you need to settle down.
Way, way down.

Jeff felt strongly that part of writing a book was selling the book.
Did he need to go to Petoskey, or to anywhere for that matter, to move
what turned out to be 40 copies? Of course not. He'd sold 5 million
copies of "The Last Lecture" alone. He didn't NEED to do anything.

But he enjoyed readings and signings, and he understood that while a
specific appearance might not have been important to him, it was
important to the bookstore, the customers who turned out, and in this
case to the city he was visiting. It was also a nice opportunity for
the woman from Becker's Bridal who appeared with him to enjoy the sort
of appreciation Jeff received all the time. (If you know that the
publisher arranged the signing, by the way, you know more than I do.
This could have been entirely between Jeff and a bookstore where he'd
established a relationship during previous appearances.)

It's been a tame winter in Michigan. The squall he encountered on his
way home was the first in the area in weeks. No one foresaw it, and no
one foresaw that someone who'd spent his life in cold-weather states
would lose control of his front-wheel-drive car.

That's not to fault him. It's quite possible that in those precise
conditions at that exact place and moment, every one of us would have
crossed the center line the same way. But it was a fluke occurence, it
was a fluke that there was an oncoming truck, and it's a tragedy
that's not made easier to bear when you try to find something sinister
in it.


dan said...

has left a new comment on the post "A Letter to Jeffrey Zaslow's Daughter Eden":

What if Jeffrey Zaslow had not driven to northern Michigan in the winter for a book signing for his latest book, THE MAGIC ROOM, in Petosky? Did he really have to go that far, overnight, just to sign books in a small town? SIGH and REST IN PEACE, JEFFREY: a good man gone too soon!

i have a differen take on all this here, your POV on my POV? email or comment my blog re

By dan bloom on February 12, 2012 9:57 PM
but why was a bestselling author on a cold February morning driving solo to and from a small bookstore in northern Michigan, when he did not have to do such a minor book event for his new book. He could have done an interview on Good Morning America or NPR and any other large media outlet, and he could have had a much different arc in life. It seems so sad and a pity that Jeff had to drive solo in icy conditions from Detroit to Petoskey and back just for a minor minor book signing event.

yes, That he bothered to go there says volumnes about his own dedication to his fans and readers, so on level, bravo to Jeff for agreeing to go there to sign a few books. But on the other hand, one has to ask his publishers and PR people: why on Earth was this small book event part of his national book tour? What were people thinking? And why did he go?

ThatDanGuy said...

Man, it is tough to figure the Greater Purpose at times like this

ThatDanGuy said...

What I said a moment ago...

dan said...

I hear ya, Dan Guy! Greater Purpose? I personally believe there is none and Jeff's accident was a senseless tragic event that was NOT MEANT TO BE, and did not have to happen. But it did, sigh.

See more archived news here:

dan said...

Jack Lessenberry on Jeff Zaslow's tragic accident and ''RIDING Michigan's ROADS TO RUIN''
As Michigan’s state infrastructure crumbles, Lansing’s yahoos in state capital balk at funding road repair, writes Jack Lessenberry on February 15, 2012:

Last weekend, best-selling author Jeff Zaslow was driving home to West Bloomfield from a book-signing event in Petoskey.

He never got very far. He apparently hit a patch of ice, and went into the path of a tractor-trailer. I knew him only very slightly, but he was, by all accounts, a very decent man. A few hours later I was on the same stretch of road. We also hit unsuspected ice, and went sailing into the oncoming lane. Except, fortunately, nobody was coming.

Had this happened two minutes later, we would have been in the path of a giant truck hauling propane. The road was littered with wrecks, and at one point near Kalkaska, six ambulances rushed by with sirens wailing. This was white-knuckle stuff of the worst kind.

dan said...

Sharon SILke Carty at Huff Post writes

''Jeffrey Zaslow's Death Underscores Problems On The Roads''

lost a colleague Friday to a cause of death that's become all too common.

There have been and will be plenty of tears for Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist of wide-renown and a friend. He was beloved by many.

I worry that even though a huge community of people will grieve Zaslow, most will accept his death as a tragic accident, something completely unpreventable that could happen to any of us.

No one is going to hold a charity walk to help people who survived these kinds of accidents. No one will be wearing any ribbons to express how sick and tired they are of this thing happening.

Car accidents just happen. Right?

"It was amazing how many people would say, 'I guess it was just his time,'" said Jeffrey Runge, a former emergency room doctor who was head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2001 to 2005. His quote comes from a USA Today interview from 2006, in which he talked about teen driving deaths and how preventable many of them are.

dan said...

dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan said...

THATDANGUY from that other Dan guy in Taiwan, here's the kicker:

The key to understanding the seemingly senseless death in freak car accident of Jeffrey Zaslow (1958-2012)

Becker Mueller of Becker's Bridal, the shop that the MAGIC ROOM is about, and who also drove up to Petoskey on Thursday for the wine and cheese book signing and talk at McLean and Eakin bookstore in the Gaslight District, had joined Jeff at the book signing Thursday night in Petoskey, and they were supposed to have breakfast the following Friday morning, as arranged.

But ..... and here is the Thornton Wilder ''BRIDGE AT SAN LUIS REY'' moment it what you it it it the Great Purpose it absolute meaningless of human existence in a universe devoid of meaning........ oi......Jeff called Barbara in his usual sweet and candid way ....they were friends......and said sorry, another time, and that "he was nervous about the roads and wanted to leave so he could be home when his daughter got out of school."

And a few nanoseconds of cosmic time later, perhaps 3o minutes later in real time, he was not in this world anymore......