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....