Elizabeth Wurtzel has died.



Life The Guardian has a lengthy news storyAs does Above The LawNPR too.

As you can imagine I'm pretty crushed.  The short version of how I'm feeling now:

Fuck cancer.

Elizabeth Wurtzel was someone who loomed very large for me, in my life and writing.  Her fearless, raw openness and bravery in pushing the barrier in expressing the inexpressible, which often got her into trouble.

She was a constant reminder that it's ok to admire someone while not agreeing with everything they say, which continues to be especially true in this time of polarised and polarising opinions.

I'll take me a few days to some to terms with all of this, but since she has been such an important person to me, I thought I should write something, so here's my Elizabeth Wurtzel story.  Nothing earth shattering but an important moment for me.

For some unknown reason, I was one of the three hundred and twelve people she followed on Twitter.  She began sometime in the late oughts when the social network still felt like a nightclub with a few million punters, possibly when I included her in a #followfriday.

We chatted a few of times over the following couple of years and given how much of a fan I already was of her work, it was always a bit of a jolt when I saw her replying to one of my tweets, especially in 2009 when she asked, "Grew up watching Doctor Who on Saturday mornings with my dad, who happens to also be a Trekkie.  Is there some UK revival?" after I'd posted a link to a review.

Around that time Starbucks has announced their new instant Via coffee.  It had been in development for a while and as this short piece of The Seattle Time explains, its inventor Don Valencia died of cancer a few years before it was rolled out, "Via" being a play on his surname as a tribute.

Like I said, fuck cancer.

Anyway at some point during its launch, after seeing it mentioned on Starbucks Gossip, I lamented on Twitter that it was only going to be available in the US and wondered when and if it would migrate over here.

Within moments, I received a DM from Elizabeth Wurtzel saying that if I gave her my address, she'd see if they had any in the Starbucks near her work and she'd send me some.

I did and evidently she did, because a week later an envelope arrived from Boies Schiller Flexner, the law firm she worked for as, eventually, Director Of Special Projects.  Inside was a compliments slip and three or four Via sachets in the bottom (they were being sold singly at the time).

Which meant I was able to try Via a few months ahead of the rest of the UK.

I still have the envelope and slip somewhere, because when you receive correspondence from people you admire, that's just the sort of thing you do.

She probably would have thought it was a bit silly.

Like I said, this isn't anything earth shattering but it's this little kindness I thought of when I heard the news.

In the decade since I've diligently collected links to her writing which you might find useful.

There's not much more I can say now, so I'll leave the last word with her.  It's from a Reddit AMA she gave in 2013 in which she talks about how difficult it is to become a professional writer:
"Being a writer is extremely hard. This has always been true. It was true for Chaucer. It was true for Shakespeare, who wrote plays to please the queen. No one cares if you write. It has to matter to you so enormously much that you visit your ego upon the world and give it no choice except to care. I agree that this is harder now, not just because there are all these outlets that don't pay, but also because there are ALL THESE OUTLETS. Because of the Internet, there is too much content and not enough audience. It is so hard to distinguish oneself. Here is the trick, I think: You have to be brave as a writer. You have to write in a pure voice that is distinct and rare. It really is not hard. That does not require facility with words so much as it requires lack of fear. Of course, that is hard. Fear is the thing that gets in the way of everything: love, happiness, success.

"I happen to think there were many more opportunities twenty years ago to get a job as an editorial assistant at a magazine and write little articles until you could get assigned bigger pieces. But in terms of becoming an author of a book, the odds are as stacked against you or for you as ever. It is really difficult. But I think if you are sure this is what you must do, you need to be fearless and proceed. It really only works if it is a matter of no other choice."

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