Last week, Jocelyn Hale announced that in August, 2015, she’ll step down as executive director of the Loft. She’s held the lead position at the Loft, the country’s largest literary center, for eight years. That means she started steering the craft two years after I started taking classes at the Loft, in September of 2005.
If you want to read the great story about when and how Jocey got the executive director job, take a look here. It’s like a time warp. Her boys, both now in college, were pre-teens. She was taking over for a woman, Linda Meyers, whose shoes (everyone worried) would be hard to fill.
And now someone’s got to fill Jocey’s shoes. It’s a big job, the description of which you can read here.
The first time I met Jocey may have been when I was invited, in Fall of 2008, to speak to the Loft board about my experience with the mentorship program. (Submissions to the Loft Mentor Series is open now and I can only tell you that my experience in the program was probably the single most influential factor in the development of my writing life.) Jocey was at the helm then, and through all of the following:
- The next summer, when my husband underwent cancer surgery and I had to cancel/modify my Loft summer teaching obligations. Jocey was (as was everyone at the Loft) kind and accommodating and consistently asked after my husband’s health for many years following that awful summer.
- My first foray into AWP, when I got up the nerve to attend an off-site party only to recognize not a soul in attendance until I saw…Jocey. We chatted about writing and I exited shortly thereafter with a sense of accomplishment (AWP: off-site party!) and kinship (Jocey: director of the Loft, for goodness sake!).
- A couple years later, when she put entirely to rest an embarrassing incident I had while teaching. Entirely. To. Rest.
- In summer of 2012, at a fundraiser, when she made an (absolutely surprise) point of introducing me and congratulating me on my recent receipt of the MN Emerging Writer Grant (which has also just re-opened for submissions. This grant gave new life to a novel manuscript I was about to give up on, one which is my current best hope for book publication.)
- In spring of 2014, when she wrote to congratulate me on a nice lit mag publication.
- Just this past summer, when I confidentially asked her if a writer who has yet to publish a book could attend the MN Book Awards celebration without looking like a pathetic wannabe. Of course, she wrote back, and even gave me the inside scoop on how attendees generally dress.
In another world, another life, a person like me might have chatted with friends about a woman like Jocey–a woman stepping down from executive directorship of a $2.7 million-endowed non-profit, a woman under whom (according to a Star Tribune article of 1/28 by Laurie Hertzel)
[d]uring her eight years as executive director, the Loft successfully completed a major endowment drive, launched a significant online learning curriculum, increased its outreach to children and communities of color, and expanded its free programs
–from a kind of “She never knew me, but I loved the organization she headed from the day I stepped through the door at Open Book” point of view.
Instead, because Jocelyn Hale is the person she is, and has done the job she’s done for the Loft, I’m writing this.