L. (Elle) Gianforte shares a tribute to her co-author Gregory C. Keck, who passed away suddenly before Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success was published, and includes some of the back story of their collaboration.
“We need to write a book together.”
“I know! I feel the same way. But what kind?”
“An adoption book? A psychological thriller?”
“I’m game for either one. Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. We’re just such a great team. We have to do this.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
This is a variation of the conversation that Greg Keck and I had repeatedly since 2008, when I edited his third book, Parenting Adopted Adolescents. Greg and I met in the early ‘90s when we were both on the board of directors of ATTACh (Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children). Although our professions were different—he a world-renowned adoption expert and I a writer—we were both parents to two adopted sons. More important than that, we were friends from the start.
In 1995, Greg asked me to edit his first book, Adopting the Hurt Child, which he co-wrote with Regina Kupecky. Seven years later, I went to work in the same capacity on their second book, Parenting the Hurt Child. By the time Greg went solo with book number three, our writing team was firmly sealed.
“There’s a publisher in London who’s expressed interest in a book about traumatized children. Wanna do it with me?”
And so our dream of writing a book together—just the two of us as co-authors—was realized, and Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong was born.
When I finally adjusted to the thrill of this joint venture, I began to think about potential problems. Greg lived in Ohio, and I’m in California. How could we possibly collaborate on a book when we were nearly 2,500 miles apart? Surely we’d have to meet face to face to brainstorm at least a few times throughout the process. It could be difficult. It could be expensive. It could be a logistical nightmare.
And what about the voice? How could two people with such different styles from such diverse professional disciplines tell a cohesive story? Surely the individual voices would constantly bump into one another and knock each other over. It could be complicated. It could be frustrating. It could be a complete disaster.
In truth, none of those fears ever became realities. Greg and I went from book proposal to finished manuscript without ever once connecting in person. We began work on the proposal in March of last year and wrapped up the final chapter in October. We developed a process that was simple, symbiotic, and seamless. He wrote, I wrote, and we wove the parts together. Our rhythm became so fluid that it was impossible to tell where one voice left off and the other began. We hit our stride with the very first step and maintained the pace throughout.
We constantly marveled at how connected we were. How easy the process was. How well the book was unfolding. We exchanged dozens of virtual pats on the back because we were just so damn proud of what we had created. In phone conversations and emails, we fast-forwarded to the day when the book would be published and we could celebrate in style—and in person.
On January 21, 2015—mere days after our manuscript had gone through the copyediting process—Greg passed away suddenly. The shock wave that reverberated among his family and friends and throughout the adoption community was profound. This brilliant, sensitive, and funny man, who touched thousands of lives and brought clarity and hope to countless families, was gone.
I miss my writing partner. I miss the laughter we shared on a regular basis. I miss the sound of his voice on the phone. Most of all, I miss my friend.
When a manuscript is finished, the authors have the pleasure of writing their acknowledgments. I always think of this as the best part, because it presents an opportunity to thank all the people who contributed to the development of the book. When Greg was still alive, I wrote, “Saving the best for last, I thank my co-author, Greg Keck, for including me in this project. You are so talented and knowledgeable, and working with you is always a fabulous ride. I truly believe we’re the best team ever!”
Re-reading that tribute today makes me smile, because it allows me to revisit the amazing journey we took together. I will always carry Greg in my heart, and I hope he is in a place where he can still, in some way, share the celebration of our book’s release.
Just before he died, Greg expressed concern about the final stages of the production process.
“That’s just not what I do,” he said, when we received the editorial query. “I look at all the questions and it overwhelms me.”
I, on the other hand, am anal, detail oriented, and a lover of minutiae. I have been known to thrive on nitpicking, as our JKP team will confirm. In my last phone conversation with Greg, I let him know there was no need to worry.
“I’ll take it from here, buddy. I’ve got this.”