Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thank You, Leonard Pung

The last few weeks of Clarion prep have been a roller coaster of emotion, activity, and non-activity. It's gone from everything happening all at once - get those fees paid! books those flights! - to hurry up and wait.

But after a few false starts - panic about my visa, changing flights - things are starting to come together, and the whole process is turning away from the surreal. It helps that the majority of the class have found each other online (Twitter Stalkers Anonymous), and we're now settling into a cheerful group conversation about plans and self-imposed reading assignments and signal boosting the heck out of fundraisers for those still in the process of getting their fees together.

I've also gained more followers and kind words of the writer kind in the last few weeks which is certainly blush making. Thanks everyone for paying a bit of attention to little ol' me from this little ol' country at the bottom of the world. I hope I can live up to your expectations.

A big boost towards getting me to Clarion was the scholarship I was awarded, reducing my fee total by about 30%. I received the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship, which prompted me too look up the author on whose good name I am in part attending.

This scholarship is awarded to a student attending Clarion over the age of 40. Yes, I turn 40 next month. I might not look it, and I like to pretend I'm younger than I really am because I started this journey so late, but there it is. I'm facing down the big Four-Oh. I've achieved one thing on my "Things To Do Before I'm 40" list - achieve a pro-paying publication - but since it slips in with a couple months leeway, I think I can tick Clarion off that list too.

Leonard Pung, from what I've been able to glean, was a late starter to this Skiffy Life too. He attended Clarion in 2009, and was just starting to negotiate his way through the publishing landscape when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. His death was a shock to his writing community, as it seemed he had every chance to recover after treatment.

Here are some tributes to Mr Pung, by Ken Schneyer (who was very kind to befriend me on Facebook), Nicole M Taylor, Richard Crawford, and Liz Argall.

The Clarion class of 2009 created the memorial scholarship in Mr Pung's name so that future late starters to SFF writing can realize their dreams. I'm honoured that I can carry on holding the line for the late bloomers in his name.

So, thanks class of 2009, donors, Clarion Foundation, anyone else involved in the scholarship...and Leonard. I'm going to make every effort to enjoy my time in San Diego, and make use of every morsel I glean from the workshop, whether it's good times with new friends or tearing my hair out at constructive writing criticism. I'm only as young as I feel. And I feel 100 feet tall and 21 years wide.

It's going to be wonderful and stressful and tearful and utterly grand.

Here is a video of Leonard reading from one of his stories in early 2012:


  1. Amanda, I can't tell you how overjoyed all of us are, who knew Leonard and donated to his memorial scholarship, that it's finally found a worthy recipient. We're rooting for you!

  2. Thanks Ken! Now I feel all warm and squishy inside :D

  3. Amanda,
    Leonard was NOT a late starter; in fact, he started at, by the latest, the age of nineteen, as that is when I first had the good fortune of calling him my friend, and he was planning his first book then. He ALWAYS intended to be a writer. But, as I see it, not all writers are created equally generous, and not all "writers" write. In Leonard's pursuit, he was too giving, loving, quintessentially optimistic about the goodness of those around him to allow a mental hiding place to exist and serve as the hoarding place of all his uniqueness, the way he saw the world at any given moment, and the way, when he voiced his perception, it might offer a moment of happiness to those around him whom he loved. He "published" almost every minute of every day. The measure of his success could not have been half matched had he gone on to publish a dozen Best Sellers. He won the Nobel Prize that never existed: "And to Leonard Pung, The Living Novel"--that None are yet ready to put down...

  4. Thank you for that lovely insight, anon. It sounds like he had a big heart. Definitely true about "not all writers write" - sometimes the best stories we like to keep for ourselves (that reminds me of the woman who was the secret street photographer, and never had her worked displayed until after her death). Take care, and thanks for reading.

  5. I know this post is nearly two years old, but I just wanted to let you know how very glad I am that someone was able to take advantage of the scholarship named after Leonard Pung. Leonard was a good friend, an incorrigible punster, and a great writer. I was privileged to belong to the same critique group that he was part of when he lived in Sacramento. He wrote very well, and he gave fantastic critiques as well. When I learned he had passed, I wept.

    Congratulations on receiving the scholarships and on your publishing successes. Carry on the great work!

  6. Thanks Richard! I have my shirt given me by his class to remind me every time I wear it (I love Hawaiian shirts too!). I hope there is someone else going to Clarion UCSD soon who can take advantage of the scholarship too.

  7. Amanda - Thank you for writing this. I only knew Leonard a few years but in that time we spent every other day together playing chess and talking about life sitting outside of the cigar lounge I managed at the time in downtown Los Angeles. I am sorry it took so long for me to stumble across this but it really warms my heart. Leonard lived a life we all could learn from and should. To say it was a shock to watch him fade from this world so quickly is an understatement at best. I came to terms with it myself in my belief the Universe takes the brightest stars from our lives sometimes so that we may understand how blessed we are and to not take anything for granted. My mantra the last couple of decades is a motto some of my Search And Rescue friends use; "These Things We Do That Others May Live." Leonard taught me what that means in a very practical sense. I miss him and think of him often. I am glad to hear his life continues through the words and life of a stranger. Blessings to you in your future endeavors.

    - Louis

  8. Thanks Louis. Everyone I come across who knew Leonard speak of him with such warmth. He sounds like a truly special person. I'm glad he made an impact on people like this.