Tribute to Linda Jay

Linda Jay was an editor and writer who described herself as being “completely in love with words.” She started her career writing advertising copy in the Trade Book Department of Little, Brown Publishers during the early 1960s. Through the years, she wrote all of those things a writer writes to make a living. Articles, professional profiles of people, marketing copy, website content, blog posts, she wrote it all, but her true strength lay in her editing expertise. 

Is it lie, lay, lied or lain, Linda?

Within the first five minutes of meeting Linda Jay, she told me about her parents, Verne and Helen Jay, who wrote famous radio murder mysteries like The Shadow and Mr. and Mrs. North during the 1940s in New York City. Her parents rehearsed sound effects, including dead bodies thudding to the floor, gunshots and ghostly screams, much to the consternation of their neighbors in their walkup New York City apartment, where the walls were thin and imaginations ran wild. 

Please see Linda Jay’s article about the Golden Age of Radio. It was originally published in our magazine in February 2021. 

In honor of her parents, Linda founded the Petaluma Radio Players in Petaluma, California, where she lived for many years. This troupe of actors and musicians, performed vintage radio shows, mostly mysteries and comedies. Foley sound effects and vivid mimicry encouraged the audience to get carried away with their wildest imagination. 

Despite Linda’s move to the West Coast, she never edited, rearranged or removed the one trait that spoke to who she really was—a true New Yorker, who thought that George Gershwin’s music told the story of her life. Her article The Magical kaleidoscope feels like the color Gershwin’s music. 

I met Linda Jay at the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) in 2009. She caught the most picayune blunders and typos in my essays and articles. She had no compunction about calling me every time I made a mistake. I found her to be both fastidious and annoying, so much so that I hired her to edit three of my books. 

I spent time with Linda during three visits that I made to the Bay Area. Our friendship was otherwise immersed in phone calls and hundreds of emails—that’s how it is these days with so many of our relationships, notwithstanding Covid; we pick up the phone and talk or text. 

Should I have used a semicolon, Linda?

We might have argued about that one. Many people, even writers and editors, don’t know how to use a semicolon.

Linda had a voice so distinctive that it fluttered at the high pitch of a bird song. The article Dancing to the Beat of One Drum in this issue of the magazine was Linda’s idea, and it’s dedicated to her. In a high, sing-song voice, she pitched the concept to me a year ago. She had heard about Sabrina Blais, a young woman who went to Ghana, where she learned to play a drum called the Kpanlogo. Linda had first heard about Sabrina’s trip from her father, David Blais. Linda and David were both Petaluma Radio Players. 

For one reason or another, Linda didn’t write the article right away. Then this past February she took a bad fall that required serious medical attention. David Blais and his daughter visited her at her care facility to give her technical support. (Using computers was never her strength.) Her health declined. Doctors told her she did not have long to live. She was unable to write the article and worried about not keeping her word to David and Sabrina. She asked me to write the article. I reassured her I would. In turn, I asked her to edit the article. 

Unfortunately, we lost her this past October. I didn’t know she was so close to the end of her life. In one of our last conversations, she told me that she adored George Gershwin and wanted “Rhapsody in Blue” to be played at her memorial service. So that’s what I’m doing right now, Linda. I’m playing Gershwin for you. From one New Yorker to another: whenever I hear Gershwin, a part of me will always remember you. Commas notwithstanding.














Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino is an accomplished writer who has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, essays, speeches, web content, marketing collateral, and ten books.

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