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Elle Newmark (1946–2011)

Author of The Chef's Apprentice

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Short biography
From her obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune: Elle Newmark was 10 years old when she knew she wanted to be a writer, but life had other plans — marriage, two children, divorce. She went into advertising so she could pay the rent and buy groceries. At age 43, remarried and living in Germany, she rekindled the dream. She started writing short stories. When she’d done one she thought was good enough to share, she sent it off to a magazine, which turned her down. Many more rejections followed. But she didn’t — she said she couldn’t — stop writing. When nobody would publish her book "Bones of the Dead" (aka "The Book of Unholy Mischief" or "The Chef's Apprentice"), about a chef’s apprentice in 15th-century Venice, she paid thousands of dollars to publish it herself. And then she did something novel for her novel. She threw a virtual book launch party for herself on the Internet, inviting hundreds of thousands of people, including book agents and publishers, for a gathering of music, conversation and party favors. What she hoped to do was sell a few hundred copies of "Bones" and boost her ranking on Amazon, which would generate even more sales. Instead what happened was a publishing world frenzy. An auction was held in New York to sell the publishing rights to the novel, and won Elle a two-book deal for more than $1 million dollars from Simon & Schuster. But in 2009, while she was working on the second book, "The Sandalwood Tree," a tale of love and war set in India, she got very sick. Complications from gallbladder surgery put her in the hospital five times, in and out of drug-induced comas, on ventilators. Her daughter sat with her day after day, reviewing editors' notes and revising the manuscript. When the book was finally published in April 2011, Elle Newmark was at home, on hospice care. She couldn’t tour in support of the book, couldn’t bask in the glory of her unusual success story. On her website, ellenewmark.com, she kept a blog, and the last entry, in June 2011, talks about how lucky she felt to find something — writing — she cared so deeply about for so long. "Passion,” she wrote, “is our consolation for mortality."
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