By Steve Cameron
I didn’t know Gitte anywhere near as well as I would have liked. She lived in country Victoria and I didn’t, which meant we rarely saw each other. Even though, within the Australian Spec-Fic Writing scene I knew her better than most.
I can clearly remember the first time I met Gitte, and read her work. We were at a Sean Williams’ workshop, and Gitte had submitted an extract from a longer piece. It was a stunning scene that described the docking sequence of a burnished ceramic spacecraft, crewed by a long-lived spacefaring race. I remember the picture she painted using only words. It had a beautifully measured pace, but was highly descriptive, rich and decadent in imagery. Gitte told me it was part of a space-opera trilogy that needed re-structuring and editing. I’m saddened we shall never see it.
We stayed in touch. We emailed each other and managed to steal the occasional half-hour to chat at conventions and workshops. It didn’t matter what was happening in her life, and none of us knew much about her illnesses, she was always cheerful and optimistic.
Whenever I made a sale she would quickly email me to congratulate me. If I posted about a rejection, she was just as quick to commiserate and encourage. Her own blog was as honest as she was. At the end of each month she would post statistics on how many stories she’d completed, how many had sold, how many had been rejected, and how many were out in the wild. She wrote about her writing, her dreams, goals and self-doubts. She also wrote of her life; the ongoing battle with the doof-doof neighbours, the imagined adventures of her wayward chooks, her ‘arvo’ job and the writing she managed on her commute, life in her local neighbourhood, and her great love of horses and riding the trails with her sister.
She was proud of her Danish heritage and culture. She loved visiting Walhalla in Victoria, and its connection to its Viking namesake. She recommended Danish movies stories. She loved writing. She was delighted by her achievements, her sales and her reviews. And she had some fantastic credentials. Andromeda Spaceway Inflight Magazine, Aurealis, The Tangled Bank, the Bram Stoker nominated Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, Aliens: Recent Encounters as well as her inclusion inThe Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010. Despite all these, and others, she was largely unknown in Australia. She was a quiet achiever.
She wrote to me after one rejection in which the editor informed her he loved her story, he loved the writing. I doubt I could describe her work any better.
“Yours is one of those stories that, if I had more room in the book, would definitely be in. I found this to be very thoughtful, atmospheric, and it held my interest to the end. As always, you have proven yourself a talent for creating descriptive and emotional prose”
“You win some, you lose some 🙂 There were more, nice comments, but that paragraph summed it up best – I almost sent him an email telling him not to worry, that I’m okay with it, but of course it would be unprofessional to respond to a rejection.”
Gitte, as always, was more concerned about the feeling of others than the rejection, of how this editor must feel in not selecting her work. And then she signed off with her characteristic optimism.
“Onwards and upwards.”
I knew she was having health issues, but she would never go into details. I would ask how she was going, and she’d always tell me things were improving, that she’d had some issues, or some surgery, or some pains, but they were pretty much passed now, and she looked forward to being clear of the illness and getting back to work and more serious writing time.
Here’s what she wrote to me in November, 2012:
“I’m well enough – my brain is working again and returning to old habits now that it’s not drugged, but I’m still low in the energy department, and a lot of what I have gets used up at the Arvo Job. But I’m slowly getting there, thank you, and the writing is picking up again, thank goodness, though I constantly have this horrible feeling that I’ve fallen behind by not getting much done this year. Behind what, I’m not sure. Just behind.
Mostly I’m just hanging out for 2013 and hoping THAT will be the year it all comes together :)”
What I only found out recently is that around this time she was told she wouldn’t see Christmas.
In April of this year her blog fell silent. I knew something was up when the end of the month passed without her stats update. Emails were unanswered, and although I knew roughly where she lived, I had no other way of contacting her. I even questioned whether she wanted to be contacted, being as private as she was. I finally managed to get a message to her sister and learned Gitte was having more surgery, was weak, but there was hope she’d be up and about a few weeks later. But, as usual, Gitte didn’t want anyone to know what she was going through. I asked that my thoughts be passed on to her.
A week later I received word that Gitte had little time left. Her life support had been switched off and it was only a matter of when. Determined as always, Gitte vowed that despite the doctors’ prognosis she would continue to fight. She had aggressive cancer. Gitte passed sent me a message of thanks for my thoughts, and congratulated me on a minor success I’d written about. Even at that point she was supporting, encouraging Gitte. Only two months before this Gitte attended Supernova convention, and around the same time went horseriding.
On the 13th June 2014 at 2.15 a.m., Gitte passed peacefully. “Typical Gitte,” said her sister, “waiting for Friday 13th.”
Since then Gitte has sold at least three stories. Her blog will be updated by family from time to time as these become available.
Her writing is still on my shelf. I have our emails filed away. She will not be forgotten by those of us who love her. She’s no longer here on Earth, but Gitte the brave, Danish warrior now feasts in Valhalla.