Remembering Ramona DeFelice Long

The Wickeds lost a friend on October 23rd. Ramona DeFelice Long was a F.O.W. (Friend of the Wickeds), a guest poster, and a commenter on the blog. She was a writer, editor, and writing teacher par excellence, and her talents for friendship and community-building were even greater. Ramona was a smart, funny, opinionated, generous woman who will be much missed throughout the writing community. Each of the Wickeds had a unique relationship with Ramona. Here are some of our memories, along with those of Wicked Accomplice alumna Kim Gray.

At Clare House about four years ago: KB Inglee, Edith, Ramona, and Kim

Edith: Ramona was a bright light in my life for the last decade since we met at the Seascape weekend workshop (where I also met Kim Kurth-Gray and Liz, and firmed up my connection with Sherry and Barb). Ramona made me laugh and made me think. She was a fierce proponent of women, and a political commenter who did not treat bullies and fools lightly. Her insightful editing vastly improved each of my Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Several times I was lucky enough to spend some days with her and a few other writers at a convent retreat house near Philadelphia, where we worked all day and told stories all evening. The seven AM sprint club she started a number of years ago begins my writing day in the best of ways, and the group continues, although in sadness. Ramona’s passing leaves a huge hole in my life and in the lives of so many.

Ramona at Seascape with S.W. Hubbard and Kim Gray.

Sherry: I too met Ramona at Seascape (a wonderful writers conference put on by Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette, and Susan Hubbard) in 2009 along with meeting Barb, Edith, Kim, and Liz. Ramona had such a great smile and sharp wit. I never realized how many times I think about her — it’s usually small things like when I heard the weather or Delaware or I was getting out one of my vintage tablecloths because Ramona collected them too. I thought of her again when I heard the news of Sean Connery passing because many people have said he’s the greatest Bond ever. But I love Daniel Craig as Bond. Ramona called him the Blonde Bond. She will be in my heart forever.

Jessie: Ramona was someone I had heard of long before I met her a few years ago at Crime Bake and so it felt as though I was encountering a friend from the first moment we were in the same physical space. She was vivacious, witty, direct and the sort of woman I always deeply admire. I wish I could have known her better.

Kim: When I close my eyes I see Ramona sitting in her chair in the sunroom at Clare House, an old farm house we’d rent a few times a year. She’s deep in thought over the novel she’s working on, or watching the deer move slowly from the woods past the windows. People say “If those walls could talk,” but if they could, they’d not gotten a word in between the two of us. That was the main thing we had in common, she and I could talk for hours about anything and everything. We solved world problems, put together a stellar cast for the next adaptation of Rebecca, and fiercely defended our opinions {hers negative, mine positive} about Gone with the Wind. We traveled together, ate more crab cake lunches than I can count, and went on more retreats than I’d have thought possible. Ramona introduced me to the writing life.

She was an excellent teacher and knew how to encourage and get the best work out of writers with her insightful edits. A few months ago she sent me a card. It read ‘You Are Braver than You Think’, something she had often told me. If I am brave it is because I had her as an example.

Julie: Kim, what a wonderful remembrance. Edith and Sherry, I envy you your Seascape memories. I wish I’d gone for so many reasons. I knew Ramona by crossing paths at conferences, and being her Facebook friend. One of my favorite memories was seeing her at the New Orleans Bouchercon, where she introduced me to her sister Annette. The sisters were at Malice last year (I think it was last year) as well. Ramona was very private, which I respect. When she stepped away from teaching a Guppies class, Kim connected us and I took over teaching it. Huge shoes to fill, but I try. Ramona was a talented writer, amazing teacher, fierce feminist and wonderful woman. May her memory be a blessing to us all, and a call to arms to do better writing and be better people.

A Seascape reunions of sorts at Crime Bake. Ramona is on the right.

Barb: I met Ramona at Seascape, too. We connected over our mutual love of short stories and Ruth Rendell. For years she used my book Clammed Up in her mystery classes as an example for how to set a ticking clock. I was so flattered by that. At the last Malice Domestic (that was actually held) Ramona, her sister Annette, Kim, all the Wickeds and others gathered in Jessie’s room after the banquet. Ramona and I ended up sitting on Jessie’s bed together. We talked for a long time. About what we were working on and what we were reading, as all writers do. But then we veered into more personal stuff. We talked about our granddaughters, our childhoods and our homes. I am so, so grateful that I will have that conversation always.

Liz: I love all these stories. I’d actually forgotten, Barb, that I first met Ramona at Seascape as well. Over the years we didn’t see each other a lot in person, but I spent some time with her at various Crime Bakes and Malices, and she was every bit as inspiring, fun and cool as she is online. In 2016 at Bouchercon, she and Kim and I snuck away for a coffee one morning and it was the highlight of the conference. (The picture below is from that coffee date.) She was such a special, warm person. That was the last time I saw her in person, but since then her posts on social media have been something I looked forward to pretty much daily. She had a way of making you feel connected and part of her inner circle, and her posts were always thought-provoking and sassy and so, well, Ramona. The loss of her is still shocking to me.

Readers: Do you have memories of Ramona? If you do, we would love you to share them here.

In addition to her great friendship and support, Ramona left us her beautiful book, The Murderess of Bayou Rosa.

In the summer of 1920, the town of Bayou Rosa, Louisiana is in its twilight, but hope arrives with the construction of a new railroad depot. The brighter future is imperiled when a free-spirited local woman shoots her lover in the back, but won’t say why. Now, the town is faced with a legal and moral dilemma. With rows of new graves in the cemetery from a devastating world war and influenza epidemic, can a jury of twelve men vote to hang a woman they’ve seen grow up since birth?

If you would like to purchase this fabulous book, you can do so here.

52 Thoughts

  1. Ramona was an insightful gifted editor and a warm and amazing friend. I miss her every day. My favorite memory is sitting on a bench in the hotel lobby at a Pennwriters conference in Lancaster PA and giggling like sisters at the human parade passing by because in addition to writers the hotel was hosting a local high school prom in one room and a gospel choir in another. I had just met her and we immediately clicked. She was like that. Thanks for the tribute.

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  2. I knew Ramona online well before I knew her in person. Every day I read the Lipstick Chronicles blog and she was a frequent commenter. She was also a regular on our Working Stiffs blog along with some other Pennwriters and Sisters in Crime. I first met her in person at a Pennwriters conference. I was sitting alone and she came and sat with me. I don’t even remember what we talked about, but she told me she was glad she got to know me better. Ramona was all about other people. She was one of the most unselfish people I’d ever met.

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  3. I was never fortunate enough to meet Ramona in person. Instead we met over the first Guppy anthology. I was the Guppy president at the time and Ramona graciously edited the book. She was amazing, funny, and always had a good story to hand.

    Years later I became a member of the morning sprint club. Which still starts my day. Even if writing does not ensue, the mindset is there and I’m grateful. I so regret not meeting her in person.

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  4. I e-met Ramona in 2013 when I first discovered the mystery community. She gave me the simplest note on a synopsis that made all the difference. We connected on our mutual love of Cajun Country – she was a native, I was an observer. She was an amazing woman on every level. Before she left us, I shared my trick for making bookplates with her . I hope she got to make them.

    Buy her book. It’s exquisite.

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    1. She always told me that I needed to get to know you better, Ellen, so we need to make that happen. i’ll hopefully be in Cali next year, or perhaps we can carve out some special time at Malice next year.
      Agree, her book is wonderful.
      xoxo, Cindy

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  5. I’m so happy to see this that I’m crying. She loved her writing community and the Wickeds so much and she’d love this tribute. I miss her very much. This is a lovely and sweet post. Thanks, Wickeds.

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  6. I met Ramona in the late 90s when I joined SCBWI in Western Pennsylvania. I was going through a crucible in my life – appropriate for living in Pittsburgh, I suppose – with my younger sister struggling with cancer and my marriage crumbling while I was finding my voice as an author. She was there when I landed my first book contract, and larger than life as part of the writing retreats we’d go on in Greensburg. She’d won a work-in-progress grant and was working on a YA set in her beloved Louisiana. We bonded over “hot rocks” and “Specialman,” among other totems that inspired storytelling. And long evenings swapping tales of our travels.

    While I lost track of Ramona for many years after my sister died and I moved away, I found her again on Facebook and resumed a virtual friendship. We’d taken different paths: me deeply into nonfiction, her following her bliss of storytelling. She was one of those rare people who I “starred” on Facebook to be sure to see her every post. Her positive influence was infectious, including urging me on to finally finish a draft novel by tackling NaNoWriMo in 2018. I am grateful to be part of Ramona’s Sprint Club, and it keeps me motivated, even though she was the only one there that I knew in real life.

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  7. I met Ramona via my chapter of Sisters in Crime. She taught an online class for us and I remember her being tough, but so encouraging. She edited my very first Laurel Highlands mystery short story. I am convinced her series of blog posts on Louisiana bayou culture helped get my short story “Three Rivers Voodoo” accepted into the New Orleans Bouchercon anthology. I loved meeting up with her at Malice. And I remember her visiting us in Pittsburgh for one of our annual retreats. She was not the instructor that year, but we had a ton of laughs as we sat in the lounge while he read his “bobble-head-isms” and Martha Reed acted them out. I loved her laugh. Martha, do you remember that? We were at the Greensburg retreat center that year.

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  8. I don’t think I ever had the pleasure of meeting her in person but we were Facebook friends. Although I never got myself together enough to join her sprints, I did like the posts! lol The thing that stood out for me was how outspoken she was and supportive of inclusion. It especially meant a lot to me as an outspoken woman of color because a lot of people will quietly support you (send you a message because they are too afraid of rocking the boat publicly) so to see this straight cis white woman I didn’t know who felt just as passionately about issues as I did was inspiring and meant so much.

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  9. I met Ramona online via The Lipstick Chronicle blog, and was drawn to her immediately. We became Facebook friends, and I started following her Sprint Club postings, even though I was a reader, not a writer (though very interested in the craft).

    She invited me to sit with her at a recent Crime Bake dinner, and we talked for a couple of hours. Her directness was admirable, and her dry wit so appealed to me – she was funny without being mean. I will treasure how happy she was when, two weeks after I retired, I finally actually started writing instead of just talking about it. As Liz said above, she made you feel part of her inner circle, and welcome there.

    She told me about her condition back in March, and it just broke my heart. I miss her every day.

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  10. I’ve been trying to remember the very first time I met Ramona in person. I think it was our local Sisters in Crime chapter’s “Great Flood and Writing Retreat” in 2010, but I felt like I already knew her by then. Anyhow, just the mention of that particular event would send us both into fits of giggles. Since then, there have been Malice Domestics and Pennwriters Conferences and Bouchercons. There have been workshops, online and face-to-face. There have been those fabulous retreats at Clare House, of which I regret not attending more. She was my first editor and one of my biggest cheerleaders. Back in August, she heard I was starting to query agents and reached out to me, offering her list of researched agents, which she’d compiled when she still planned to go traditional for The Murderess. I accepted and she happily sent it and much encouragement. Not long ago (probably the same time she sent the note to Kim about being brave), she sent me a note that read “You are beautiful. Believe it.” It sits on my desk now and always. The thing about that agent search… two days after her death, I received and accepted an offer of representation. You’ll never convince me she’s not up there pulling strings.

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  11. I have tears in my eyes as I read all of your wonderful memories of my sister. Ramona loved all of you. She loved her writing tribe, retreats, and conferences.
    I will never forget the time she and I spent together at Bouchercon and Malice. For Ramona it was a time to have fun with her tribe and for me, an avid mystery reader and retired librarian, it was like paradise hobnobbing with some of my favorite authors. The last Malice we attended, Ramona was ill, but no one really could tell. She paced herself. Went back to our room to rest and nap. Ramona was strong snd ever so brave until the end. Thank you ladies for such a wonderful tribute.

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  12. I adored Ramona and met her and her wonderful sister at Bouchercon in New Orleans and also at Malice. But the best part was that as my editor, she made me strive harder than I thought I could. She had such a gentle but firm hand in taking your story to new heights. We also shared the trials and joys of managing elderly Southern mothers through phone calls. She will be missed by so many. What a wonderful legacy.

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  13. Oh, Wickeds. What a wonderful tribute to our “good, good friend.” I first met Ramona through the Guppies, though she wasn’t a member long; Kait brilliantly hired her to edit our first anthology, and her kind words on my story, which leads the book, were just what I needed in those days. Years later, I hired her to edit a couple of my cozies and my Stagecoach Mary Fields short stories, which improved so much with her comments. I learned so much from her — technical craft elements, but primarily about writing about relationships, which are the heart of any story, even crime fiction. When she wasn’t able to edit my last ms., she offered to read it as a reader, and even at that level, she improved the story. We didn’t meet until Bouchercon NOLA in 2016, and then saw each other at Malice every year after that. She was fun and smart and brave, and I am both a better writer and a better person for having known her.

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  14. What wonderful memories. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her in person (at least I don’t think so), but I certainly “knew” her because the mystery community is like that. It is obvious she was a wonderful person.

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  15. the funny thing is I don’t remember how I met Ramona. I know it was online. Probably one of my morning greetings. We did meet in person at one of the convention and I remember the lovely breakfast we had.

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  16. We first met virtually on The Lipstick Chronicles blog and later on Facebook. I live in the St. Louis area and when Ferguson happened I made a comment about some of the media distorting what was happening and Ramona messaged me. That was the start of many wonderful conversations via messenger. I finally met Ramona and her sister Annette in person at Malice. She was a lovely person who made each person she was around feel special. I’m not a writer but so enjoyed getting to know her. I really loved her novel and am glad it was published this year. I will miss her wit and honest opinions.

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  17. I was a year after you guys at Seascape, so I met Ramona virtually before finally meeting her at Crimebake. She edited my first two manuscripts and I appreciated her guidance, insight, wit, and yes, her gentleness with a newbie who had no place even thinking about finding an agent/publisher. Her editing and the accountability of her morning sprinters group kept me plugging along. She was fun, smart, talented, and I’m so glad she was in my life.

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  18. I also first met Ramona back in the days of TLC, before becoming Facebook friends. We bonded over our Cajun/Louisiana heritage, and funny stories. I’m sad that I never had the privilege of meeting her in real life, but happy I got to read The Murderess shortly after it was published, and got to tell her how much I enjoyed it. She was so warm, witty, helpful and generous. She will be greatly missed by so many of us.

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