Lisa Wolfson, who wrote under the name LK Madigan, died February 23 in a Portland hospice, just eight weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 47.
Lisa was born in Portland and raised here until she was 10, when her family moved to Southern California. She moved back to Portland in 1991.
Even as a child, Lisa dreamed of being a published author. When she was eight, she wrote her first book, called Mermaid's Fun, 78 handwritten and illustrated pages. She said, "The mermaids in my childhood manuscript sounded a lot like my sister, my friends, and me … except they possessed tails and the ability to breathe underwater. The mermaid who most resembled me was, funnily enough, a princess!"
Lisa's first book, Flash Burnout, was published in 2009. It received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, and won the 2010 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, which honors impressive new voices in young adult literature. The American Library Association named it a Best Book for Young Adults. Publishers Weekly also chose Lisa as a "Flying Start" author. Flash Burnout is about fifteen-year-old Blake, who has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him. It is a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, which will be announced April 25, the day before what would have been her 48th birthday.
Her second book, The Mermaid's Mirror, about a girl drawn to the sea, was published in October. At signings, she would show the audience pages from her original mermaid manuscript.
Lisa made a point of supporting other authors, especially debut authors or those who were not yet published. She attended signings, bought dozens (if not hundreds) of books, sent emails of praise and encouragement, and gave many helpful tips on her blog.
A 20-year survivor of breast cancer, Lisa announced on her blog in early January that she had pancreatic cancer. "I'm not angry about the diagnosis," she wrote. "How can I feel angry when I had this gift of time? I'm not even afraid of dying. We all die, and I made my peace with that a long time ago."
Lisa used those 20 years well and fulfilled many dreams. She moved to Portland, gave birth to her son, and wrote two well-received books.
(At the October launch at Powells for Lisa's and my books - me [looking bug-eyed], Suzanne Young, Lisa, and Lauren Kate)
Lisa is survived by her husband and teenage son. A trust fund has been established to benefit her son; donations may be sent to the Nathan Wolfson Trust, c/o Becker Capital Management, 1211 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 2185, Portland, OR 97204.