A good friend, one of my favorite people, in fact, died this morning. I am going to miss Angela Consolo Mankiewicz.
If you were to ask me to describe her, I’d say she was beautiful, honest, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and wise. She loved poetry and good stories. She loved learning. She loved classical music and playing the piano. She loved her friends and helping people and reaching out to people. She loved her cats very much. She loved her husband fiercely.
Someone told me recently that there are four levels of friendship in Los Angeles. The first is dropping off and picking up your friend at LAX (the airport). The second is not telling the cops where the bodies are buried. The third is helping your friend bury the bodies. The fourth is reading his or her manuscript or screenplay. Once Angela took a friend under her wing, she was willing to read his or her manuscript and thoughtfully go through it, give good feedback and advice on where to go, and cheer them on. She was one of the best writerly cheerleaders I ever had. She was also honest in her feedback and critique without being harsh or dismissive. It was usable and constructive and thoughtful. That can be a rare thing, especially in this town, which is full of competitive writers.
I first met Angela when I began going to the Miracle Mile Writers Club, back in 2006. Back then we were trying to become part of the California Writers Club and met at the Fairfax Library once a month to talk about the business part of writing. We were a motley crew of writers at all different levels in a variety of genres. We didn’t always know where we were headed as a group, or as individual writers. Angela wasn’t looking for a critique group (which we weren’t); she came looking to spend time with fellow writers. She was patient with newbies and veterans, those who were quiet and talkative. If she judged people it was to see how kind they were to others.
She was a poet and was also working on a libretto for a science fiction opera when I first met her. I loved her work; loved her voice. She was a Pushcart Prize Nominee in 2010. She had worked on her poetry and writing, developed it, understood the work it took to be serious at this thing called writing. And she was willing to read mine.
She understood the stops and starts that happen with writing. She even liked my most recent short story, which is still looking for a home. I will miss having her at my back, cheering me on.
After our writers group broke up a few years ago, and we all went our separate ways, Angela and I would still meet for coffee or tea, and to talk over life, love, annoyances, and of course our writing. She also liked to have writers over at her house to talk about the universe, love, hate, politics, prejudice, and how to solve the world’s problems. New Year’s Day I would have dinner with she and her husband and our friend Rose. These were solid, cherished times for me.
She had been sick for a while — non-smoking lung cancer — but fighting it every step of the way. It was only in the last month that she deteriorated so quickly. Only over the last week did friends and family understand that this was it. She was on her way out. Some of us rushed over to see her one more time when we heard, but even then, her voice, that vital and vibrant Brooklyn accent, was stilled as she slipped into sleep, and eventually, several days later, slipped away from us completely on a bright and sunny Los Angeles morning.