Remembering Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor

The University of Georgia Press was saddened to learn of the passing of author, poet, culinary anthropologist, NPR host and commentator, writer, and actress Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor on Saturday, September 3 at the age of 79. Below, assistant director for editorial, design, and production, Jon Davies remembers Grosvenor.

By Jon Davies

VibrationCkngA.inddOne of the strange parts of my job is that I get to know so many people by only e-mail or phone. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor was one of those people. Back when we were considering republishing Vibration Cooking, the acquisitions editor, Erika Stevens, drove out to the Carolina coast to meet with Grosvenor and glean from her a preface to the new edition that Grosvenor had had trouble completing. Days later, that preface was in my hands. (During that visit, Stevens also took the photograph of Grosvenor that our designer Erin Kirk New would use, with inspiration from the first edition, for the cover of our edition.)

Grosvenor read e-mails, but she wasn’t much one for responding to them in writing. Of a different era, her preferred method of communication was, if not face-to-face, the phone. And so it was that Vertamae–I switch to her first name now, because that was the tone our professional relationship took–called me to go over what little editing I had done on her new preface. As I recall, she accepted all the changes but one, which we talked about at some length, her going back and forth between what I was recommending and what she had had.

Over the next few years she would call me again from time to time to check on her book sales, to ask about possible promotions (although such questions were really more appropriate for our marketing staff), and to talk about her life, both at the time that she had written the book and in her present circumstances. Much of what she told me about her life overseas, her life in New York, and her experiences with publishing are in the book itself. She took joy in that life, the same way that we can take joy in it now through her book.

She hadn’t called me in quite a while when I heard of her recent passing. I will miss her exuberance and her humor and her laugh. (Vertamae was one of those authors whose voice on the phone sounded much like the one that comes across on the page.) I’m sure many others will as well.

Jon Davies is assistant director for editorial, design, and production at UGA Press.

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