The Quad Cities lost a great writer and friend of the written word with the passing of David R. Collins of Moline on Tuesday, July 17, at the age of 61. The short list of his achieve-ments include writing more than 75 published books and being a founding member of Writers Studio, a founder of the Mississippi Valley Writers Conference, and a much-loved teacher of 35 years.

Longer still is the list of those touched by him, taught by him, and led by him. I'm one of the lucky many who knew him, called him a friend, and learned a great deal from him on the art and craft of writing.

I first met him at Writers Studio, the oldest writing group in the Quad Cities. I was struggling with my first novel, wondering why no one wanted to buy it, having all sorts of unanswered questions about style, technique, marketing, presentation, genre, and much more.

It was with some trepidation that I brought the first chapter to a meeting at Writers Studio. It seemed like a friendly bunch of people, but I wasn't sure where I fit in. Across the table was a round-faced man with a cherub-like smile - David Collins. A couple of jokes were made about us having the same last name, and then I started reading.

There was a moment of dead silence after I was done, and with each second, my heart got heavier. I was the only one writing hardboiled mystery, and I didn't know how it would stack up next to the romance and poetry other people had brought to read. Then Dave spoke. He started out with a compliment. Then he gave me some gentle advice on the weak sections, where dialogue didn't sound right and some other things I've long since forgotten.

Looking back at that first chapter, I now realize how badly written it was; my head hurts when I try to read it. But I remember how Dave reached out to a struggling writer and gave him hope - unselfishly, not for any gain, but just because that was the kind of person he was.

One of the reasons I wanted to write was to leave a legacy - something that people would remember me by after I was gone. David Collins has not only left a body of work, but many, many of us who will not ever forget how he helped, led, and inspired us to be the best writers we could be. One of Dave's dreams, the Mississippi Valley Writers Conference, will continue on. Dave built it into one of the premier writing conferences in the Midwest, complete with award-winning writers as conference leaders. All of us who participated in the conference will miss Dave and Max Allan Collins trading quips and insults during the awards banquet. We also will miss the energy brought to the conference by Dave and his infectious good humor.

A longtime dream, the Midwest Writing Center - a home for writers to come to learn and work with their craft and art - has not yet come to fruition. Money has been raised for a number of years, but it still isn't enough for a permanent home for the Center. Please help make Dave's dream come alive by contributing to the Midwest Writing Center; P.O. Box 4971; Rock Island, Illinois 61201.

Goodbye Dave. You'll be missed.

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