Aug 24, 2011

Remembering Sandra

Today is a tribute to Sandra Hyatt who was snatched away so suddenly. All thoughts are with her family and friends in this time of loss.

To mark her passing, those of us who knew her thought we'd like to share some of our memories of Sandra, a talented writer with hair as irrepressible as her bubbly and warm personality.

My most vivid memory of Sandra is in San Francisco. We were in the same workshop and as soon as I came into the room, I knew something was up. She always had a merry expression but on that morning, she was lit up like a candle and shifting in her seat like a kid on a swing. Happiness beat off her in palpable waves.

She had just received the call. She couldn’t stop grinning and bursting into laughter as we talked about how long and how hard the road seems when all you meet with is rejection and then – one day, just like that – the miracle happens.

That’s how I will always remember Sandra, incandescent with joy.

In New York City recently I took a photograph of Sandra’s book-signing spot because an ash-cloud prevented her from flying over to be at that conference and to be there for the announcement of her RITA nomination. I was so saddened for her even though I’d heard that she was handling the disappointment with her typical grace and humour. There was a lovely blue RITA flag at her vacant signing spot. I kept meaning to email that picture to her but kept getting busy and forgetting. That image feels almost portentous and it saddens me that I never sent it.

It’s yet another reminder that we should never put off until tomorrow what feels important today.

Sandra, your heart and passion will live on through the stories you wrote.

I have lots of lovely memories of Sandra and one I'd like to share is from the year she MC'd the RWNZ conference.

Sandra had collected a series of really bad jokes to tell throughout the weekend in between introducing speakers and keeping the conference on track. She always started with "Have you heard the one about...?" or "Do you know the joke about...?" By the end of the weekend Sandra only had to ask the question and we'd all be laughing.

Her ready smile and continuous enthusiasm made her a popular member of our organisation, and I for one will miss her deeply.

I've known Sandra since I first joined Romance Writers of New Zealand. In fact, Sandra and RWNZ are inseparable in my head -- I think of RWNZ, I think of Sandra; I think of Sandra, I think of RWNZ.

Sandra was unpublished when I first met her, and I remember how obviously talented she was, finalling in or winning competition after competition. I also remember her incredible strength and determination as each submission to Harlequin was rejected. Another person might have given up; Sandra didn't. She kept on writing, kept on submitting, kept her eyes firmly on her goal.

I vividly remember Sandra selling at the Romance Writers of America San Francisco conference -- her excitement, her joy. It was a marvellous moment! If anyone deserved to sell, Sandra did. She persevered when it was tough, not just for months, but for years. She showed us all that if you try hard enough, you can achieve your dreams.

Sadly, Sandra only got to live the dream for a couple of years. I just can't get my head around the fact that she's gone, that I won't see her at the next conference, with her fabulous, crazy, curly hair and her wide smile and her enthusiasm.

My heart goes out to Sandra's family. I can't begin to imagine how they must be feeling right now.

I first met Sandra at an RWNZ conference before we were both published. She was vibrant and warm and we easily fell into conversation. Then later we both sold to Desire within weeks of each other, and developed a newbie-buddy relationship as we navigated the same waters.  
She was always generous and happy and spoke so lovingly of her husband and children. 

I'm still shocked at her passing, both personally and as part of the romance community - we've lost a beautiful light. But her wonderful stories will live on, in the books she wrote for us all. Be at peace, Sandra.

Word of a person’s kindness and generosity spreads quickly. I had known of Sandra – her enthusiasm, talent and loyalty - long before ‘meeting’ her myself. I was thrilled when she sold. Was quick to help the few times she had questions. I have enjoyed her stories immensely. As I write this, her latest - a ‘Book of the Month’ - sits on my bedside table.

Recently, when I couldn’t make a North American conference, Sandra offered to collect an award on my behalf should I happen to win. I remember her email - so genuinely excited for me – passing on the good news. She then organised for my pin to reach me safely.

Although we never met in person, I count Sandra as a true friend, a rare and beautiful person who will always be remembered and loved.

When I think of Sandra, I remember her beautiful big smile. I met Sandra at my first conference when I was so nervous about being surrounded by other writers, and she made me feel at ease. 

Like me, she saw those closest to her sell their manuscripts when she herself didn't for some time, but she was so positive about the success of her friends. When I heard that Sandra sold her first book, I was delighted. To me, she seemed the most hard working, deserving author, and I always loved hearing about her successes. I screamed like I'd sold my own first book when I heard she'd received 'the call'!

I will miss seeing Sandra each year at conference, but I will never forget that beautiful smile of hers.

The first time I met Sandra was at my first RWNZ conference - she chatted to me for ages at the dinner and was so friendly and warm. She was always interested and had a wonderful ability to bring a smile to your face. She was so stylish. And so talented. She was also incredibly generous and gracious. 

I looked forward to seeing Sandra every year at conference and I was so thrilled when she sold her first book. That talent had finally been brought to the world, and was being recognised. 

Together with Zana, Sandra and I presented a workshop in Christchurch last year, and we had a wonderful night staying with Soraya. I remember the laughs, that amazing sweep of curly hair, and most of all that smile.

It was my very great privilege to spend time with Sandra, Tessa, Adele and Karina late on Friday night at the conference just last week. With a couple of others we spent an hour or so laughing and discussing books. That time I will treasure forever. I was so lucky to have known such a vibrant, lovely, fun person.

If you have any memories of Sandra, or if you've read her fabulous books, please feel free to share and help us celebrate her life as a writer and as a friend.


  1. I remember her asking on the eHarlequin blog if she should go to New York. I was so happy for her when she decided to go and so sad for her when the ash kept her at home. She was disappointed but didn't whine about it. Her smile in all the pictures that I've seen of her is so beautiful. It made you want to smile along. It's so sad that she passed away so young. At least she leaves a legacy of six and I'm hoping seven books.

  2. I have read Sandra's books and it saddened me greatly to hear that such a talented author and person was taken away from our midst so suddenly. I loved reading her books.

    My heartfelt condolences go out to her family and friends.

  3. Sandy always had a big beautiful smile, was always gracious and kind and generous in her support of her fellow writer. And those Bar Jokes when she MC'd our conference. *She* made the weekend - I can't remember anything else from it really! And that gorgeous hair. We'd joke about what a crime it was to straighten such glorious locks. She was so proud of her family. I remember us speaking at Annie's Christmas function before Sarah was heading off on her exchange trip. Like any good Mum Sandra was both excited for her daughter and worried! She was so proud of her (and relieved when she returned home) and said her daughter had returned home a beautifully matured young woman. We both have sons called Matthew - in fact many of our Auckland Chapter do! We figured that many of our birth notices for those boys would have been around the same time, but before we had met. I am so grateful to have known Sandra. She will continue to inspire me as a person and as a writer. Many of us have spoken about her tragic loss as being the (awful) motivation we needed to take our dreams seriously and to work hard (as she did). She was a beautiful soul who blessed us with her presence. Kia Kaha Sandy

    x Shar

  4. I was so shocked when I heard about Sandra on Sunday. I felt completely shattered. I use to chat with her on twitter and connect on FB. And her books are awesome.

    Many years later, a reader would pick up one of her book and learn something or just be stronger by being influenced by something she wrote, that would be a tribute to her and her writing.

  5. Sandra was such a wonderful and fabulous person, and it is a shame that she left us so soon. I love her books and her talent, and wish I had been able to meet her in person just once. My sympathy goes out to all of you, her close friends, and her family.

  6. I first met Sandra over ten years ago when she befriended me at my very first RWNZ conference. I was such a newbie, so like Emily said, for me the RWNZ has always been linked to Sandra.

    Over the years we've always kept in touch and from the moment I read one of her manuscripts I knew she would sell because she was such an amazing writer. Which was why it was even more special to see her in San Fransisco about half an hour after she finally received her long waited for call!

    There are no words to describe how sad I feel that she has gone and my heart goes out to her family and her closest friends. They really are in my thoughts.

  7. I was incrediably saddened to hear about Sandra. My thoughts are with her family and friends. What a lovely tribute -- it is wonderful to read such happy memories of her.

  8. This is just a wonderful tribute. I love reading the stories and I've cried with each one.
    I have my own memories of Sandra and they mirror many of yours. Her bubbly personality and the way she was so eager to help others will always stand out.
    I met Sandra in person (we'd chatted a great deal online) in Orlando. She was so excited to be doing the Harlequin signing. I wanted a pic with her because I had just sold and she was so happy for me. That picture is so precious to me now.
    I only wish I'd known her longer. She was a bright light in so many lives and I can't fathom what her family and close friends are going through.
    My prayers go out to each of them and I know Sandra is smiling down from heaven and plotting her next story.

  9. I never had the pleasure of meeting Sandra so it's lovely to read all your memories of her and to feel the love in your words. She was obviously a wonderful, warm person as well as a talented rising star in her career.

    It's such a sad loss for her family and everyone close to her and my heart goes out to you all.

  10. I was gutted when I heard the news. Sandra was so full of life and joy and enthusiasm, and to me she is synonymous with what RWNZ is all about. Friendliness, support, and determination to succeed as a writer.

    I too was very grateful when Sandra noticed my "newbie" status at conference a few years ago and made a point of putting me at ease. It seems to have been one of her special skills.

    When I MC'd at last year's Christchurch workshop I asked Sandra to give me some details about herself for my introductions. Her response? "Would love to think of something funny or quirky for you to mention but mostly I'm just dead boring." Which of course she proved absolutely wrong within seconds of standing to speak! Her self-deprecating humour had us all laughing along with her, but what stood out for me was her deep love of both her family and writing.

  11. I did not have the chance to meet Sandra, but she wrote wonderful books, and her personality lives on in the many warm and affectionate tributes of those who knew her. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.

  12. I'd seen Sandra's name in the RWNZ newsletters so often finalling in one contest or another, that if it wasn't there, I'd get a shock! And then I heard she'd finally sold and was so thrilled for the hardest-working of romance writers.

    Four of us travelled from Nelson to attend the Christchurch conference where Sandra was speaking amongst others. I'll never forget how nervous she was! She was short of breath and apologizing for it with that beautiful smile of hers. The fact she was nervous only endeared her more to us. I loved how approachable she was and she seemed to really listen when you spoke to her.

    Like everyone, I'm so very sad this amazingly talented and vibrant woman was taken from us so soon. Much love to all who are hurting so much right now. Rest assured, she will never be forgotten.

  13. I was never lucky enough to know Sandra, but I tear up every time I read a tribute about her. She was an angel on earth and she's now one in heaven.

  14. On the "Diamonds down under blog" was the first place I encountered Sandra in 2008. She won a chance to get her book reviewed by an editor and she posted her progress leading up to her first book contract. On the Desire blog I looked forward to her posts. She was a gifted writer.

  15. Like Avi, I "met" Sandra on the
    Diamonds Down Under and Desire
    Authors blogs. She was such a
    joy-filled person who made me wish
    I could meet her in person. Prayers
    and positive thoughts are sent to
    her family and all who were happy,
    and privileged, to call her friend.

    Pat Cochran

  16. Thank you, LoveCats, for sharing your stories about Sandra. I was so shocked to hear of her passing. My heartfelt sympathies to Sandra's family, many friends and fans.

  17. Sandra was my friend...we first met in Tauranga at another friend's home and we formed a tight little writer's group. She used to get so frustrated when her writing wouldn't turn out as she wanted it. Once I remember nursing Matthew, then a toddler, as she read me her latest endeavour...and that glorious smile when I was so good. Little Matthew joined in so enthusiastically we both cracked up laughing.

    And in an incredible twist of fate when she moved with her family it was to the small village where I grew up.

    Sleep easy dear girl...and enjoy writing in God's garden. Our lives are so much richer for having known you, Sandra.

    "The petals of life may softly fall, but gently God stoops and gathers them all."

  18. Sandra will be greatly missed, both as a person and writer. No one will forget her smile.
    Zana I also remember her joy at the San Francesco conference when she received the Call. Loved her jokes when she MCs our conference!
    Sandra was also the writer chosen to write the teaser story for the Riccadonna.
    My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

  19. I'm so sad about Sandra's passing. She was such an amazingly talented writer and a really lovely lady. I read her first book and absolutely loved it so I emailed her to tell her so and we've kept up a fairly regular correspondence since. I loved hearing from her - she was smart and funny and genuine. She will be greatly missed. Deepest sympathies to her friends and family.

  20. Thanks everyone for sharing those lovely memories. I met Sandra at an RWNZ conference and found her fun and engaging and lovely. I was looking forward to getting to know her better with more NZ visits in future.

    I'm still shocked by the news and am sending them to those of you who were close.

  21. All of these tributes to Sandra are beautiful. I wish I'd known her -- she sounds like the most wonderful and special woman. All my heartfelt sympathies to Sandra's family and her many, many friends.

  22. I met Sandra a few times while living in New Zealand. My dominant memory is of a smiling, happy face - and, of course, that crazy curly hair. We bonded over curls at an author dinner once, discussing tips for avoiding frizz. She was a lovely writer and a lovely woman and my heart goes out to her writing friends as well as her family.

  23. I only met Sandra at the RWNZ conferences but she always had a smile and time for newbie authors. She always offered encouragement. I was inspired by her determination to follow her dreams. It finally happened and I think all of RWNZ celebrated with her. And look what she achieved in such a short time once she was published.
    She will be missed!
    My thoughts and love are with her family.

  24. I'm sitting here thinking that we should *all* be so lucky that, on leaving this earth, we discover we have touched so many people in so many different ways. What an amazing woman and, clearly, what an amazing friend.

    I have confidence that her young family will endure this well--they will have learned much about strength and character and resilience from their beautiful mother.

    My heart goes out to all the Hydes.


  25. I still can't quite believe it. I didn't really know Sandra personally - but I chatted to her at the last Auckland chapter meeting in early August and then recently again at the RWNZ conference. We walked to the Harlequin dinner together on Thursday evening, talked aimlessly about teenagers and shoes! She was a wonderful warm and selfless person who clearly loved her job and her family. She will be sorely missed by all.

  26. Thankyou for sharing your stories of Sandra. Her vibrancy and generosity of spirit shines out in every post. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family and friends.

  27. Such lovely stories my heart goes out to her family and friends this is soo sad


  28. This is such a beautiful tribute and way to remember Sandra. I never met her, but of course I knew of her. Hearing about her passing was a shock. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all who knew her.

  29. I didn’t know Sandra well. We shared the odd facebook message, and only met face to face once at the Melbourne 2008 RWA conference. It was the cocktail party, and she was standing with Yvonne Lindsey who was telling me she’d heard a rumor that I had I sold that day. The rumor was true and so was the fact Sandra had sold herself at the RWA America conference only a few weeks earlier. But the thing I remember most about Sandra was that smile. One of the most wonderful smiles I have ever seen. Sandra smiled with her whole face, her whole body even. And you had to smile back, you just couldn’t help it. The world has lost something very special when we lost that smile.

  30. My strongest memory was walking into the lift at the SF Conference and finding Sandra -- one of those chance meetings in a huge hotel -- very soon after her first-sale call. She was so radiant and thrilled and thankful, yet we'd all known she was SO ready for the call and the opportunity to get her stories out to readers.

    All my memories of Sandra are from conferences, in NZ and America, and she always looked stunning, with her gorgeous hair and her infectious smile and the way she rocked an awards-night frock.

    I said all my memories were from conferences, but that's not quite right because I also "saw" Sandra in her books and on writers loops where her warmth and caring always shone through.

  31. It has been very moving to read these tributes as they came streaming in. I would like to thank everyone for sharing their memories and special moments.

    What a rich legacy she leaves and she will continue to live on in people's hearts and in her books.

    Rest in peace, Sandra.

  32. You know- after reading these messages- maybe I am getting the place we met confused. I think it may have been RWA San Francisco not melbourne. While the time and place may be confused- the memory of that smile is not.

  33. so saddened to hear of Sandra's passing. The romance world has lost a wonderful author.
    Deepest condolences to her family and friends.