“I drew the line at 13 dogs,” said Bob Cook, Lenard-Cook’s husband. “The most we ever had at one time was six or seven.”
But that 13-dog goal was the only target Lenard-Cook missed. In a life marked with as much determination and organization as it was with talent, Lenard-Cook was an author, editor, publisher and writing coach.
And she lived in such laid-back, fresh-air locales as the Nebraska sandhills, southwest Colorado, Corrales and – finally – Albuquerque’s North Valley.
Lenard-Cook died Sunday following a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 63.
Survivors include her husband; her daughter, Kaitlin Kushner of San Francisco; her mother, Donna Fliegler of Orange, Calif.; two brothers; a community of writers in Albuquerque and beyond; her literary work; and three dogs – Stellaluna, Red and Hera.
“She actually has a new book coming out in 2017,” Bob Cook said. “She was working on it until about a month and a half ago. She finished it. It’s a novel, ‘Her Secret Life.’ ”
Lenard-Cook is probably best known for her first novel, “Dissonance,” first published in 2003 by University of New Mexico Press. It tells how the life of a Los Alamos piano teacher is changed after she inherits the journals and scores of a female composer she does not know.
UNM Press editor Beth Hadas met Lenard-Cook when a mutual friend suggested that UNM Press publish “Dissonance.”
“That was in about 2002, and we hit it off right away,” Hadas said. “I could say I worked on ‘Dissonance’ and on Lisa’s second novel, ‘Coyote Morning’ (UNM Press, 2004). But Lisa’s novels took no work to speak of. She was a relentless self-editor. When she released a manuscript, it was ready to go the printer.”
Hadas said that as a writer, Lenard-Cook was understated, serious and very good at structure.
“One of the things I liked about ‘Dissonance’ was that it had a good plot. It had good bones,” Hadas said.
Lenard-Cook was born on June 23, 1952, in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up in Tonawanda, N.Y., north of Buffalo. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Buffalo and a masters of fine arts in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She taught writing and literature courses at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., from 1992-1997.
In 2009, Lenard-Cook and playwright Lynn C. Miller formed ABQ Writers Co-op, creating a community in New Mexico for writers everywhere. And they founded bosque, a literary magazine that offered encouragement and a venue to many writers who may have otherwise gone undiscovered.
“It fascinated me that bosque has been successful, that the magazine is still going and that Lynn and Lisa reached out and got a broader and broader community of writers,” Hadas said.
“Lisa had so much energy. The last time I saw her, about three weeks ago, her brain was working just fine. She was in control – not just of her faculties but of everything else.”