Holly Prado, an admired poet, fiction writer and educator who championed what she came to see as Los Angeles’ under-recognized literary scene, has died at the age of 81.
Prado was proofreading her latest book, “Weather,” at the time of her death June 14 in West Hills, the Los Angeles Times reported. The cause of her death was complications from sepsis and a kidney infection, said her husband, Harry Northup, an actor and poet.
Prado walked away from the conventions of the working world as a young woman and decided instead to pursue her yearnings to be creative, first as an educator and then as a poet, a fiction writer and a mentor to others who found inspiration in the written word, according to The Times.
“When I first started writing full time in 1973, I told myself I am not going to get rich doing this; I am doing this because I love writing,” she once said. Years prior, she echoed that sentiment in a letter she wrote to her parents: “No, dear parents, your darling daughter hasn’t decided what to do with her life. I would like to a. write b. be an intellectual bum c. dabble in art. These choices offer no income, no security.”
Born in 1938 in Lincoln, Nebraska, Prado was the daughter of a homemaker and a newspaper circulation manager. Captivated by the moon in the daytime sky, she wrote her first poem at 10. Her mother, who praised and encouraged her early writing, died when Prado was 16. Her death, Northup said, was the source of Prado*s creativity.
During her teens, her family moved to Michigan, where Prado later received her bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1960. After graduating she moved to Los Angeles and worked at a lawyer’s office in downtown. Dissatisfied with the job, she decided to pursue teaching and received her credentials from Cal State L.A.
While teaching high school English for eight years, Prado yearned to have more time to do what she loved most. So she quit to commit her life full time to creative writing. In her home, she taught private creative writing classes for more than 40 years. With more time to write, Prado would eventually become a vital figure in the city’s literary movement, regularly contributing to poetry readings and literary events.
But as a poet in L.A., Prado grew increasingly frustrated with working in what she felt was a void, The Times reported.
“The entire world is blind to Los Angeles poetry,” she once said. “Los Angeles is associated with film, television and music industries. This puts our artists in a kind of vacuum.”
She worked actively to change that as an educator. She went back to teaching, first at the now-defunct nonprofit the Woman’s Building and at USC’s professional writing program in the late 1980s, where she taught for two decades. She also helped found the publishing cooperative Cahuenga Press.
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