Gerald Cleaver
1938 - 2014
Gerald Cleaver, 75 died Saturday March 29th., 2014. "Jerry" was born to Madeline and Bert Cleaver on March 30, 1938 in Louisville Kentucky, but lived in the Chicago area for more than seventy years. Jerry was a writer, teacher, and writing coach who created The Writers Loft, Chicago's most successful independent writer's workshop, generating more than forty novels and works of non-fiction by his students and many more as yet unpublished. He has given special seminars for Writers Digest and created the "Write Your Novel Now" Internet course, which continues under the auspices of his gifted students. Jerry was the author of the successful writing book, Immediate Fiction, published by St. Martin Press in 2002, still in print, and currently the best selling writing book in China. A pinnacle of Jerry's career was a two-week book tour in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012, during which he lectured at major universities and was treated with generous hospitality by the Renmin University Press. Jerry was a juvenile probation officer at the Cook County Juvenile Court for thirty years, working primarily with gang members and their families. He treated his clients with extraordinary respect and was dedicated to making the court experience clear and meaningful. He was a strong believer in the healing powers of psychotherapy and in the value of wilderness, volunteer and vocational programs which enabled young men and women, boys and girls, to develop realistic self esteem and the capacity to love and work. Jerry was a deeply kind and compassionate person, both in his personal and professional life. He will be greatly missed by his wife of 38 years, Leslie Cleaver, and by his beloved son, Matthew. He was very attached to his nieces and nephew and his close friends and family who participated in his life and cared for him during the difficult months of his illness. A celebration of his life will be held in his Lakeview home, to be announced at a later date. His family may be contacted at this email for details: [email protected]
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Published by Chicago Tribune on Apr. 13, 2014.
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37 Entries
I took a writing course Mr. Cleaver offered up in Wisconsin the summer of 2003. It changed my life as a writer and inspired me to continue with my writing. His book, Immediate Fiction, has a cherished spot on my bookshelf. God bless Mr. Cleaver and his family.
March 24, 2021
I always tell people about Jerry and how much I enjoyed The Writers Loft. I learned a lot from Jerry. He is missed. -Debbie Fliehman
April 7, 2020
Jerry was a tough cookie. I took his class and was not always ready for the brilliant advice that he gave. In retrospect I can feel his care and conviction. When I put the lessons he gave to use, I know my work improves.
November 17, 2017
I did not know Gerald "Jerry" Cleaver. In fact, I live in Germany and am only 20 years old but through his book "Immediate Fiction" shines his extraordinary character, his compassion for people and for life itself. Through Jerry and his book the world be enriched with countless of stories that brings us closer to our heart, closer to ourselves. Thank you Jerry. For everything. Rest in Peace
Leon Vincent
September 11, 2017
I am so sad to find that Jerry has passed. Such a kind and gentle man. He made everyone feel welcome. I have such fond memories of taking the bus to the loft and feeling part of a special group. You an absolute classic Jerry & will be missed.
Pam Perry
June 7, 2017
I was at an audition yesterday and happened to mention Jerry and oh so very very sadly found that he passed. Such a brilliant person. I had been very sick for a few years and when I came out of it the first thing I wanted to do was write. I found jerrys workshop and it made all the difference in my recovery to me. I just loved it. And I wrote and I wrote...I am saddened with tears that he died.
Thank you Jerry for all that you gave me.
I send my love.
Rita Ockrim
February 24, 2016
I am a new writer of fiction having spent the last forty years writing scientific and technical papers and books. 150,000 words into my first science fiction I found Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver at a library book sale. I cost just fifty cents. Just about the best fifty cents I ever spent. The book is absolutely fantastic and has completely changed my now 208,000 word book. If I am successful publishing it, in no small part, his spirit will be contained within its pages.

I am truly sorry to have missed meeting him and hope that those who have been touched by his life pass it on to others through their writing.

I have the honor to be, respectfully yours,

Mark Gusack
Mark Gusack
October 31, 2015
I even feel a bit ashamed and embarrassed to have found out of Jerry's passing only one week ago from today. Certainly, I mourn the loss of his greatness! I communicated with Jerry via e-mail a few times (and I think by phone)nearly 10-11 years ago. I was bit by the Immediate Fiction bug, and for a decade...was able to maintain my eagerness to get started with Jerry's training (though procrastination took the best of me). I should have grabbed the bug by its wings then. I loved his heart and his scientific approach to writing. My condolences to the entire family, and those who trained closely with him.
Michel Barreau, Jr.
October 24, 2015
I took Jerry's writing course in 2008, and then the advanced course from 2008 until well into 2010. Even as I did so back then, I always told my dad "this is the happiest time of my life." Going to his advanced course Wednesday mornings for nearly 2 years was truly the highlight of my life back then. Jerry was a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to me. I finished my first novel under his tutelage. He taught me everything I know about story craft; a lifetime of knowledge, but not just how to write, but how to be a good person as well and value the real things in life, like unconditional love for others.

He gave me the greatest, genuine compliment when I told him I didn't like reading but loved to write... "you're a milestone, kid. Because we had stories before we had writing, right?" he smiled. I'll never forget how much he always said he loved his wife and son. He was a great, and wonderful man, and although he is gone, his legacy and genius will live on in all of his students.

Thanks for everything, my friend, my mentor.
Magno Santos
October 2, 2015
I learnt of this a while back and i think, only now can i say it out loud. Jerry was a wonderful wonderful man, he gave me the confidence i needed in my writing and likely changed the course of my career. Jerry, you are deeply missed.
Priya Arora
July 7, 2015
I remember meeting him off Craigslist. I went to his loft and found him fascinating and wanted to take his class bad. that was five years ago. I found out today he has passed. I will cherish the memory forever of his loft in the city and felt flattered when he called back and told me the price was going up but he had my name and remind him if I ever wanted to take the course I could have the price of when I met him. I am going to listen to his 2002 tracks 1 to 9 and keep forever and also the Immediate Fiction book he gave all of us. he had his books that were published by students out on display. it was great to have met him. forever remembered. thank you, jerry cleaver, for your kindness
May 12, 2015
I still have the hand written notes Jerry wrote on the stories I wrote when I was taking his classes at the Loft. I just looked him up today and found out he'd passed away. Such a kind man. He called me one day at work and asked me if I was coming to class that night because he was gong to read my story in class. I was so excited, maybe I did have talent, maybe I could be a writer someday. I've never forgotten him. Such a great man.
May 8, 2015
I can't believe I chose today of all days to revisit the writers loft website. I've been wanting to retake Jerry's course for quite some time, and now I find out he passed 1 year ago today. His course was truly the best medicine for getting out of your own way. I found his methods brilliant, straight forward with no dancing around the subject; we simply got right down to "immediate fiction". Jerry, you inspired me and you are truly missed.
Michele Pellegrino
March 30, 2015
I took Jerry's course, and found it to be terrifically valuable. What a kind, thoughtful and intelligent man. Everyone whose life he touched has benefitted from his wisdom.
Darren Stephens
March 16, 2015
I just learned of Jerry's death - he was a FABULOUS teacher. - Sarah
March 8, 2015
So sad to hear this. I took his workshop twice and he really helped me get my writing started. I won't forget him!
Jennifer Anton
February 7, 2015
I am very sorry to hear of Jerry's passing. I took his Writer's Loft workshop a few years ago, and now I have finished a novel. He was truly a gift to writers. -Amanda Peluse
February 1, 2015
Unfortunately I was not able to partake in his course. However, he still took the time to speak with me over the phone - in that time he helped me tremendously. My book was far better because of his advice.
Breanna Dwyer
January 21, 2015
I took Jerry's beginning workshop 15 years ago, enjoyed every minute of it, and wish I had continued. I ran into Jerry a few years later at a Borders, right after Immediate Fiction had come out. He was justifiably proud of it; he walked me over to where the book was displayed. I still think of Jerry almost every time I sit down to write.
Greg Silva
December 19, 2014
I am very, very sorry to hear of Jerry's passing. I attended Jerry's Writer's Loft and found him to be intelligent, witty, talented, compassionate, and inspiring. Jerry's insights were always right on, and he was a professional and a wonderful motivator. I'm writing more than ever because of Jerry. He will be missed.
Debbie Fliehman
October 13, 2014
I was able to finish my novel because of you. Thanks, Jerry. You helped me whenit was inthe beginning of my journey.

Godspeed and dobry den to one of my best writing teachers.
Andrew Kloak
October 1, 2014
I attended the Writer's Loft from 07 through 2011. And for those years the Monday night class was the highlight of my week. I have many fond memories of talking to Jerry and the other students about who we were reading, movies, etc.

Make no mistake, Jerry was the best writing teacher I have ever known and he will be sorely missed.

Condolences to his wife and son.

David Feeney
David Feeney
July 12, 2014
Jerry - you were a fantastic teacher. God Bless you and rest in peace, my friend. You have made an impact. Much love and condolences to your close family and friends.
Stephanie Zaher
July 12, 2014
I am so sorry to hear of Jerry's passing! His book pretty much saved me as a writer and I feel privileged to have met him a few years back at one of his classes held in the Loft. He was a really nice guy and he will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.

Stacy Shofner Williams
Stacy Williams
July 9, 2014
I'm saddened by this news. Truly saddened. I was hoping to take another course with Jerry this summer. He was so helpful and inspiring in my last class. I listen to his CD's over and over and reread his book when I become blocked. Jerry, you were truly a remarkable man. I'm grateful I was able to work with you...may your family find peace and comfort in your passing.
Colleen Storiz
June 17, 2014
I read Jerry's book and took the workshop with him last year. His workshop helped me jump start my writing after having been away from it for years. He was very special and wise about the craft of writing. I'm so glad that I had an opportunity to work with him before he passed away. My condolences and prayers to his family. Sincerely, Hope Bailey
Hope Bailey
June 17, 2014
I can't express in words the impact immediate fiction made on my writing dreams.
Thank you Jerry
Brian Osborne
May 26, 2014
Jerry will be missed! As one of his former students, I just recently heard of his passing, and am saddened by it. I feel lucky to have been able to work with him when I did. He was very supportive of my fledgling stirrings as an author, and that meant the world to me. I plan to continue taking The Writer's Loft workshops with Mary, but he will be greatly missed. Rebecca L.
May 11, 2014
I sit here at home applying for a reporter/writing position. As I am ready to reference my experience at the Writer's Loft, the only writing course I ever took, I Google Jerry, my teacher, and I find that he passed away. The irony in the story is that as I am reading the below Obituary, you can see that he was born to a woman named: Madeline. I think this man from the grave is telling me to go after my dreams. People if you don't believe in the power of your God-Given Mind, today should be the day you start believing that what you think about you bring about. I've been a legal secretary, office manager, cleaning business owner, waitress, nanny, copy person, home health care equipment seller, a booze sampler, a pharmacist technician, a burger flipper and a WRITER. I've never in my life found the passion that I find in writing. I've never found a more inviting canvas to express, delight and uplift. Jerry was a man of angelic and positive posture. Our last conversation was right before his death, I wanted to take an advance script writing course. He said to me; "there is no need for that Madeline, if your story is compelling enough, it will sell on merit alone. Write!" I finished his course and published my first interview no more than two weeks after that around February, 2012. "Interview: Give Me El Gran Combo or Give Me DEAFness" 50th Year Anniversary Interview with Rafeal Ithier, Director of El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico." Countless of articles later, I don't know where my new decisions will take me. I read in memoirs and identify with the hunger that I was made to do something big. Pushing paperwork is not enough, working a 9-5 cubicle existence that society deems necessary is paralyzing my soul. I am tired, I am restless and I need more.... I want more..... I shall have more.... Rest in story telling delight, Jerry. I will be forever grateful for your belief in your students and the ability we were unable to see within ourselves.
Madeline Rodriguez
May 6, 2014
I worked with Jerry at Juvenile Court -- he would always refer youngsters to the Groups I ran. Years later I took workshops at the Writer's Loft. I will always remember him fondly for both experiences -- as a kind soul.
April 28, 2014
Gilbert williams
April 25, 2014
I am a published author because Jerry Cleaver made it his life's work to demystify the story process. Ultimately, he would always say, "It's all about character. Character is the most important thing." Well if there was one thing Jerry had, it was character. I've never met a nicer man. He had an endless passion for helping writers with their struggles. Writers are often isolated. Jerry gave them a home, he gave them the tools, and most of all, he gave them hope. I can't think of a better way to spend a life than sharing your talents and inspiration with others. He did so with great joy. He will be dearly missed.
Mary Carter
April 20, 2014
I would like to thank Jerry for helping to show me that being a writer is actually possible if given the right tools which he gives in his book, Immediate Fiction. He was a giving person who answered my writing questions even though I wasn't enrolled in his course. Truly a class act.
Gilbert Williams
April 19, 2014
I am so sorry to hear about your husband's passing. Please know you are in my thoughts.
Martha Gottlieb
April 16, 2014

Thank you for helping explore my gift of writing. You are an inspiration to me. You have helped and inspired many people. Your warmth, kindness, and light lives on through the lives you have touched.

God Bless You
April 15, 2014
To the family of Gerald Cleaver please except my condolences and know that at your time of need you can draw close to God.- James 4:8
April 13, 2014
Rest in Peace, Jerry Cleaver!
WL Stahmer
April 13, 2014