Monday, December 14, 2009
Fly Lady of Day
Remembering Norma Fox Mazer
Norma Fox Mazer wasn't just a good writer. She was a great storyteller who cemented captivating tales in our hearts for more than forty years. The young- adult novelist died from brain cancer in October at 78.
I met Mazer in 2003 at Bennington College in Vermont. We were there for the National Book Foundation's summer writing camp. Mazer was a writing mentor and I was a fellow. I've had some cruel writing teachers in my career, but Mazer was fair. She sat in one of my workshops to offer feedback. Reading your work in front of strangers to be publicly critiqued is not easy. I don't care how long you've been a writer. Mazer gave honest criticism that didn't put you down, but made you a better writer.
Another thing that struck me about Mazer was her humbleness. I remember two girls and I were eating lunch and she asked if she could join us. An award-winning writer asked to sit with us newbies? She was not cocky, but I imagine self-assured. A woman with true self-confidence doesn't have to brag about her successes. Mazer asked us about our hair and complimented our styles. One had locs, the other girl and I sported cornrows. I remember her saying something about her hair being thin and she couldn't wear our kind of styles. I told her that's why fake hair exists and I had extensions. She was amused. As we all talked about writing and her career I noticed Mazer was filled with wonder and a youthful spirit. That energy kept her looking young because the girls and I were shocked when she told us her age. Mazer didn't look 72 at all. The photo posted is how I remember her and that does not look like a woman in her 70s. Young-adult literature was her calling.
One of the girls I lunched with that day told me Mazer passed away. We are both still writing. Mazer's stories and words ignited the imaginations and hearts of many young people. She wasn't afraid to touch upon heavy themes like death, secrets or divorce. The special thing about being a writer is long after you're gone, your words still have breath for generations to come. I have a tween sister and I can't wait to introduce her to Norma Fox Mazer.
Read New York Times Obituary here.