a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#allwrite2013: reflection (part one of many)

It takes a lot of slow to grow.
from “A Lazy Thought” by Eve Merriam

I first heard this line of poetry from Ruth Ayres.  Since then, I have been intentional about carrying its message in my heart.  I rested its message over the top of the layers of my life.  Every now and then, a different layer surfaced and the  s l o w  was temporarily forgotten—even during the summer months, when the pace of the school year eases its grip on me. 

It wasn’t until I arrived at dinner Wednesday night, before the All-Write Summer Institute that my understanding of these poetic words shifted.  No longer, was  s l o w i n g  down an idea I carried with me.  All of sudden, taking a lot of  s  l  o  w  to grow became a sentiment I felt.  I was living it. 

From the moment I walked into the restaurant and stepped into a greeting hug from Mary Helen, I felt present in a way I haven’t felt for a long time.  I knew I was with my people. 

Dinner was just the beginning of three days of  s l o w  growth.  I can say  s l o w  growth here, even though the time was much too short, because when you are truly present in a moment, it lasts longer, more of the essence of the moment has a chance to seep deeply into your bones.

Even though my exit was suddenly closed for construction Thursday morning causing me to start out the day 15 minutes behind, even though the fire alarm went off causing us to evacuate a mere half hour into Carl Anderson’s keynote address, even though I sat down on an auditorium seat that had flipped upright without me realizing causing me to fall flat on my behind, even though all of these things could have left a girl feeling flustered, instead I felt at ease. 

There is something about being surrounded by people to whom I’ve revealed my inner thoughts—people from whom I’ve received encouragement and inspiration—that calms a person.  There is something about being in the presence of wise women like these that comforts a person.  There is something about the Two Writing Teachers community that sustains a person. 
a few of my people: Deb, me, Nanc, elsie, Ruth, Linda, and Bonnie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I was afraid that maybe the Judy Blume in real life wouldn’t quite measure up to the Judy Blume in my imagination.  I grew up surrounded by the characters of her creation.  I read her books for the sheer pleasure of being part of her stories.  I came of age by working up to reading those of her books that were beyond my life experience.  So, Judy Blume is sort of an idol in my eyes.  Far bigger, in my heart, than the enormous impact she has had on the world of young adult literature is the impact she has had on my world—as a reader, a young girl, a teacher, and a woman.  That is lot to live up to. 

I have been disappointed in the past by the real life version of authors whose work I’ve loved and admired for years. 

But Judy Blume did not disappoint.  Not in the least.

Judy Blume at the Tivoli in Downers Grove
First of all, the event was hosted at the Tivoli, which is a quaint, old theater now known for showing movies after they’ve been out for awhile, when they can be reasonably priced.  Perhaps even more well-known (or just well-loved) for the charming organist who entertains the crowd before shows and is lowered below the stage to mark the start of the show.   It was the perfect setting for an afternoon with Judy Blume.  

the organist plays as he is lowered
he begins to disappear
the show is about to begin

 From the moment she snuck down the aisle to make her way to the stage, Blume was likeable.  It was clear she was humble, even in the face of her more than forty years of mass appeal as an author.  She seemed forlorn when the hostess from Anderson’s Bookshops stepped away to give her the spotlight.  After the movie, she even had to be directed by her husband to stand in the light, instead of shying away from it.  How very grounded and down-to-earth she is!

Judy Blume in the spotlight after the movie
Following the screening of Tiger Eyes, Blume took the stage with tears in her voice.  She was choked up.  She confessed that she has seen the movie more than a hundred times now and it does not get to her each time, but something about this viewing struck her.  She had created the screenplay with her son, who also directed this movie-version of one of my all-time favorite Judy Blume books (although I suppose they are all favorites).  Her husband had gotten involved to rescue the production when one of the sources for funding suddenly backed out. 

Judy Blume in action
Judy Blume in action

Blume also explained that it was not until she saw her story recreated in movie format that she realized Davey’s grief was really her own.  Although slightly older than her protagonist, Blume had also lost her father at a young age.  Imagining this story developing from the depths of her feelings, without her even consciously acknowledging its roots amazes me.  I am just tickled by the way stories live in the marrow of our bones. 

Tiger Eyes is one of those stories that lived in my bones for years as a kid.  I was in love with the mysterious, grown-up quality of Wolf’s character.  I was thrilled to see him play a bigger role in the movie than he does in the book.  Although his impact is felt throughout the story in the book, he does not appear many times in the story’s action.  I was also completely drawn in by Willa Holland who plays the part of Davey (Tiger) in the movie.  Her ability to communicate feelings with as little as a twitch of a single facial muscle is brilliant. 

I wish Tiger Eyes didn’t have to be produced in 26 days because that is all the funding would allow, but I am so glad it was.  It is the kind of movie that should be selling in America.  It is the kind of story studios should be fighting over.  It is true and tragic and beautiful and uplifting. It is available to rent or purchase on iTunes.  Or maybe, just maybe it is playing in a charming little theater near you.  Please find a way to see it.  You won’t be disappointed.  Not in the least.

Judy Blume signing my movie tie-in copy of Tiger Eyes