Thursday, June 30, 2016


Let's see if I can copy my whole previous post, plus comments, so you can scroll to the bottom of the comments and see what I mean:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Yesterday I was browsing through my new SCBWI newsletter and Deborah Brodie's name caught my eye, as it always does.  But this time, the news was that she passed away at the end of June, after a long struggle with cancer.  She was only 67.
     I first met Deborah about 21 years ago.  My son Nathan was 2, I was working on a long rhyming picture book featuring him, and I was desperate to take a class I'd read about at the New School on writing for children.  I was a single parent, and my dear friend Sonia gave me the best birthday present of all time: an offer to watch Nathan for me each week, for the duration of the class session.
     The instructor was a woman with a jolly voice and twinkling eyes named Deborah Brodie, and the first thing I learned was to ditch my dreams of having "Nathan and the Urch," or just about any rhyming picture book, published.  "Dr. Seuss is dead," Deborah told us crisply.
     I learned a lot more than that from her, but the main thing I learned is that children's book publishing is an industry and that children's book writing is a profession; neither one existed only in some magical realm.  And I also learned of the existence of SCBWI, a haven for people who want to learn to write for children and get their work published.
     When the class ended, I didn't know how to thank Deborah for opening up a new world for me, so I brought her a rose.  A few days later, I got a thank-you note at home from her.
     I followed Deborah over the years.  After over 20 years as an editor with Viking Children's Books,  most of that time as executive editor, she left in 2001 to co-found Roaring Brook Press.  In 2007 she left there to become a freelance editor, writing instructor, and "book doctor."  All along, she did her teaching on the side.
     When I read that "book doctor" announcement in an SCBWI publication, I contacted her and ended up sending her a manuscript for doctoring.  She did a very thorough and enormously helpful job, and after that we occasionally stayed in touch by email.  Yesterday, after reading her death announcement, I went back and saw that, as I'd thought, I still had a saved email from her, sent in late 2009, responding to an email I'd sent her about her new website and saying, "I'm still hoping to see your name in my 'good news' column one of these days!"
     I've been reading Deborah's obituaries.  I don't know whether anyone can count how many new authors she's discovered, how many new careers she's launched, or how many still unpublished writers there are like me that she just kindly and graciously helped to move forward.  I do know that she was a beloved figure to many, both inside and outside the publishing and writing worlds.  I read this today, from her son: when Deborah learned she did not have long to live, she said, "Why me?"  But, unlike other people who ask that question, she went on to ask, "Why have I been so blessed, with such wonderful children, grandchildren, and my life?"
     Today is Yom Kippur, a day of remembrance, and along with other people I have lost in my life, I remember Deborah.  But, of course, she was only human, and although she knew a lot, she wasn't always right.  Dr. Seuss isn't really dead.  And neither is she.


  1. Sweet! That's all a person can hope for in life - To make a difference.


    1. Well said. Thanks, Genevieve!

  2. Deborah, that was beautifully written, and if you know how to contact any of her family or friends, I think you should send them the link to this page.

    I didn't know her at all, but after reading this, I feel like I know "the essence" of her and it seems she was a wonderful person.
  3. Thank you, Donna. I appreciate your thoughts. I don't know how to contact her family or friends, but I'm sure they've received a lot of other tributes to her. She was a special person.
  4. On Monday, exactly 4 years after Deborah Brodie died (6.27.12) I did a Google search to see what came up when I typed in her name. This post appeared, as well as the exchange above.

    I'm Deborah's daughter, Rachel and I hadn't seen this before and while you were right, we did receive a lot of other tributes, I was particularly moved, delighted and grateful to read this one. Your anecdote about Dr. Seuss is classic Deborah Brodie, and so was her email rooting you on....

    Thank you so much for publicly sharing your memories both because your post is a beautiful addition to her legacy and, more personally, because it meant that I could stumble across it so many years later and feel the rare pleasure of having a new and as-yet-unheard Deborah story to share with the rest of my family.

    Thank you!


    1. Rachel, I'm so grateful that you found this post and were thoughtful enough to respond to it. Like mother, like daughter, apparently. Deborah made a lasting impact on many people, and she will always hold a place in my heart. Very best wishes to you and your family.


Sunday, June 26, 2016


     I guess I understood the basics of Brexit.  It's just that I, along with the oddsmakers, never thought it would happen.  But when it did happen, I just couldn't understand what would lead anyone to vote for Britain's exit from the European Union.  I couldn't understand it, that is, until I woke up at about 5:00 this morning and realized that the reason I was sleeping so badly was that I had managed once again to infect myself with poison ivy.
     It's become something of a summer tradition for me.  Most of the time I leave whatever landscaping gets down around my house (and it's not much) to my husband.  But one day toward the beginning of each summer, some sort of hormone is released within me and I start ripping things down.  Ivy, dead wood, creepers, vines... you get the picture.  Now, I know from experience that poison ivy - or poison oak, or poison sumac, or some other poisonous plant - lurks somewhere in my yard, and that in order to sensibly protect myself before I start on my ripping frenzy, I should put on a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants, and gardening gloves.  But here's the thing: I don't want to dress sensibly.  It's hot out, and I feel like wearing my T-shirt and shorts, and besides, NOBODY IS THE BOSS OF ME.  So every year, I go out there and do what I am apparently programmed to do: convince myself that I won't go anywhere near the Poison Whatever, and that there is absolutely no risk involved, and that I will be just fine.  And then I wake up one morning and I'm astonished to find that my entire body is a mass of rashes.
     But this time I feel like I learned something.  Not about avoiding poison ivy in the future - don't be silly! - but about what it must have felt like for the British people who voted for Brexit.  It must have felt like: HA.  YOU (E.U.) ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.  I can act in ways that are directly contrary to my own interests, and no one can stop me!  Hey look, I can make the British pound reach its lowest value of the past 30 years!  I can drive global markets into turmoil and strike terror into the hearts of investors around the world!  I am so damn powerful!  Whee!!!
     The difference is that when I choose to perversely attack my back yard in shorts and a T-shirt, the only one who ends up suffering is me. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016



      I never meant to abandon my blog for more than a month. I think that's the longest I've ever gone without posting since I first began this blog.  Sometimes things just happen.  After I finished (HUZZAH!) the A to Z Challenge at the end of April, I was working on a guest post for my friend Guilie Castillo's wonderful blog, Life in Dogs, about my family's recent Circle of Life journey: losing our adored older dog in February, adopting a new dog in April. After that was done, it took me most of May to recover from those two intense writing experiences.
     And then the New Jersey SCBWI annual Conference was the fist weekend in June, so it seemed to make sense to wait until it was over so I could blog about my news.  But then when it was over, I didn't have any news.  I had two critiques with agents and neither one of  them asked me to submit anything. It's been years since that happened to me at a conference.  On the one hand, this made me realize how fortunate I've been, but then on the other hand, that realization didn't make me feel any less depressed.  It's never ideal to feel like you're going backward instead of forward in trying to achieve your dreams.
     Yeah, but I'm not giving up, though.  Over the last week I've sort of gotten a second wind.  Okay, maybe nothing as powerful as a wind.  Maybe it's more like a second mild breeze.  Still, I'm back.  And thanks for sticking by me.