Over the weekend, I found out that my first mentor at Vermont College, Norma Fox Mazer, had passed away. Nearly everyone who ever went through Vermont College was touched by her, and we are all feeling her loss.
Both photos were taken at my graduation from Vermont College. In the bottom shot, I’m in the middle, and that’s my mother in the background.
Norma was the author of more than 30 books for young people, including Taking Terri Mueller, After the Rain, and, my favorite, When She Was Good.
She was not only my first mentor from Vermont College—she was also my first workshop leader, a very memorable workshop indeed. I’ve saved all her critique letters. She believed in me from the beginning, and 10 years before the publication of my novel told me she was sure I would make it there one day. She was one of the people who kept me going all that time.
Norma was a straight-shooter—-a tough critic but also very warm and encouraging, and I loved all those things about her. I cherish having had the chance to know her.
Norma loved to tell the story about how she and her husband, Harry Mazer, decided to become full-time writers when she had just given birth to their fourth child. She would get up before the kids awoke and sit at the typewriter with her writing hat (a fedora). This was always an inspiring story, but now that I have kids of my own, it seems downright amazing.
Norma was one of those people who just stood outside age all together. She always had a youthful spirit, and I think that’s one reason why she was able to continue writing relevant novels for young people throughout her long career. I can see her now, curled up on the couch like a cat, silver rings sparkling on her fingers.
I wish I could sit with her over a tray of food in the NECI cafeteria right now.