“I’d like to write, but I haven’t the time…”


   Norma Fox Mazer (1925-2009) author of I, Trissy; A Figure of Speech; After the Rain; etc., significantly helped me with this, and nowhere on the Internet (that I can find) is a record of how she and her husband, also a writer, really got started in what they really wanted to.


   So here is my memory of our one-on-one conversation back in the 1970s. It was a conversation that changed my life.


But for that you’ll have to go through the DOOR.




   [After reading several pieces about Norma and her husband Harry, what follows splices in well with the “public” Internet record. Some details I relate may vary a bit, however.]


   This, I believe, is worth sharing.

   I invited Norma, whose books I’d read and admired, and who lived in nearby Syracuse, to visit me and my students at Oswego where I was teaching.¹ I asked her how she and Harry (her husband eventually for 56 years) got started writing for money–at first, magazine articles, and then books for young adults which is what they really wanted to do.

   Here’s the gist of what she told me as I remember it: One day, living in upstate New York, they sort of looked in the mirror and wondered about where they were heading. They had 4 kids and Norma (as I remember it) was a homemaker and had not much more than a high school education (then); and Harry was a poorly paid 8th grade teacher. One day ran into another and they were always busy.

   “What do we really want to do with our lives?” they asked each other.

   “Write,” they agreed. “Write for money.”


   “Really!” they agreed.

   “Then that’s our first goal and obligation–to ourselves and each other.”

   “Then we have to set aside a time.”


   And so they found a time: 3:30AM to 6:30AM–every morning. They would fit everything around this, the 6:30 time began their family responsibilities. They would go to bed early…like the kids. And fit in everything around this. When they wrote–it was the day of typewriters–they would write back to back in a small room, pushing, pushing, pushing ever ahead. On Fridays, typically, they would each read what the other had written earlier in the week, and then–for magazine pieces–they would try to get something in the mail. A finished book, or large piece, would result in a early morning celebration buying and eating a certain kind of pudding in a nearby automat.

   Success came…in stages. But it worked.

   And its effect on me? I resolved to convert from being a die-hard owl into becoming an early morning dove. And it wasn’t that hard. I wanted to write, too. So I made myself get up at 6:30 and write intensely until 7:45AM. (We had 4 kids, too.) My wife well into shock.

   But the habit stuck. Morning is beautiful!

   And here I sit.


   ¹ I was teaching, along with science, children’s lit. at State University of New York–the busiest out-of-the-house job I ever had. Norma lived not far away and my students loved her visit. She and her husband Harry, who survived bailing out of a disabled plane in WWII, both have a fascinating writing history, with books for young adults winning numerous awards, and one After the Rain, that was nominated for a Newbery Medal. They’re easy to find on the Internet.