HAPPY NEW YEAR!
It occurs to me that if I’m going to ask others to blog about their mentors in the kid lit world, then I should blog about mine.
Thing is, I haven’t had one big mentor in the writing world who took my hand as a young writer and taught me the ropes. My experience has been somewhat like a row of trees and I, the monkey, who has swung from branch to branch, learning things as I go along. There are a number of these people who have helped me along the way—some with only a single sentence—changing the course of my life. Since I have several, I’ll spread them out. Let’s begin with the first two.
• I have accomplished some pretty amazing things with the attitude of, “What do I have to lose?” I’m willing to do the hard work, but I’m also a dreamer at heart. I have never felt that any of those dreams have been out of reach. When told about the odds of getting published, I dismissed them. When writing friends thought me nuts for driving over five hours to meet my dream agent, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Even at a young age, I knew that if you had a dream, you better chase it down, because no one would do it for you. I have always had a stubborn passion about these things and a deep belief that I would get there someday—although I guess I didn’t exactly know where “there” was.
This gift came from my Mum, Marie Smith Mullaly—or “Rere” as she was called in the Smith clan. True. I got it in her DNA, but I also saw her live it everyday. You just couldn’t tell my Mum that something was impossible. She’d get this sparkle in her eye, and this half smile would creep up the side of her face, and you just knew she’d find a way.
In addition, my mother opened my world to books and writing through her example. My Mum read every spare second that she could. The librarians in town knew her by name and would often put books aside for her, knowing she’d like them. I still remember walking out of the West Hartford Public library, smelling the pages of the books she’d sign out. (I still love to smell books!)
My Mum was also a talented writer and poet. I often wonder, now, if she knows that I’m a published writer. I wonder what her reaction would have been to the news. A day never goes by that I don’t wish that I could tell her.
• The second person is my brother, Ricky. It’s not like we ever sat down and talked about writing, but I have always known that I am who I am because he was around. He is my big brother by 11 years, one of my best friends, and also a father figure. I don’t remember a time when Rick wasn’t around.
If I played in the ocean waves, he was the one there to be sure I didn’t float away. If I wandered away from the family on an outing, it was his voice that called me back. If we were on my grandparents’ boat, he was the one to strap the life preserver on me. I have many memories of Rick taking me on excursions to the science museum, McDonald’s, out for tennis lessons, or “letting me” help him wash his car. (Yes, I was a total sucker!) He even took me to church. He also dated and married Jill! She turned out to be a great blessing to me as well–a sister in the true sense of the word!
As I got older, Rick and Jill took me aside to weigh in on both friends and boyfriends. Rick walked me down the aisle when I got married and came to the hospital when my children were born. As I said, he was always there when it counted. Still is. Of all the things he did, though, I think what shaped me so much was how he’d look at me when I walked into a room. I mean, I remember being really little, and seeing his face light up. “Hey, Lulu!” Whether he was tired or busy, he always reacted the same way. I never questioned how much he loved me and that laid the foundation for who I would become later.