Norma Fox Mazer, acclaimed and trail-blazing author of Young Adult Literature passed away on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 3:05 a.m. at her home in Montpelier, Vermont. For many years, she and her husband Harry Mazer divided their time between New York City and Jamesville, NY where she wrote over 30 novels, contributed to short story collections, edited volumes of stories and poetry, and collaborated on several books with Harry. She taught in the National Book Foundation’s Writing Camp and in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program of Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as spoke to thousands of young people and writers in schools and conferences around the nation.
She served as Faculty Chair of the program and it still bears the marks of her dedication and personality. Her books, hard-hitting and true to the life and hearts of teenagers, touched a deep cord in her readers. She received honors and awards of every kind, notably among them the Newbery Honor, National Book Award Finalist, Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, and Christopher Medal. She was for her students and fellow faculty a shining light of encouragement and high standards in the craft of writing and in the art of living. She said, “Get into the habit of writing, get easy with it, and you will come at last to that part of yourself where you don't write what's expected, but what's true and you….” Few writers have lived that out so well as she, always surprising us with the unexpected and always speaking what was true and most herself. She loved her students, her stories, her family and friends, and her beautiful garden. She lived lightly and carefully on the earth and gave so much back, bringing flowers and beautiful stories into our lives.
Norma told us, “Don’t worry about being ‘creative’. The more you write, the more ideas will come to you. Don't tie yourself into knots with the thought of writing. Just write.” She also told us about how she wore an old misshapen fedora over her eyes while she wrote. I can see her now, that old hat hiding her eyes, her braids brushing her shoulders as she speaks aloud the dialogue she is writing—and her brilliant smile—but I know that fedora is where I saw it last, hanging on the chair back in her office, waiting, like me, for more Norma stories. I’m so sad that there are no more.
(Photo from Norma's website)