I can vividly recall reading Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to my first class in the fall of 1986, me fresh out of college. The book plate is further evidence from that time, as it reads “Sally Stallings”. In another year, I’d married and start being called Mrs. Donnelly. That year and every year since, this book lived in my classroom. On May 6, 2015, the author Judith Viorst visited my classroom and now this very worn book is signed by this amazing author!
What a fun day we had!! She came so prepared with written notes to guide her talk that shared highlights of her long writing life. Then she graciously took questions from the students. After her 45 minutes with the 5th graders, the audience switched and she repeated with the 4th graders, which included her grandson, Isaac, son of her son, Alexander.
* Her granddaughter, Olivia (Isaac’s 8th grade sister) gave her the idea for her newest book And Too Boys Booed. When Judy asked Olivia how her talent show performance went, she replied “Terrible – two boys booed.” Judy told us that she probably should have said something comforting to Olivia but instead, she said, “That’s a great idea for a book!” Then she read parts of this book to us. If you haven’t read this new adventure yet, do!!
* Her Advise for Writers:
1) You need to write EVERYDAY…a little something every day
2) FINISH what you start. “This is a good rule in writing and other things, too.”
3)Writing is partly fun and partly hard. Enjoy the fun and don’t give up when it gets hard.
4) The real name for a writer SHOULD BE “rewriter” because that is really what a writer spends MOST of their time doing. It is only after many, many tries that a basketball player can finally get the ball to go “swish”. The same is true for writing. Write and rewrite and when it feels like “swish”, you know you have written it right.
5) Be a reader so you know what you can write about and know all the ways that you can tell a story.
* Her Writing Life Now
1)A new volume of children’s poetry will come out in 2016 – What are mad about? What are you glad about? For this volume, she used children consultants (including her grandkids) to read the poems and give her feedback.
2) She is working on a 4th Lulu book. “I think Lulu is based on the secret, naughty part in all of us! I like naughty characters. I also don’t like people who are too perfect. Growing up, she knew a girl who was so perfect named Ethel Ann. She would call her “soap” because she was so pure and clean. Her mother would tell her “Why can’t you be more like Ethel Ann? I see Lulu as the Anti-Ethel Ann. “
(I will admit that did not know this character or book series. After the presentation, I read-aloud from Lulu and the Brontosaurus. WOW! I’m hooked. I will be reading #2 and #3 and awaiting the 4th being written now!)
As she was leaving, she saw a poster in my room that I made for National Poetry Month. I wrote on it: Read a Poem / Write a Poem
She told me I should add Recite a poem. “It is powerful to have a poem live inside you that you can recite.”
Of course, I took her advise and change the sign and I will push recitation of poetry.
Besides, poems are to be HEARD and not just read!
A final plus to this author visit was that my own mother turned 80 on May 6th. Because she lives in the area, I had her drive over to be in my classroom for the presentation!! I had purchased Judy’s volume of poetry, Unexpectedly Eighty and other Adaptations and Judy graciously signed it “Happy Birthday, Mary Anne”!
(If you don’t know of her adult poetry volumes, look for them! I bought Fabulously Fifty for me and Suddenly Sixty for my sister-in-law. I asked her as I walked her out if she is working on a Ninety volume. She said, not yet.
Judith Viorst is 84 and lives in Washington DC with her husband Milton Viorst. Her Alexander Book has sold 4 million copies. She has written a total of 41 books, 3 coming out last year.
Judith Viorst – SO INSPIRING!!