It Started With a Pink Refrigerator by Ann Haywood Leal

I was four when I became the proud owner of a pink stove and refrigerator.  It was the gift of my dreams and it marked my destiny.  In case some of you were confused, I am not a secret world-class chef.  Those kid-sized kitchen appliances were made out of cardboard, which only meant one thing to me back then.  Sure, I could whip up some pretend blueberry pancakes with that stove, but the best part of all was that it had these perfectly smooth writing surfaces.  I wrote all over those things, and I invited my three-year-old brother to do it, too.  Our mom must have had an inkling about our future chosen professions then, too.  My brother and I weren't writing your standard picture scribbles.  We wrote letters and words.  We got into some trouble, of course, but almost immediately we had our own drawing pads and lined paper.  Mom was an artist and a teacher and she understood.  She was always replenishing the supply.  She knew the importance and the thrill of having your own red mini-stapler and The Box of Sixty-Four.

By the time I was in kindergarten, I had a brief foray into the tabloid realm.  Most kids tattle on their brothers and sisters, but I wrote scathing notes and left them for my parents.  When I moved onto full stories, my poor older brother was often the main character, and he was usually doing something unflattering or unsavory.

By sixth grade I'd done it.  I'd written my first novel.  I made it one hundred pages, because that sounded literary to me.  I was so proud.  I wrote almost all of it on the colored notebook paper for which I'd begged my mom.  Then I made the mistake of announcing my completed novel in the car on the way to swimming lessons.  Unfortunately, it wasn't my parents driving.  It was another carpool parent who happened to be the assistant superintendent of schools.  I said I was going to have it published and he laughed.  I can still remember his voice and what the back of his wide head looked like from the viewpoint of the back seat.

Luckily, I was also at that time deeply ensconced in a love affair with all things Carolyn Keene and Judy Blume.  My mom had recently swiped a very-hard-to-get-at-the-library copy of ARE YOU THERE GOD?  IT'S ME, MARGARET for me.  Just to be clear, she didn't steal it from the library or a book store, she "borrowed" it for the weekend out of the desk of one of her students.  The student had been committing the heinous crime of hoarding a Judy Blume book for over a week. Anyhoo . . . I wrote to Judy Blume and told her all about my epic novel, and SHE WROTE BACK!  She didn't laugh in her letter.  She was gracious and encouraging and she told me to save all of my stories.

So here I am.  Just for the record, my refrigerator isn't pink, but it has pictures and magnetic poetry all over it.  


  1. That note is priceless! And yay for Judy Blume's encouraging words.

  2. It only takes one encouraging word to make writers out of us all. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I so love your story about the car ride. You have to use that in a book.

    1. That's a great idea! When he laughed, I should have said, "Be careful, or you'll appear in my novel!"

  4. "... the back of his wide head ..." Oh man, I can actually see it! It's amazing the things that stick with us. And YAY for Judy Blume! How awesome is she??

  5. What great stories! So glad you chose to focus on Judy Blume's encouragement and not that dunderhead's laughter.


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