May Theme: Permissions By Ann Haywood Leal

When I was in sixth grade and I finished writing my novel on one hundred pages of pastel-colored notebook paper, my mom read it cover to cover, joyfully.  I watched her eagerly from off to the side, drinking in every smile and soft laugh as she turned the pages.  Her reviews were always like a starred Kirkus.  "What are you going to write next?" she always asked.

My fragile sixth grade self was all pumped up with pride, so of course I wanted to tell my best friend about my new novel.  What would an eleven-year-old book nerd do?  Write to Judy Blume, of course.  Mom helped me find her publisher's address and didn't crack one smile when I told Judy Blume I was interested in having my novel published.  Then Mom celebrated right along with me when Judy wrote back (twice!) with her gracious writerly and motherly advice.

When I decided to send my book out to E.P. Dutton, Judy Blume's publisher, Mom didn't even bat an eye.  She just helped me find the address.  Then she commiserated with me when I got the rejection postcard.

Fast forward to my adulthood when I had moved on from colored notebook paper, and was sending my book out on actual double-spaced computer paper.  Mom was still eagerly reading my work.  Not a phone call or a visit went by without her asking, "Have you heard yet?  Keep writing.  A publisher is sure to take it soon."  Meanwhile, the rejections were piling up.

Mom got sick and passed away very suddenly without ever being able to hold one of my books in her hand.

But on that day when a publisher finally said yes, I knew she was up in heaven saying, What's your next book going to be about?


  1. This post fills me with gratitude for wee you and the champion your mother was (is) for your writing. Beautiful!

  2. What a gorgeous post, although I'm sure it's bittersweet for you. What a fantastic Mom you had. Plus, how wonderful of Judy Blume to write back to you!

  3. This is lovely Annie! It reminds me of my own mom's encouragement and pride at my early efforts. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am posting my comment through a haze of tears. To have such encouragement for your writing was such a gift from your mother. A gift you will always carry with you. Thanks for sharing, Ann.


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