Natalie Babbitt is one of my favorites.
Sure, she’s written some great books, classics even. But I didn’t read Tuck Everlasting as a kid; not until I was an undergrad, maybe even a teacher. I do remember the ethereal glow surrounding the cinematic fountain of youth. There was, continues to be, a magic connected to her stories.
But Natalie Babbitt was most magical to me when I heard her speak.
She was part of a panel on the craft of writing for young people at Rhode Island College, one of four published female authors in the field. She was the eldest, the most distinguished in terms of titles and staying power. She was also the most emphatic, matter of fact, and unapologetic.
The question was posed to the panel: what is your writing routine?
Each in turn, the first three authors stated that one must write everyday; the secret to their success is continuity, establishing a routine; treating that time at their desks as a job.
Babbitt then stated, she was a mother. Writing everyday wasn’t always possible. Kids got measles.
She wasn’t trying to refute what the other authors had already said, just stated it straight out. The way life was. The reality of her writing life – or lack thereof.
In the midst of the chaos of three small children at the time, I instantly fell in love with Babbitt. She’d never hold my hand and tell me it was okay to skip writing time, but she understood the realities of life with children, of real life, of days when life got in the way.
Countless times, when mothering saps my focus or free time, I see Ms. Babbitt, sitting in her spot at the long rectangular table at the head of the room, unapologetically sharing her secret to successful writing. I suppose, it’s that there is no secret. There is no perfect time – but there are also no excuses.
Natalie Babbitt got it done and masterfully so. There is hope for me yet.
In memoriam: Natalie Babbitt July 28, 1932 – October 31, 2016