Friday, January 21, 2022

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me by Mary Ann Rodman

 My husband laughed when I told him the subject of this post.

"What can you possibly write that you haven't either put in a book or blogged about already?"he said.

He had a point. Thanks to Facebook, I've been over-sharing for years. 

This was supposed to be an "easy" post to write. Ahem...not! But here we go

1.  I kissed Tomie de Paola.

My daughter Lily was (and still is) a huge fan of Tomie de Paola. She recognized his distinctive illustration style long before she could read. 

"Look, Mama, a Tomie book," she'd say, gleefully pulling his books off library shelves. 

Fast forward a couple of years. I made plans to attend the NYC SCBWI conference. Lily asked what authors would be there. I don't remember who else was on the program, but I did tell her that Tomie dePaola would be there. By that time, she was enamored of the 26 Fairmont Avenue books. 

Her excitement surprised me. (Lily was not a kid that got excited.)

"Really? Tomie's really going to be there?" she shrieked. "You'll get to see him?"

I said "probably," thinking in terms of me in a ballroom with a couple of hundred other Tomie fans listening to him being his hilarious self.

"Well, if you see him," Lily said, "please give him a hug and a kiss from me and tell him I think he's a genius."

"I will if I get the chance," I sort-of-promised. I mean, what were the chances?

One night a bunch of friends and I were knocking back chardonnay at the lobby bar. Across the lobby was a reception for the speakers. And then I saw him! I'd told my friends about Lily's Tomie crush, and now they were egging me on.

"Do it, Mary Ann. Do it! Go talk to Tomie. Give him Lily's hug."

I'd had quite a lot of chard by then, so I got to my feet, sailed across the lobby, into the reception and right up to Mr. DePaola. In one breath I rattled off, "You don't know me but my seven-year-old thinks you're a genius and wants me to give you this." And to my own surprise, I hugged him and smacked his cheek. Without missing a beat, Tomie dePaola said, "My dear, your daughter has impeccable taste. Here's a hug for her." 

Over the years, I've brought Lily a lot of cool stuff from writer's conferences...but nothing as cool as Tomie dePaola's hug.

2. I Was Interviewed by the National Enquirer

Girl librarian, 1984


I was a brand new school librarian. I was working as hard as I could since the school district could fire me at any time in the first three years. So I came in early. I stayed late. Busy little librarian beaver.

So I was there one afternoon, when my intercom clicked on, and the assistant principal told me I had a long-distance phone call in the office. Who would call me long-distance at work? Had something happened to my parents? 

I picked up the phone.

"Hello, is this Miss Mary Ann Rodman, head librarian" said a voice with an extremely phony accent--part Alfred P. Doolittle, part Crocodile Dundee.

"Yes?" I answered, suspicious. I was the only librarian. Maybe it was a salesman.

But no, the person on the other end introduced himself as a 'student of Oxford University" who was "writing his Ph.D. paper" on children's literature.

Oh. OK. Crank call. Phony accent. A phone connection that clearly was not international. And "a Ph. D. paper?"  Before I could hang up, Mr. Phony Voice started asking me questions about my students reading preferences.  R.L. Stine's Goosebumps (it was a 7-12 school) and anything by Stephen King, I told him. I kept waiting for the punchline of the call to be something like "What size bra are you?" or something equally dirty...but it didn't happen. After ten minutes, the guy thanked me for my time and hung up.

I forgot about it. Until a couple of weeks later when students started telling me, "Hey, Ms Rodman, do you know you're in the National Enquirer?" Yeah, yeah, I thought. Pranking the new librarian. Real funny.

But it wasn't just a couple of students. It was a lot of students. Finally, one of my student assistants asked if I wanted his copy of the National Enquirer, "for your scrapbook."

"Sure," I said, calling his bluff. "Bring it to me."

And he did. The next morning, he met me at the school door with the Enquirer folded back to a headline: Horrors! Do You Know What Your Children Are Reading? 

In typical Enquirer fashion, the title was the most salacious thing about the story. And I was quoted, by name, correctly....proving their thesis that teenagers were gore-loving consumers of horror novels.

I was horrified. I was a new teacher in a conservative small town. What would these people think of me? What would my principal think?

Ironically, that blip in the Enquirer gave me street credit with locals. Everybody read the Enquirer, and their new librarian had put their school on the map. They were darn proud of me. 

Thank you, National Enquirer. RIP. 

3. I have not read any of the Harry Potter books.

Well, not quite true. When the first HP book came out, Lily was seven and dying to read it. I checked the audiobook out of the library to play on a long car trip. We listened to what seemed like pages and pages of description and backstory. Finally, Lily asked, "When does the story start? Can we listen to something else?" Fortunately, I also had Carl Hiaasen's Hoot with me, so I put that in. I even "got lost on purpose" so we could hear the end of that one. Still one of Lily's favorite books.

I have nothing against Ms Rowling. I think she's a flat-out wonder that she got so many kids reading again. But then,, I've never been a fantasy fan, not even as a child. Still, I might be the only children's writer who couldn't make it through the first book of the series. I don't think J.K. will take it personally, though. 

There you have it. Three things I'll bet you didn't know about me. (Maybe)

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Carmela Martino said...

I LOVE this post, MA! I didn't know these things about you.

Bobbi Miller said...

You kissed Tomie de Paola! I'm so fan-girling! What a fun post. Thank you!