A memorial service for Danziger, who died on July 8, will be held on Tuesday, September 28, 6—8 p.m., at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York City.
Margaret Frith, Editor-at-Large, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Years before Paula and I worked together, I was asked to introduce her on a panel. The note I got back in answer to a few questions was, "My name is Paula Danziger. I write books for children and I love to play pinball." I knew then that I had come upon an "original."
Whenever Paula finished a manuscript, she'd call and send it over. I never promised to read it that day, but I always did, because I knew that, as experienced and successful as Paula was, she was waiting anxiously to hear. We'd meet at Popovers for breakfast to talk (and for me to beg her once more not to use neon green or pink paper for the manuscript). She'd be dressed in a flowing black dress adorned with a piece of exotic jewelry, glittering red shoes on her feet, a sequined fishnet wound around her red hair. She would look at me mischievously and ask if I wanted her to cut out some wonderfully gross expression she'd written—"Bruce said you'd never let me keep this one!"—but I never did, because she made me laugh out loud and I knew that kids would, too.
Most of all, Paula loved her audience and they loved her back. She was "one of them." She was their champion. They knew it and they always will.
Elizabeth Levy, Author
Paula and I both started publishing at Dell in the 1970s. At conventions, I'd hang out in her hotel room, laugh, connect, but then we'd go our separate ways. About 10 years ago, she called and said, "We got to put up or shut up. We're either good friends or not." That's Paula at her core. A deep honesty that grounded the love she poured into books and into her friendships. In real life, as in books, she had the gift for creating intimacy, friends who could share their deepest fears, loves and hopes as well as laughs. Paula could listen with all of her head and her heart. By fighting so hard for her life after her heart attack, Paula gave all of her family and friends a chance to get together and to depend on each other the way we and her readers and fans depended on her.
Bruce Coville, Author
I first met Paula at a librarian's conference in South Carolina, where we were both to accept a "children's choice" award. Shortly after we had been seated at the head table, she said, "See you in a little while."
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Watch," she said. Then she stepped down to the banquet hall floor and proceeded to go from table to table, introducing herself to the librarians and getting them all laughing. It was a brilliant tactic: everyone in the room loved her before she uttered the first word of her speech. But it wasn't just a tactic, of course; it was a natural outgrowth of Paula's enormous generosity of spirit. She knew they were there to meet her, and she was going to oblige.
Several years later, we began reading our work to each other over the phone. It started as a way to get moving—we were both stuck on our current projects and decided we would call each other the next day with the idea that whoever did not have three pages to read would suffer unendurable shame. Thus began what became a two-person writer's group, and for over a decade the two of us read everything we wrote to each other, laughing uproariously in the process even as we worked to help each other refine and improve the stories.
A few years ago, we had the chance to speak at the American School in New Delhi. Paula was enchanted by India, and, of course, the vivid and extravagant use of color was right up her alley. As a reward for our work in the school, we made a trip to the Taj Mahal. One of the happiest memories of my life is of touring that most beautiful of places side by side with Paula, who, for all her extravagant silliness, was deeply open to beauty and wonder.
It is not often that someone can be simultaneously a great teacher and a great friend. Paula was both of those.To her, it came naturally.
Ann M. Martin, Author
Young readers who met Paula and me used to ask us how we became friends. It was a good question. Paula and I couldn't have been more different. I'm shy; Paula reveled in being the center of attention. I love animals; Paula was allergic to them. I love vegetables; Paula once asked me if Circus Peanuts could be considered legumes.
In 1996 we began collaborating on our first book, and I approached the project with trepidation. I like to write from outlines; Paula didn't believe in them. I like deadlines; Paula hated them. I like proper punctuation; Paula thought it was fine to put 20 dots in an ellipsis. Nevertheless, we set to work on an epistolary novel, Paula writing as flashy, outgoing Tara*Starr, me writing as shy, introverted Elizabeth—wildly dissimilar friends who fought, who teased each other, who drove each other crazy, yet who remained friends because of hidden heart-tugging similarities, and despite the outward differences.
Just like Paula and me.
Lin Oliver, Executive Director, SCBWI
I first met Paula some 15 years ago when I invited her to speak at the national conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. We hadn't met before, yet by the end of her first day here in California, I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't known her. Within hours, we were playing skeeball, shopping for sequined shoes, swapping stories about first loves and teen angst. Such was Paula's immense gift for friendship. She had true friends wherever she went because she saw what was lovable about people and loved them wholeheartedly.
So ardently, too, did she love her community of fellow children's book writers and artists. Paula became a regular speaker at SCBWI events around the country. I can see her now, sitting up late at night with new writers and reading their manuscripts, hearing their life histories, helping them to hear their own voices, to find what was true about their stories. In her unofficial role as a teacher and emissary of children's books, Paula spun webs of the most important kind—webs that connected us to one another and created communities of kindred spirits where there were only individuals before.
In addition to the body of wonderful books she leaves behind—truthful, funny, mischievous, compassionate, fierce and always loving books—Paula leaves behind a community, a tribe of children's book people drawn closer together by her magnanimous spirit and loving hand.
Pamela Curtis Swallow, Author
Blame the cows on Paula—the cow mailbox, cow lawn ornament, cow blackboard, cow earrings, cow watch, cow socks... you get the idea. When Paula and I met in 1981, I was just starting as a writer and was working as a school librarian in her hometown of Metuchen, N.J. Innocently, I uttered three little words — "I like cows." That's all she had to hear. Paula proceeded to torture me with birthday cows, Christmas cows, Guy Fawkes Day cows—and to ensure that there'd be no lull in bovine deliveries when she was traveling, Paula enlisted willing accomplices from among our friends and encouraged kids in my school to substitute cow kitsch for the proverbial apple.
When Paula and I became friends, she also became family. She was a true Auntie Mame to my two daughters. From the theater trips to shopping trips, adventures with Paula were highlights of their growing-up years. During some awkward spots in their adolescence, Paula showed them what true coolness was all about. And when they fretted that life after 17 might be dull, it was "wagons ho" with Paula to buy their first black lace bras.
Cows and bras aside, Paula's greatest gift was her insistence upon being true and honest to one's unique self. She encouraged adults and children alike to enjoy their individuality, creativity and playfulness.
In the hour that Paula passed away, the evening sky over Manhattan was ablaze—like a giant Fourth of July sparkler shooting red, orange, gold and purple glitter skyward and off the facades of the buildings. A fitting tribute and dazzling sendoff to a life that was over too soon.