Today, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are household names for young readers. In my day, it was Judy Blume and Paula Danziger. Both women had a profound influence on my writing. Rather than gorgeous vampires and schools for wizards, their subjects were deliciously flawed teenagers. I commiserated with Blume’s Deenie as she was forced to wear a brace for her scoliosis and I championed Danziger’s Marcy Lewis as she tried to find her voice in The Cat That Ate My Gymsuit.

While I’ve never met Judy Blume, I did have the great fortune to meet Paula Danziger. My mother ran the reading program at her Middle School and Danziger was one of the guest speakers. When I was seventeen, I sat next to Paula as she signed her books with a pink pen shaped like a lipstick. I eagerly told her that I wanted to be an author one day and she smiled and told me if I wanted to be an author, then I would be one. And when she was finished signing books, she handed me her pink lipstick pen – and told me that I could use it when I did my own book signings.

A couple of decades later, I still have the pink lipstick pen and, indeed, have signed my own books with it. Thanks Paula.