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FEATURE TOPIC: Remembering Paula Danziger

Q: Remembering Paula Danziger

[This is shared from a speech given at Paula’s memorial service.]

I was 23 and working at Dell when I met Paula. It was rare to tour children’s authors then, but we planned to send her to Washington, Cleveland, Boston and Toronto. The tour was planned for Northeast cities in January — probably with the notion that we’d get more interviews, since more sensible people would have known to stay home.

From the start, Paula worried our planes might crash. My boss worried about my managing Paula, and warned me, saying: “Don’t let her stay out all night playing video games!”

Paula made a dramatic entrance at each TV studio. Upon our arrival, she’d clutch the producer’s arm and say how frightened she was to go on air. Then, while the producer blanched and glared at me, Paula would walk onto the set completely calm and do a hilarious interview. The cameramen loved her.

Most programs didn’t do much with children’s topics, so had no idea what to make of Paula.

One TV host was completely baffled when she answered the question, “What would you do with a kid who won’t read?” by saying “I’d lock him in a room with no food and water, just stacks of books, and not let him out or feed him until he could write a book report on each one.”

From the first night, Paula insisted she needed to play Centipede and Pacman, and eat peanut M&Ms to unwind; so we did that daily. We talked about family and work and we laughed a lot.

We also debated about whether it was safe to fly to the next city, and by the time we left for Boston, I was taking breaks by sitting in other parts of the plane.

That was about the time she called me into her room, pointed at the TV, and declared she was right, and I saw that a plane had crashed at Logan just hours after we landed.

Paula went on to inform me she always lost her luggage in Buffalo, which was where we were flying next on the way to Toronto. She felt perfectly vindicated when her luggage did get lost there, and we had to rely on friends in Toronto to provide her with clean underwear.

Years later, Paula claimed she knew I’d finally lost it in Toronto when I started pelting her with snowballs. I was forced to agree when I remembered our last morning there when, at breakfast I found myself pouring tea into my cup of coffee. Paula laughed and said that happened to everyone she worked with.

Paula went on to meet my family, and later became part of my children’s lives. We were privileged to be among many people who knew and loved her, and we’ll remember her always. 9:10/04