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Taking a Break From Writing Her Third Novel

151029 Y's Men Marks-White Untermeyer2Judith Marks-White took time out from writing her third novel to tell Y’s Men a bit about herself — though most everyone knows her for the satirical takes on life she’s offered every week for the almost 30 years in her award winning column in the Westport News.

Ms. Marks-White gave the group a first — she was interviewed by writer, film maker and long time friend Jarret Liotta. It worked. Liotta kept the process moving, opening new topics or getting the last piece of an old one.

That third novel, like most of her work, is about her life, her friends, her observations. It’s about a mother daughter relationship. Both lose their spouses. The mother moves from Manhattan to Westport to live with her daughter.

“Each of them develops relationship with a man… “

She writes today, as she did as a seven year old beginner, “scratching out words” in the black and white composition books to which she has an “addiction.”

After stints at Time magazine, Time-Life Books and Doubleday, and as a free lance humor writer, she became the Westport News’s humor writer. Her first columns, she said, “weren’t my voice,” but soon “I came into myself.”

She’s turned what many see as a lonely craft into an “alone” craft, writing amid the “white noise and commotion of people milling around,” mostly in local restaurants (and mourning the passing of “V”).

Her first novel came about by accident. She was introduced to an agent who asked “Have you ever thought of doing a novel?” Though she never thought of herself a novelist, she said she had one in the back of her mind, with 25 to 50 pages on paper.

“Why don’t you send the pages to me?” “Okay, fine, and I did.” She finished the book, Seducing Harry, the agent sold it in two weeks, and gave her a two book deal. “One of my lucky moments.”

The book has a Westport connection, with a protagonist named Parker Harding, and a setting called Seaport.

Writing a novel, she told the group, “Is such a departure from writing a column. In a column you write a good opening sentence, make the rest “breezy,” get in and out fast, and “leave them laughing, hopefully.”

A book is “so daunting because there are endless pages to fill.”

“A second book,” her agent asked? “Yes, of course I have a second book, which I didn’t, so I just went home and wrote one.”

At the suggestion of her husband, she became a teacher at Norwalk Community College. The interview boiled down to “My husband thinks I should teach.” “What are your credentials?” “I have no credentials as a teacher, but I am a writer.” “Perfect. We want you.”

For 12 years she taught there, and one year was recognized as Teacher of the Year. “A shock, I didn’t expect it.”

She started a Saturday afternoon workshop at the Westport Library on October 31st. “Improv for writers.”  “You don’t have to be a writer… have fun and learn to write fiction.”

Ms. Marks-White said writing fiction is not easy because a writer “always needs ideas.” But reading her column is easy, and it’s enjoyable.

Roy Fuchs