Virginia Hamilton: Her Influence, Her Words, Her Love
An essay by Jaime Adoff
And the magic, to me, it was all magic . . seeing my mother go into her study with nothing but a cup of coffee, coming out hours later with pages of writing. This amazed me. Every day she did it. Sometimes I would watch her work, listen to her read her manuscripts to my Dad, watch them discussing ideas, characters, plot.
All of this I soaked up into my imagination; it became part of my upbringing, part of who I was, what I would become. Of course as a child I didn’t know the significance of watching the creative process up close. To me it was just cool to be there – to be watching my parents do their job, together, this job that to me was as mysterious as any mystery novel.
As I got a little older my Mom would make a point of telling me that her job was just like any other. She just worked at home, her tools her typewriter, paper, and Wite Out™ (Do they even make Wite Out™ anymore?). She always instilled in me an incredible work ethic – making sure I really understood that to be a creative artist was work. You just didn’t sit down and write a perfect novel, or a perfect song. It took time, and work, and years of dedication to learn your craft, a lesson that was never lost on me.
My path was music and I approached it with the dedication and passion I had seen, as a child, in my parents – receiving a Bachelor of Music degree from Central State University in Ohio, where I studied drums and percussion. Then going on to study voice in graduate school at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. My mother was so supportive during this time, watching me perform with my Top 40 cover band at Holiday Inns across southern Ohio. Coming to all of my recitals in college. When I fronted my own rock band for eight years in New York, she would come see me perform whenever she was in town, going to some clubs that my Dad likes to say, “you didn’t even want to put your coat down they were so slimy.” But she was there.
When I called her a few years ago to say I was joining the family business, she took an uncharacteristically long pause, and said, “What’s the family business?” I had shocked my Mom. For those of you who knew her , this was not an easy feat. After a few minutes, she realized I wanted to write books, and this is what I meant. She was overjoyed. From that moment on, our relationship went to another level.
Over the next few years we would talk for hours about writing, our favorite authors, how they wrote their books. My mother knew it all. I would ask a question about writing, and she could answer it ten different ways. Some of her writing wisdom I have saved, in the form of e-mails she wrote me. Some of what she shared with me, I am not even ready to grasp yet, but she told me anyway. I suppose I have the rest of my life to try to begin to understand the genius that was Virginia Hamilton.