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A window into an author’s mind

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Margaret “Peg” Arnold was a member of the Wellesley community for nearly 70 years. She moved to Wellesley with her parents in 1924 and served as the head librarian at the Wellesley Free Library for 31 years. She had been thoroughly involved in town meeting, became a director of the Wellesley Human Relations Service, and performed in the Wellesley Symphony and College Orchestras.

To say it simply, Ms. Arnold was a critical community member for the town. When she entered retirement, the Friends of the Wellesley Free Library established the Annual Margaret Arnold Lecture series in her honor.

For this year’s Arnold Lecture, the Friends welcomed award-winning author Julia Glass to discuss her fiction novels and work as a writer on May 7.

Nichole Bernier, a journalist, author, and Wellesley resident, facilitated the discussion with Glass. The two talked about Glass’s most recent book, “A House in the Trees,” which was published on May 1 of this year.

Inspired by a real life story about Maurice Sendak, Glass’s newest novel explores the aftermath of an unexpected will that children’s author “Mort Lear” leaves to his live-in assistant.

“When you’re a fiction writer, you’re an actor,” Glass, who worked as a painter in her twenties, said.

She revealed that she had done less research for “A House in the Trees” than her other books, and it also ended up being her fastest written book, having only taken two years to complete. One character, Nick Greene, is an actor preparing to portray Lear in a new film. Glass told the audience that her own son is an actor, and she was easily able to develop Greene’s character.

“You are both creating characters and inhabiting them, and hoping that your readers will inhabit them,” she said. “It’s like you’re the play writer, the screenwriter, and the actor all at once.”

Bernier also asked Glass about her writing routine.

“I’m not someone who has a routine,” she said honestly. “In some ways that is not a good thing … I’m really kind of a late morning/early afternoon person, and that’s when I’m accustomed to doing my best work. But there are weeks on end when the book only exists in my brain, and of course, I daydream about it.”

As a child, Glass was a daydreamer, and it has only helped her with her novels. However, now that she is also a writing teacher, she told the audience that she tends to write in spurts, when classes are not in session.

“I don’t think you need to write every day to be a good writer. You don’t,” she said, “but you have to stay in touch with your characters, and that’s what I strive to do.”

Glass also discussed the publishing process, including the process of choosing a book cover. Audience members were also curious about her journey in creating and writing characters.

However, everyone was also eager to know if there would be another book coming anytime in the near future. The answer came as a clear yes.

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