Canine Comforters

J. Wynn Rousuck ’72

A portrait of Judy Rousuck '72 holding a small dog

Photo by Jerry Jackson

Photo by Jerry Jackson

Judy Rousuck ’72 loved working on the Wellesley News during a fraught period of student antiwar protest. The demands of editing the paper in those pre-internet, pre-software years kept her so busy that, though she loves theater, she can’t recall attending any performances on campus. “In those days, we actually had to take the bus to Somerville to the typesetter,” she recalls. Judy combined her love of journalism and theater, first as drama critic for the Baltimore Sun (reviewing 3,000 plays in 23 years), and currently as critic for Baltimore’s NPR affiliate, experiences that also paved the way for her debut novel, Please Write.

Please Write is a daring feat of storytelling, consisting of letters exchanged between two dogs and “Grandma Vivienne,” the alter ego of a recently widowed artist. Judy cites playwright Paula Vogel as a seminal influence: “I attended a workshop she taught for members of the media. She asked us to choose from three categories: Write a play about a dog, a monologue, or a play that’s impossible to stage. I colored outside the lines and wrote a dog’s inner monologue.” Vogel was so impressed that she took Judy aside and said, “You could do this.”

While Please Write is full of humor, and even doggy slapstick, the three correspondents contend with real hardship. That’s no accident. Judy says the idea for this epistolary novel came from intense, real life grief. “My relationship with my mother was the greatest relationship in my life. I knew it when it was happening,” she says, “and both my first and second husbands knew it.” When her mother died suddenly, Judy was devastated: “Every day for weeks, I held my dog in my arms and wept,” she says. Turning to her mother’s letters for comfort, Judy had an epiphany. “What if I could share her voice with other people in newly created letters? I could bring her back in the room with me and with readers.”

Last spring, Judy took copies of Please Write to a Wellesley class gathering in Washington, D.C. Almost immediately, a classmate wrote to say she was moved to tears reading the book on the plane home. Judy says, “The time I spent with these characters in my head got me through really tough times, and I wanted to share their company. I hope they give some solace and humor to other people.”

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