It's hard to imagine a writer with more influence over young readers than Judy Blume. It's not just that her voice is true and appealing. It's also that she writes about the things kids hunger for (which is probably why she is often in the sights of book censors).
More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and they're available in more than 32 languages, making her beloved around the world.
You probably have your own Judy Blume moment: that time you found yourself inside the safety of a book with characters experiencing exactly the things you feared, struggled with, or wondered about.
Mine came when I read the book DEENIE during a swim meet when I was in sixth grade. A friend had lent it to me, because that is the way of Judy Blume books. They are passed hand to hand, as secrets are from mouth to ear.
I read it straight through in the hot, chlorinated air of that swimming pool, lying on my damp towel as I waited for my events to be called. And as it is with the books we loved when we were young, that one twisted itself into my DNA and lives there still. When I see things that remind me of those characters and their struggles, when I smell a hot blast of chlorine, back I go into that story. I'm not that same kid anymore, and so the story isn't the same story. It's better, and this is the genius of Judy Blume.
Judy is a big supporter of the children's writing community and serves on the SCBWI board of advisors. What's more, a fellow SCBWI member, the unstoppable Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrated a brilliant new series of covers for her classic books.
Judy will be at the sold-out SCBWI conference in Los Angeles next month, and even though she is on a book deadline (with her adult novel coming out next year), she took the time to answer a few questions for us.
Did you ever have a moment in your career when you thought you'd never get the hang of it?
Not so much in the beginning because I didn't know anything—as now, when I know too much. And in between I've had a lot of moments when I wanted to quit.
How did you move past that?
Don't over think it and just let it come. If it doesn't come today it will come tomorrow. Sometimes I just have to take long breaks between books.
What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
From my daughter, this week. (I'm having a hard time with revisions due the end of summer).
"Mother, just get up every morning, sit at your desk and write down anything and everything and it will come." And that's exactly what I'm doing. Sometimes, even when you know what to do, it helps to hear it again.
Every woman my age I know (including me) credits you with helping us navigate adolescence. Are there any authors who did that for you?
There were no YA book when I was a teen. I was reading from my parents' bookshelves at 13. Those books may not have helped me navigate adolescence but I learned a lot about life from them.
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The New Yorker on Judy Blume