Meeting Judy Blume
I always loved Judy Blume, so when Keris Stainton who writes Counting Stars and Spotlight on Sunny (amongst many others) told me that she had been asked to interview the infamous writer, I unashamedly invited myself to accompany her to the event at Manchester Central Library.
Judy Blume has sold an amazing 85 million books throughout her career as an author. Not one to shy away from difficult issues, Blume’s ‘warts and all’ style of writing meant that she was the writer who spoke the voice of a generation and paved the way for a whole new genre of young adult fiction.
Most fans of Judy’s work have a particular title that stays with them. A clear favourite for me was the book Summer Sisters which I read when I was 17. It wasn’t the first book that I read but it was a book that I have never tired of re-reading. I would also credit Summer Sisters for sparking an early love of erotica after so many hours devouring the deliciously naughty bits of the book, which were so unusual in a book for teenagers at that time.
The trip to Manchester was pretty uneventful. Keris was incredibly nervous about the interview but we chatted easily throughout the journey into the city. After getting into Manchester we visited the local WHSmiths and hunted down some copies of Judy’s books, even spotting a few written by Keris along the way!
It didn’t take long to get to the Manchester Central Library where I picked up a copy of Judy Blume’s new book In The Unlikely Event and a fresh copy of Summer Sisters to be signed later on. It wasn’t long before an excited buzz informed us that Judy had arrived and Keris darted off to have a private chat with writing royalty before the interview. I took my seat and chatted to the other guests before the big moment.
Sarah Vickers from Newcastle explained how she’d travelled for over 4 hours by coach to meet Judy Blume in Manchester.
‘This is a dream come true for me, I was going to travel to the states but this is much closer to home. I am hoping to get my work published and Judy Blume is a huge influence on my writing. There was no way that I was going to miss this today. ’
The Keris who took to the stage and sat along one of the world’s best loved writers, was a very different woman to the one who paced anxiously around the library as we waited for Judy to arrive. She was cool, collected and very relaxed as she introduced herself and began the interview.
Judy oozed vibrant energy and youth as she laughed and teased her way through the questions asked by Keris. She looked and chatted like a woman so much younger than her 77 years and lovingly referred to her husband George as her ‘google’ because he knew so much about her. She engaged the audience easily and you could hear as pin drop throughout the while time that she was on stage.
One thing that really struck me was her reference to her new book In The Unlikely Event, as the book that she felt ‘she was always meant to write.’ It was 5 years in production and centres around a real life event that she experienced as a child. Three planes crashed in a very short space in time occurred in the town where she lived and the book combines fictional tales around a real life tragedy. Immediately I wanted to see exactly how this book differed from all the other titles which meant so much to me as a child.
When asked about the millions of young girls she affected growing up, Judy responded:
‘I can’t allow myself to think about those girls as the pressure would be too great and I would be able to do anything.’
She also revealed that she draws on her own experience and discussed a difficult time as a child when she was away from her Father and worried about him terribly. In order to ensure his safety, Judy would bargain with God and performed rituals in the hope that this kept her dad safe. It was this which inspired ‘Are you there God, It’s me Margaret.’
When asked whether she worried that the difficult subjects that she discussed would offend her readers she simply replied that she didn’t.
‘If a child doesn’t like a book, the will simply put it down. I wrote Forever for my daughter who wanted to read a book about teenage love and sex, where nobody died because they ‘did it’. I wrote about periods because they are a part of growing up. In some of the Margaret books, they still have reference to the sanitary belts that were used in the 70’s but the newer versions have a sticky pad now.’
Judy also apologised to all Ralph’s for the role of that particular name in Forever which was met with roars of laughter from the crowd, and refused to be drawn on the subject of Caitlin’s disappearance in Summer Sisters.
‘I have no idea what happened to Caitlin, the story wasn’t told from her point of view. It’s a mystery to me too.’
On asked about her biggest influences she stated:
‘Both George and I were huge fans of the Betsy-Tacy books. We are furious with our Mothers for throwing them out, but the best gift my parents ever gave me was to show me that reading is good.’
I couldn’t agree with her more…
Meeting Judy Blume
After the questions, Judy retired to a small desk at the back of the library where a huge queue gathered to have their books signed and a quick chat with the lady herself. Because there were so many people it was clear that time was to be limited, but Judy took the time to smile and share a few words with everyone in the queue.
Very quickly, copies of Summer Sisters, Forever and Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret sold out as hopefuls scrambled to have their favourite stories signed. Keris happily signed copies of her book (which were on sale next to Judy Blume books!) whilst I nervously waited to meet one of my childhood idols.
I’d like to say that we shared a lengthy and profound conversation. However, by the time I got to Judy the nerves had gotten the better of me and I made a feeble joke about my friend thinking that Judy Blume was someone from Come Dine with Me whilst she signed my books. She gave me a polite smile but it was clear that she thought I was an escapee from somewhere with padded rooms and bars on the window.
I really didn’t mind though, particularly as I now have 2 signed copies of Judy Blume books. Even if she wouldn’t tell me what happened to Caitlin and she probably thinks that I’m a nutcase. Whoop!
Getting Home from Meeting Judy Blume
On the way home, we found an Iphone 6 with an Indian Guru as the screensaver, discovered that we SERIOUSLY need to start going to the gym as we ran for the train, discussed masturbation in moving cars and paid tribute to Ian Botham’s penis.
Pretty standard really.