60 Seconds with Judy Blume
introduction by SA Jordan
Judy Blume is one of the biggest-selling children’s authors of all time. She has written over 25 books, including three for adults, sold 80 million copies worldwide, and won over 90 literary awards. Her books have been translated into 31 different languages. Judy is a long time campaigner against censorship and works alongside The National Coalition Against Censorship protecting what she calls the freedom to read.
An established writer for over 40 years, Blume has not so much flirted with controversy as jumped into the back seat with it. An honest, refreshing and much-needed approach to taboo subjects such as; teenage sexuality Forever (1975), masturbation Deenie (1973), Then Again Maybe I Won’t (1972) and the twin ‘evils’ of puberty and religion as featured in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970) have propelled the ‘Queen of Teen’ to the top of the most-banned list of books in the US, time after time.
A multi-million, award-winning, controversial author, Judy is so much more than that. She doesn’t just write for children, she understands them. Her talent for immersing herself in a child’s world is untouched. She may be a mother to three, but judging by the millions of letters and emails she’s received, she’s a mother to the masses. Such was the size of her postbag, she published Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You (1986), a mix of readers’ letters and Judy’s own experiences.
It’s impossible to convey the influence she’s had on her millions of loyal readers, or to say just how many authors felt the first stirrings to write and reached for a pen after reading her books. There is no measure for such things and no words to explain the outstanding writer and woman that is Judy Blume.
Which was your favourite childhood book?
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Where do you write?
In Key West, where it’s always summer, in a study that opens to a garden. On Martha’s Vineyard, during July and August, in a tiny writing cabin with a view out to sea. I’ve written many books there. Am I lucky or what?
Which was the book that changed your life?
Books changed my life, reading changed my life. Finding myself in fiction changed my life.
Of the books I’ve written, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret changed my life and made me believe I might actually be a writer.
What objects are on your desk, and why?
That changes on any given day. I’m messiest when I’m deeply involved with what I’m writing. Today, two purple loose leaf notebooks, one filled with research and notes for the book I’m writing; the second holding a first draft of the same book. Also, a paperweight; box of Kleenex; cup holding an assortment of pens, pencils, markers; scotch tape; stapler; scissors; land line telephone; iPhone; intercom to rest of house; To Do list; computer, several pads of Post-its. Printer on a side table.
Which book should every child read?
That would be a different book for each child. The object is to find that book that’s going to make a difference, that’s so going to delight, intrigue, inform that it will make that child want to read, read, read, all his/her life.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
Actually, I’m not sure. Aha! That’s it — actually.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t?
I’m trying to come up with one but so far, no luck.
What have you learned from writing?
Everything! That determination is as important as talent. Not to let anyone discourage you. To stand up for what you believe in. To be true to your characters.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Too many titles come to mind. I’m not good at choosing one of anything. I once grew so discouraged by reading a great book while I was trying to write, I couldn’t write a word for three months.
E-books – nemesis or genesis?
I’m a realist. E-books are here to stay. I accept that. I have an E-reader myself. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on books as we know them. I love to see my favs sitting on my bookshelves. And I love bookshops. But if the object is to keep more people reading and buying books, I think E-books may help.
You’ve fought long and hard against censorship. Are things getting better for writers, and readers?
It’s all cyclical. Those who want to control what kids think/read will always come up with a new book to ban. What’s better is more schools and libraries have policies in place. What’s worse is groups who are gaining popularity with parents and teachers by rating books. We should all be asking, according to whose standards?
What are you working on at the moment?
A novel – I think it will be YA but I can’t be sure yet.
What’s your favourite smell?