Last night I sat on a hard chair in a room crammed with 400 strangers to hear one of my childhood idols speak and, later, have her sign my book.
And it was wonderful.
Judy Blume is the beloved author of 28 books which have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. You’d figure that might give her the right to have a bit of diva in her, but she was about as humble and sweet as the favorite grandma on the block. At 77, she is sprightly and engaging, telling stories with the same warmth and humor I’ve always loved in her books.
The book she is currently promoting is IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT, her first novel in 17 years. Set in the early 1950s, it uses as its backdrop the real story of the winter Judy was 15 and 3 airplanes crashed in her town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, within a month. (Yes, besides all the reasons to love her, she is also a Jersey girl. Pitter patter). She carried this story inside all her life without forgetting it but never telling it, until, at the age of 71, she began to spin the tale. The book took five years to write and one to publish.
It was so wonderful to be in the room with the woman who wrote so many stories that I’ve loved so long. My favorite part of the evening was when someone asked the inevitable question that most writers get (heck, even I get this one all the time), “Was is your advice for aspiring writers?”
She said, “Read, read, read, read, read.” She told the story of bringing arm fulls of books home from the library, reading them, then separating them into piles: “These are boring. I don’t want to write like this,” and “I wish I could write like this.”
Judy’s books have been in my “I wish I could write like this” pile for a very long time.
But my favorite thing that she was was this, “Don’t let anyone discourage you. We all face rejection. Determination is as important as talent.” My eyes filled with tears. She was everything I’d hoped she would be.
Getting to meet a childhood idol? Check.