Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Social Media Brings Me Judy

The greatest thing in the world happened yesterday. I got an email from Judy Blume. If you've never heard of Judy Blume, you were either raised under a rock or you knew all about adolescence before you came out of the womb. Judy Blume is a legend. She's one of those authors who finds herself at the top of a recommended reading list for young people. She's the Statue of Liberty for all young bookworms. Her books, for both young and old, all seem to portray the same message: If you reach a point where you don't know what to do in life, it's okay; neither does anyone else. She shows, through quirky and thoughtful characters, that it's okay to fumble. It's okay to stutter and stammer or be too fat or too thin or flat-chested or big-chested, handicapped, diseased, geeky, unloved, untouched, unhappy or just plain awkward. She says, hey, it's okay to dream. It's normal to wonder. If you're mean, if you laugh at others, or even if you laugh at yourself, that's fine. No matter what you do, you'll learn from it. She taught her readers that it's okay to be yourself, and nine times out of ten, you'll be imperfect.

I discovered through another blog that Mrs. Blume has a website. I stopped by her site and left a message on her guest blog. Anyone who has ever read a Judy Blume book, especially in the 70s and 80s, will understand my note:

C.Amethyst Frost

Dear Judy Blume,

I've read your books since the 70s. Thank you for getting me through an awkward adolescence when there was no one else to explain. Thank you for preparing me for adulthood when I had no idea what to expect. And thank you, especially, for inspiring me -- as early as the age of 10 -- to become a writer. I am me because of you.
Posted May 26, 2012 11:56 am

This is true. I was a heavy reader in my childhood, a trait that expanded exponentially through my adulthood. Back in the 70s and early 80s, no one talked about those sensitive subjects that complicate an adolescent's life. Schools had classes to tell you where babies came from, but the process looked so sterile and unnatural that no one really believed that's how it's done. Most of the time, however, there are questions long before you get to those classes. Most of the time, "things" happen before the classes as well. Parents were useless in these cases. No one taught them anything, so many of them didn't know how to teach their own kids. Not that it mattered. No kid was going to ask their first generation Italian-American/Irish-American/Jewish-American/German-American parents how a specific incident feels. And they didn't have to. Judy Blume did it for them. She taught 9-year-olds that being an older sibling can be frustrating and unfair, but there are rewards for being a mentor. She taught bossy 10-year-old girls that life changes as you grow up, and you may not have all the answers. She taught us that kids can be mean, but you can get through it.

By the time you're 13, you're addicted to Judy Blume's wisdom. Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I won't bridged teenagers into their blossoming years, answering questions they'd never dare ask their parents. Mrs. Blume doesn't even abandon her readers there. Forever and Wifey are her way of saying, yep, even in adulthood, you won't know everything.

It was the intimacy I felt with these books that first sparked the writer in me. Her books were like friends. They talked to me. It only felt right that I talked back. It took decades to finally get here, and I will never be the legend that Judy Blume has become, but just as she took me from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood, so too will she carry me as a writer.

Imagine my delight when I opened my email and found this:

From: Judy Blume <>
Subject: Thanks for your message
Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 12:49 PM

Hi C. Amethyst,

Thanks so much for your warm and thoughtful message.  It means a lot to know how well you remember my books, and that they helped you during difficult times.  I'm trying to write a new one now.  Think it will be older YA, but it will probably take two years to finish it. (Ugh - writing is hard work!)  It's my readers who keep me writing.  Where would I be without you?  You can follow me on twitter @judyblume, though I'm trying not to tweet too often. It's too good a distraction.



P.S. - Watch for news of Tiger Eyes, the movie based on the book, on my website.

How cool is that? Social media is a crazy thing. We're at a time when everyone can communicate with everyone, no matter how famous they are, no matter how poor or rich they are. Those icons in our lives who were once immortal and untouchable are now only a couple of thumb taps away. We can now reach out to actors, politicians, artists, long lost relatives, and even the President of the United States through websites, texts, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. (Judy Blume tweets! Who'd have thunk?)

When I was 8 years old, hugging a copy of Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing at the counter of the Ocean Township library, only willing to release it long enough to have the librarian flip open the back (where it made that crinkly sound because it was covered in a protective plastic cover) and press a rubber date stamp onto a little card (my name was written on that card at least 10 times by then), I never imagined that I would one day be contacted by the book's creator. It was closure. That link between child and adult has finally clicked.

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