The Clemens Lecture: Judy Blume
June 21, 7 p.m., $25-$85, University of Hartford, Lincoln Theater, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, (860) 768-4228, hartford.edu/hartt
If you have a vagina, there's a good chance someone threw a copy of Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret at you at some point in your life. It's now standard-issue literature for adolescent girls in training bras trying to come to terms with the concept of a tampon. Judy Blume, we thank you.
At the Mark Twain House this week, Blume will be having a one-on-one conversation with the Twain House's Julia Pistell — who's been documenting online her experience reading and re-reading books from Blume's catalog — and answering audience questions. She says she prefers it this way.
"I will no longer accept a speaking engagement if it means I have to write a talk," says Blume from her home in Florida. This Q&A format "just has been pure pleasure instead of pure agony and anxiety, and so I really, really enjoy it."
Blume's always been accessible to her fans, writing back to many children who've written to her. She published a book of her correspondence with young readers called Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You in 1986, and says she still keeps in touch with readers who began writing to her when they were young. And now, 74-year-old Blume is an active Twitter user (@JudyBlume), tweeting frequently and enthusiastically and holding regular Q&As on Skype.
Blume says many of her letters have been from kids just looking for advice and answers to complicated questions, and some from kids — and adults — looking for help.
"There have been plenty of times when I've had to help people find professional help," Blume says. "Talk about hard stuff to have on your shoulders." With the Internet, though, Blume says many of those people have more access to helplines and information, and so she doesn't receive quite the volume of mail from people in dark places.
Blume's bibliography is huge. Are You There is practically an icon of female adolescence, but many others are classics appealing to girls and boys, too: Freckle Juice, about a boy who tries a concoction promising to disappear his freckles; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the first in a series of Fudge books, and Blubber, about school bullying. She's also written popular adult novels (Wifey) and is currently working on a novel now, though she says she's not sure yet whom its audience will be.
For the Twain talk, Blume says she's excited (and even tweeted she's reading Huck Finn in preparation; Blume, like Twain, has struggled with and against censorship of her books). She says they'll be discussing writing and books and she anticipates many kids (bring the kids!) will have questions about specific characters.
"I have lots of anecdotes to share," she says. "We're going to have a good time."
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