An Interview with Judy Blume
When were you born?: February 12, 1938
Where were you born?: Elizabeth, New Jersey
Where did you go to school?: Public schools in Elizabeth, New Jersey; B.S., New York University, 1961
Were you a good student?
Yes, especially when the teacher made the subject come alive!
What were you like when you were growing up?
Small, skinny, a late developer. At first, very shy and fearful. Then, around fourth grade, much more outgoing. (I can't explain this change.) I enjoyed drama, dancing, singing, painting and performing. I loved to roller skate (we didn't have roller blades then). I also loved going to the movies and browsing at the public library. I was always reading something.
What were your favorite books?
The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace.
What was your family like?
A lot like the family in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. That's my most autobiographical book. Sally is the kind of kid I was at ten. My brother was like Douglas, Sally's brother.
Are any of your other characters based on you or your family?
Sheila, in Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, has some of my childhood fears. And Margaret, in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., has many of the feelings and concerns I had when I was in sixth grade. But her family is very different from mine.
Where do you get your ideas?
I used to be afraid to answer that question. I thought if I ever figured it out I'd never have another one! But now I know that ideas come from everywhere--memories of my own life, incidents in my children's lives, what I see and hear and read--and most of all, from my imagination.
What about Fudge?
I knew you'd ask me about him! Fudge was based on my son, Larry, when he was a toddler. Larry never swallowed a turtle, though. That idea came from a news article about a toddler who actually did swallow one! Now Larry has grown up but I still get ideas form him. He's the one who told me about swallowing a fly while riding his bike. That's how I got the idea for the I.S.A.F. club in Fudge-a-mania.
Of all the books you have written, which is your favorite, and who is your favorite character?
An impossible question to answer. It's like asking a mother, which is your favorite child? Each one is special in a different way.
How old were you when your first book was published and which book was it?
I was twenty-seven when I began to write seriously and after two years of rejections my first book, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, was accepted for publication.
How long does it take you to write a book?
About a year, if there are no disruptions in my personal life and other professional obligations don't get in the way. What every writer needs is long blocks of uninterrupted time. You can't think if your life gets too busy!
Do you know the whole story before you start a new book?
No. But before I begin to write I fill a notebook, jotting down everything that pops into my head about my characters and story--bits of dialogue, ideas for scenes, background information, descriptions of people and places, details and more details. But even with my notebook, I still don't know everything. For me, finding out is the best part of writing.
What's the hardest part of writing for you?
I dread first drafts! I worry each day that it won't come, that nothing will happen.
Do you ever rewrite?
I love to rewrite! Once I have a first draft I'm able to relax. It's as if I have the pieces to a puzzle and all I have to do is figure out how to put them together. I actually enjoy second and third drafts. Only then do I share a new book with my editor. After we talk I do another rewrite and then a final polish.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
During the summer months (my favorite time of the year) we go to Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. I have a tiny writing cabin there, far enough away from the house to feel very private. I get up early in the morning and work until noon. I wrote most of my latest book, Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, there. Sometimes I wish summer would last all year long.
Are you going to write more books?
I certainly hope so! I have two ideas right now but I'm not ready to talk about them yet. . .