That was the question that started it all. The year was 1998, and my husband and I were at a party. I had recently rekindled my love of children’s literature and I’d finally had the courage to try to become a published author, so for me the answer was simple: Judy Blume.
Judy Blume wrote the books that made me fall in love with reading. I connected with her characters and wondered if Judy had a secret camera or a portal into my heart and soul. How else could she know me so well? Her characters filled a void in my life. Collectively, they were the big sister I always dreamed of, understanding, loving, and guiding me through adolescence.
I imagined sitting down to dinner with Judy Blume, telling her about the impact she had on my life and taking in all the wisdom she had to offer. Judy Blume! Seriously, is there anyone cooler?
Two years and many rejection letters later, my husband, Alan, wanted to surprise me for my birthday. He wrote a letter to Judy Blume telling her about me and proposing that he would fly me anywhere anytime for a meal with her. Although Judy decided not to take him up on his offer, she wrote me a wonderful letter, and that was enough for me. It was then that a secret wish took hold in my heart-- someday Judy and I would meet, not as adoring fan and esteemed author, but as colleagues.
Over the next few years, I worked harder and harder at my writing, and in 2004 I sold my first book, Julia’s Kitchen, to Farrar Straus & Giroux. Of course I wrote to Judy to share this exciting news, and to my delight, she wrote back. Judy Blume and I were practically penpals!
The next year, the American Library Association’s conference was in Chicago, and a librarian friend of mine was invited to a party where Judy Blume would be speaking. She knew how I felt about Judy, so she invited me to come along. I was thrilled. And terrified. What would I actually say to Judy now that I had a chance to meet her face-to-face?
It turned out I had nothing to fear. Judy was as warm and down-to-earth as you could possibly imagine. She hugged me hello, introduced me to her friends and industry insiders, and even mentioned me in her speech. It was a magical evening. And again, that would have been enough. But the universe had more in store for me.
Judy and me in 2005
Fast-forward three years to Judy Blume writing a blog entry about Sarah Palin called “Hockey Mom.” I forwarded the essay to a bunch of my friends and wrote to tell Judy how much I loved it. She wrote back to thank me and to tell me she would soon be in Chicago for a Banned Book Readout. She said she didn’t have her schedule yet, but maybe we could meet for a meal and catch up.
Meet for a meal and catch up? Like old girlfriends? Judy Blume and me????
I didn’t think the meal would actually happen. Her schedule wouldn’t permit it. Or there would be an earthquake. Or a tsunami. Or something. But Judy Blume had invited me, and that was more than enough.
As her Chicago trip got closer, though, our plans firmed up, and yesterday I found myself in my car, driving to the city to have lunch with Judy Blume. With butterflies in my stomach and happy tears in my eyes, I thought about all the things that came together to bring me to this moment. Her books. That party. Alan’s letter. My wish.
Lunch was like getting together with an old girlfriend. I didn’t have to tell her how her books impacted my life, and she didn’t have to offer me her wisdom. Instead, we connected person-to-person, not just as colleagues as I’d wished for all those years ago, but also (dare I say?) as friends.
Wishes and hard work. Luck and generous people. These are powerful forces. I hope you believe in them. I know I do.