Support Chicago Public Library with a gift of any level.

Meet YA Author, National Treasure and This Year’s Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Recipient – Judy Blume!

What do scribbles, passion and a little bit of magic have in common? Based on our interview with Judy Blume, it seems like it might just be the recipe for literary genius.

On October 9th, we will be honoring Judy Blume at the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, celebrating her contributions to the literary world and her authorial voice, which served as a touchstone for so many adolescent readers.  We got the chance to catch up with the most banned book author and asked her many must-know questions from our fans. Favorite character? Toughest title? Read on to find out more.

On the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner

Despite her many awards and accolades, when asked what it meant to be a Carl Sandburg Literary Awards recipient, Judy’s first few sentences said it all.  “I’ve been thinking about that – because every honor is special. So I looked through to see who has received it before and to be in their company – wow.” She continued, “ I’m excited to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson and Erika Sanchez; I have both of their books on my shelves.” Which is, of course, the highest praise one author can give another.

On Judy and the Library

It should be no surprise that Blume’s love of the library started at a young age, but when we asked for her fondest memory, she gave an anecdote that would make any librarian blush. “My mother took me to the library every week until I was about 3 or 4,” she started. “And I played librarian. I made little pockets for all of my books before everything was computerized.”
Given her long-held love for libraries, we had to know, ‘What does it feel like to know your work is living on so many library shelves?’ The author took a pregnant pause. “That’s a hard question to answer,” she said. “How do you put that into words? It’s deeply personal. I can’t even explain it. It’s magical. It’s magic. It feels like nothing I’ve ever imagined.”

On Judy and Writing

When asked about her own writing journey, Judy shared that she had been coming up with stories since she was about eight or nine years old, but, she explained, “I never thought of writing them down until I did.” She added, laughing, that in her early writing career, “I didn’t know what I was doing. Writing was my own desperate need to be involved in some sort of creative work, at a time where women weren’t necessarily expected to work.” And aren’t we glad she did!

Judy on Reader’s Questions

When asked who her favorite character of the many she’s put into the universe is, Judy answered with a smile, “When children ask me that, I always tell them it’s like asking a mother if she has a favorite child. But if I really had to say, it would be Fudge or Margaret.”
When asked which book (of her many) was the toughest to write, the author laughed, “The last one is the one I’m going to tell you today,” referring to her 2015 release, In the Unlikely Event. The book explores a real event that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, during which a succession of airplanes crashed near her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The novel explores how the chain of disasters affected her protagonist, as well as her community.
In the age of iPads and Kindles, we had to know: between typing on a computer and writing by hand, which was her preference? “I always feel I get my best moments when I have a pencil in my hand,” she explained. “I print out, and then I scribble. Scribble, scribble, scribble. That’s where my best ideas come from.”
Before closing the interview, we asked Blume quite possibly the most important question of the day: as the author of so many beloved characters and stories, where do her ideas come from? She responded in the tone her readers, young and old, know and love her for: “You never know where a good idea is going to come from. It’s magic.”
Judy Blume lives in Key West, Florida with her husband, George Cooper. Together they own the only indie and nonprofit bookstore in Key West, Books & Books. They have transitioned seamlessly – and happily – from book writers to book sellers. This year, she will be joining us on stage with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Erika Sanchez and the Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner’s longtime emcee, Scott Simon. Upon learning the event line-up, Judy chuckled, “Oh I know Scott, he’s interviewed me before.”
To learn more about this year’s Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, click here. To learn more about Judy’s newest book – and In the Unlikely Event – a book that was nominated by GoodReads for Best Historical Fiction, click here. To stay up-to-date with the author herself, follow her on Twitter.
On behalf of young adults, librarians, best friends asking each other what page they’re on, and (of course) those dedicated to curiosity, we thank Judy for her contribution to our shelves – and her dedication to telling stories with honesty.