Thursday, April 16, 2009

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Looks at Judy Blume

The tax nightmare is over for another year! Actually, I don't think it's all that difficult. The time-consuming part is the record keeping because I have bursts of disorganization. However, part of my getting ready for doing taxes this year included catching up on the record keeping and accounting for this year, so if I keep up with that throughout the year, doing the taxes next year should be a snap. And now I have no excuse for not spending a good chunk of the day writing.

One thing I'm discovering is that this book apparently needs Rachmaninoff. I usually write in total silence, but there are books that need music, mostly to drown out the outside world. I don't think I could have written Damsel Under Stress without the soundtracks from Battlestar Galactica and Firefly (even now, a part of my brain thinks it's time to go to work when it hears the opening notes of that BSG prologue -- that part that ran under the "The Cylons were created by man" thing). I've tried a variety of music for this book and have settled on orchestral works by Rachmaninoff (but not the piano concertos -- I can't listen to those and still write). Mostly, it's Symphonic Dances and The Isle of the Dead, but then I found a CD of one of the symphonies that I forgot I had yesterday, and that works, too.

This week's Girlfriends Cyber Circuit book is a fun one because I was part of it. Some of you may remember from a couple of years ago that I participated in a tribute book about the works of Judy Blume. Well, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl, I Learned from Judy Blume came out in paperback this week, so if you're absolutely dying to buy something written by me this year, here's your chance.

Here's the official scoop:
Whether laughing to tears reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great or clamoring for more unmistakable “me too!” moments in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, girls all over the world have been touched by Judy Blume’s poignant coming-of-age stories. Now, in this anthology of essays, twenty-four notable female authors write straight from the heart about the unforgettable novels that left an indelible mark on their childhoods and still influence them today. Drawing on their own experiences of feeling like a Fourth Grade Nothing before growing up to become Smart Women themselves, these writers pay tribute, through their reflections and most cherished memories, to one of the most beloved authors of all time.

Contributors include: Megan Cabot, Megan McCafferty, Cara Lockwood,
Melissa Senate, Laura Caldwell, Stacey Ballis, Shanna Swendson and 17 other acclaimed women writers.

I asked Jennifer O'Connell, who pulled together and edited this anthology, a couple of questions about it (and then you'll get my insights).
What inspired you to develop this anthology?
I was about to begin writing my first teen book, PLAN B, and I sat at the computer and thought to myself, "Everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume." And so the idea for the collection of essays was born. Because I knew I wasn't the only one who felt like that.

Which was your favorite Judy Blume book as a girl? Have you re-read it as an adult, and how has your perception of it changed?
Deenie. I re-read all of Judy's books before editing the essays in the collection, and Deenie was one of them. I still loved it. And, honestly, the story stood the test of time.

(Me again) Oddly, my essay in the book was about Deenie, but that probably wasn't my favorite Judy Blume book (for reasons that become pretty obvious in my essay). I suspect my favorite was Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, though I might have a different take on Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great if I reread it now (it may have hit too close to home then). I wasn't a big reader of "girl" books as a kid, and my Judy Blume phase came in the very brief window between my Nancy Drew obsession and the time I discovered The Lord of the Rings. I first checked these books out of the library because there was some controversy. Word on the playground was that these were "dirty" books about sex. I was skeptical, since they were in the children's section of the library, and being the stubborn, skeptical sort, I had to see for myself. I was pretty disappointed by how non-racy they were. Some of that was because a lot of it went right over my head (I didn't realize what the controversial part of Deenie was actually about until I re-read it for writing my essay) and some of it was because I'd already heard the scientific explanations for a lot of it and thought that these characters were making too big a fuss about everything. I may owe Judy Blume thanks for helping my journey through puberty be so relatively non-dramatic because in comparison to what went on in her books, real life was very low-drama, so reality was easier than I expected.

What really appealed to me about those books (and maybe I should have written about this, but I didn't think of it until later) was the fact that she captured what it was really like to have friends as a girl at that age (or, at least, what it was like for me). So many of the "girl" books paint this idealized vision of true best friends who do everything together and stick together through thick and thin, but in real life girls that age are incredibly competitive, even with their closest friends. The alliances among clusters of friends within groups are always shifting, and there are subtle rivalries going on all the time. It might not be to the level of a real "frenemy" who just pretends to be a friend while undermining you, but there can be a kind of competition under the surface, sometimes over things you can't control, like who starts wearing a bra first. There are times when you can't stand to be around your best friend, times when your best friend can't stand you, times when you find yourself forced to hang out with someone you don't even like because of that -- and then the realization that maybe you like that person better than the person who's supposed to be your best friend. That's the way the girls in the Judy Blume books were, and it was a huge relief to me to read that and see that it wasn't just that I was somehow doing it wrong because I didn't have a "like a sister" best friend where we wore matching outfits and did everything together, like in so many other children's books.

And then soon after that I discovered hobbits and magical wardrobes that led to other worlds and achieved a new kind of social awkwardness.

So, if you want to see what I had to say about Deenie, the girl who was pretty enough to be a model until she found out she had scoliosis, here's the Amazon link.

No comments: