Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Our Communications Associate, Julia Pistell, is moderating the Judy Blume Clemens Lecture on June 21st at the University of Hartford. To prepare, she's decided to do a complete read-a-thon of Judy's work. See her reasons below and follow her progress daily over at her blog.

During Banned Book Week last fall, my coworker Mallory and I got to talking about our favorite censored authors. There are, of course, the high-profile scandals– Salman Rushdie, J.D. Salinger, and of course, my employer, Mark Twain. Lots of people are also aware the Harry Potter series has been widely banned for promoting an evil lifestyle (wizardry is so insidious, isn’t it?).
Major fans of Banned Book Week, however, know that the big stars of the censorship discussion are children’s book authors. If only I could tell Madeline L’Engle, who died in 2007, what a profound effect her strange books about physics and faith had on me. If only I could tell Dr. Suess, who died in 1991, how much of my moral compass was formed by the boldness of his work. If only I could tell Shel Silverstein, who died in 1999, how fabulous his bizarreness was, and how it opened a lot of dark and awesome avenues in my young brain. If only I could tell Judy Blume…
Oh, wait. I could. Judy Blume is alive and well and actively speaking against censorship at every chance she gets. (See my post about heroes a while back– I think I finally have an answer.)
So I decided I would tell her. She’s very active on twitter– she tweeted eight times on Thursday, talking to her fans, talking about how much she, too, loved Beverly Cleary (also still alive), telling us what she’s writing, and chatting about the hilariousness of spray on makeup. She’s great. She always was, and she still is.
So I wrote Judy Blume an email asking her to come and visit us at the Mark Twain House. As I was writing it, I began to get very emotional. I realized that because of Judy (and all the aforementioned authors, as well as several more), I loved to read from a very early age. And because I loved to read I loved to write. And because of both of those things, I have this blog, I have this podcast, I have a BA in Literature and an MFA in Writing, and I work at Mark Twain’s house.
I said all this in a weepy yet, I must assume, professional email. We send these sorts of requests out all the time– at least twice a week. The response rate is perhaps 2%.
But Judy responded. Responded saying she wanted to come. As my coworkers can describe, I melted away with joy and have been overjoyed ever since. It was a secret for a long time, that Judy was coming, and now it’s been announced, and every time I tell a person between the ages of twenty and forty-five, they too melt away. We will sell many tickets to our Judy Blume moderated discussion. But it gets better.
I’m the moderator.
Judy and I, hanging out on stage, talking about books and writing and censorship and Twain and who knows what else. I can’t wait. It’s going to be on June 21st and you can find out more event information here.
So, in order to prepare, I’m going to be reading the entire collected works of Judy Blume. I already have them all (there may or may not have been a buying spree online moments after finding out I was moderating). The best part is: I’ll be writing a little blog piece about each and every one, mulling them over and coming up with my discussion questions. And you, dear readers, can help me, if you’d like.
If you’re not familiar with her writing, I promise you it is worth an academic look. It’s incredible to think about the sheer number of children’s anxieties and problems that she wrote about. (This is why she was banned.)
I can’t wait. I hope you can’t either. Keep a look out for the “Blume-a-thon” tags in my posts. And see you on June 21st.

-- Julia 

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