New Edition April 2015

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ISSUE 24, APRIL 2015

The Future of Reading?

Will virtual reality bring about the next big publishing transformation?


Welcome to the April 2015 issue of New Edition! This month, James Wharton explores the recent controversies in the ghostwriting arena. Josh Hamel investigates the coming virtual reality revolution and wonders what place the technology will have in the publishing industry. And Stephanie Winkler bemoans the lost art of storytelling through the eyes of the great cultural critic Walter Benjamin.



This Month


News In Brief 5

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HAPPENI N GS April 25-3|

Stratford Upon Avon Literary Festival


The New Salon: Poets in Conversation



Stratford Upon Avon, UK Celebrating its 8th year in 2015, The Stratford Upon Avon Literary Festival is a mixture of debate, ideas, celebrity author events and workshops. In addtion, there will be a host of education events in Stratford and local schools involving favorite authors, poets and illustrators to entertain the kids.

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, New York City Close out National Poetry Month with poet Dorothea Lasky as she reads from her most recent collection, Rome. The event will be hosted by NYU Creative Writing Program director Deborah Landau and is co-sponsored with the Poetry Society of America.

May Indepedent Bookstore Day

Los Angelese, CA After a great turnout for its first year in California, Independent Bookstore Day is now expanding across the country. Over 400 stores are expected to participate in the event that celebrates the “community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers.�


News In Brief Clean Reader pulls bookstore from app

After much criticism since its launch, including from New Edition, the owners of Clean Reader, the app that allows users to block profanity from their ebooks, announced they will no longer sell digital books directly. “Many authors do not want their books being sold in connection with Clean Reader,” their statement read. “We have therefore taken immediate action to remove all books from our catalogue.” Users of the app are still able to import ePub and PDF files they get elsewhere into the system, but author Joanne Harris, one of the platform’s harshest and most vocal critics, still celebrated the news, saying “it is a small victory for the world of dirt.”

HarperCollins comes to terms with Amazon

Terry Pratchett’s last novel will be published Before the author’s tragic death in March, Terry Pratchett finished a final novel in his Discworld series, the book’s designer, Paul Kidby, told io9. Called The Shepard’s Crown, the book will be released on Sept. 10. It will reportedly be the fifth book based on the witch Tiffany Aching in the Discworld series and the 41st overall. “Terry’s writing is loved and respected the world over and this publication will be an incredibly important and special event for us all at Penguin Random House, and for fans and readers everywhere,” Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House, said. In addition to the outpouring of love and grief, within 24 hours of his death, fans had raised over £28,000 for the Research Institute for the Care of Older People, a charity Pratchett chose before his death.

Amazon has avoided another drawn out battle with a major publisher as the mega-retailer and HarperCollins have agreed to terms on a new contract that will allow the publisher’s print and digital books to stay on the service. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins will set the retail prices of its digital books, with incentives for the publisher to provide lower prices for consumers. The deal comes on the heals of reports of the publisher intending to return to a full agency model for ebook sales in the near future, requriing they be sold sold at the listed consumer price, without any discounts.



Ghostwriting has long enabled celebrities and inexperienced writers to create commercially viable work, potentially elevating a humble story to bestseller status. But as a young YouTube heroine is accused of faking her own publication, James Wharton looks at the delicate balance between integrity and execution.

Ghostbusters Ghostwriting is nothing new. Public figures across modern history, whether they be politicians, celebrities or YouTube sensations, have hired professional writers to produce books in their name. Of course, everybody knows this; so why then in 2015 is there suddenly a discussion around the ethics of a practice that has been so central to the publishing industry for so long? In October last year, the press went crazy over the “revelation” that the No. 1 bestselling debut novel, Girl Online, had in fact not been written by 24-year-old internet star Zoella, real name Zoe Sugg, at all, but instead by professional 46-year-old author Siobhan Curham. Curham, whose novel, Dear Dylan, published in 2010, was reportedly paid £8,000 to pen the book.

Did Zoella let the cat out of the bag about this secret world? Well, you don’t have to spend too long looking into who else has had books written for them, seemingly without the same backlash, to find that this practice is far more common than perhaps we realise. Last March saw the release of the eagerly awaited second memoir of the former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, titled Hard Choices. In the run up to the book’s release, it was widely reported in the U.S. media that the memoir was, of course, not being penned by the future potential president herself, but actually by former rock singer turned professional writer Ted Widmer. No one questioned the sincerity of either Clinton or her publisher Simon

Ghostwriting is a common and accepted practice in the industy so why the controversy over Zoella’s use?



& Schuster. After all, it seems to be all but assumed most political figures don’t actually write the books that espouse their life stories and thoughts on the world. So much it even prompted a bit on Armando Iannucci’s lampoon of the American political system, Veep, wherein presidential candidate Selina Meyer had her aide write the book and had little idea of its contents outside of the title. Interesting, right? If anything, shouldn’t the outrage be directed towards the politician who releases a book written in a stranger’s hand rather than the faux-musings of a very young online phenomenon? Would you not prefer a politician like Clinton to be more honest in her actions over a young woman who’s just trying to make a path for herself in life? I feel the media may have been slightly unfair here. In the UK, a name which often springs to mind when discussing the subject of ghostwriting is Katie Price who has published 16 books to date. Her ghostwriter, Rebecca Franworth, who sadly died in November 2014, is credited with creating the authorvoice behind Price’s publishing powerhouse; she wrote the model’s first ‘autobiography’ which would go on to sell over a million copies in 2006. Franworth went on to write Jordan’s next 15 books, both fiction and nonfiction. Katie Price’s personal earnings from these books, according to Neilson is £28.3m (accurate to May 2014). Not something to be sneered at. Ghostwriting isn’t just the preserve of celebrities - it is frequently used to lift the quality of writing produced by those individuals who have fascinating stories but perhaps lack the creativity or the experience required to reconfigure those tales into commercially focused publications. Some writing to order enables publishers to anticipate and to project more accurately for the book’s they commission Terry Ronald is one of the UK’s most successful ghostwriters, having worked on bestselling books for the likes of Dannii Minogue, Girls Aloud pop star Kimberly Walsh, West-End Star Denise Van Outen and Eastenders actress Michelle Collins. Ronald, who lives in London and is also a vocal arranger in the music industry, justifies his trade directly: “There are a great deal of interesting

Terry Ronald has ghostwritten for many celebrities and thinks the trade allows more people to share their stories with others.

people with fascinating stories to tell, and the fact that they are not accomplished enough writers to get their stories down doesn’t make their stories any less important or interesting. “Of course the industry needs writers who are adept at extracting the best parts of those stories and telling them in the voice of the subject.” After Zoella-gate last year, there was concern in writing circles that the outrage displayed might mean an end to the practice; suddenly it was unethical to be employed to write somebody else’s book, but for the most part it seems the fuss has started to calm. Zoella herself has even signed a lucrative deal recently to “write” another book, without so much as a murmur of the controversy which surrounded her first - which coincidently became the fastest-selling memoir of all time. The fuss has subsided for now, but ghostwriting will continue to be standard practice for an industry that wants stories from people who may not possess the ability to tell them. If the industry does not want another episode of this nature, though, perhaps what needs to change is a shift toward more transparency of who is really the author of the project so the buying public does not feel they were sold something else than they were promised.



Virtual reality is about to be the next big thing. From movies to retail, developers are already planning how the technology will affect our everyday lives. Josh Hamel takes a look at its place in the publishing industry and the rise of an entirely new product that could come with it. Originally launched as a Kickstarter project for a DIY kit, the Oculus Rift headset is set to release in the next year. With a host of competitors including Sony and Microsoft releasing before and after, personal virtual reality is about to make a huge jump in to the public consciousness. This isn’t the VR of the 90s or earlier. It’s high-tech, more user-friendly and has a lot of money behind it. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the augmented and virtual reality market is expected to reach $1.06 billion by 2018. Most of the talk so far has been about how the technology will be able to transform mediums like video games and movies, but there is a reason Facebook acquired Oculus last year for $2 billion. The most important concept in virtual reality is something called presence, the feeling of really being in the virtual world. This is the “killer feature” of virtual reality, something unattainable in other media, Toby Downton, author of Solarversia, a story about what the future may hold for VR as it grows to be a larger part of our daily lives, said. Much like the ebook before it, from the way people buy books to how they experience stories, VR offers a range of new opportunities for authors, publishers and readers alike. Do you prefer the convenience and portability of ebooks but miss browsing your local bookstore and being able to see what you buy? With the technology in place, retailers will be able to set up virtual shops that allow you to browse to your heart’s content a selection of books only a digital marketplace would allow. While you may not be able to replicate the exact feel of pages in your hand


Virtual Reading or the smell of the coffee in the café, this digital store would deliver the added benefits that come with an online connection like reviews and suggestions for similar titles and give you the option to peruse and skim to your heart’s content among a selection of titles a physical location could not hold. An improved bookstore experience could be brought right to the comfort of your home. In fact, some of these innovations are already happening. Launched in December 2014, Inkflash offers an interactive bookstore, a review aggregator, a social network to connect authors and readers and opportunities for 3D promotion. While still rudimentary in its design and execution, it does offer a glimpse at some of the uses for the technology moving forward as the it gets adopted by the masses, including virtual rooms that authors and publishers could adopt as their own private showrooms where they can sell books and connect with fans. VR could also drastically change how people read, creating a completely new type of product much like the ebook before it: the VRbook, if you will. Instead of flipping through pages, we may be able to advance the story with a simple eye movement. Today, speed-reading is a skill people must spend years developing, and even those who are able to do it often comprehend less. Spritz, a speed-reading app, is looking to change that, allowing people to read faster while maintaining a high degree of understanding. While the app is available on mobile phones right now, VR headsets like the Rift could increase the use of the program by allowing users to read on more convenient and comfortable platforms. Those who prefer to experience audiobooks


could also see a drastic difference in how they enjoy books. Though it would probably be too costly to add any sort of video to the audiobook experience, a screen would offer the chance for illustrations. On a less technical note, even just wearing the device with the book right in front of your eyes and no distractions in your peripheral vision could help those who have trouble staying focused to read more. The best uses for the technology probably are not even thought of yet, and that’s the most encouraging part. Designers have only been working with preliminary versions of the technology for the past couple of years. In a few more, who’s to say what uses virtual reality could have in publishing or any other industry. It is a future that is completely open to discovery and innovation. That’s not to say the future of VRbooks does not present its own set of problems. For one, it is a new product that will take time for designers to develop for and best practices to take hold. Early models of VR also saw users developing motion sickness while using the device, though this has mostly been ironed out with further development and probably would not be an issue for readers like it is for other uses, like games, due to the lack of sudden motions on screen. Because of its reliance on bulky headsets that

cover your eyes completely and require an external power source, at least for now, reading in virtual reality does not seem too realistic on the go. This is a major concern for those who enjoy the portability of ebooks or do most of their reading on the go and could be a real sticking point for some to take the medium seriously. There will also be a need to limit the use of devices for kids whose eyes are still developing and could be damaged being that close to a screen for extended periods of time, which will be a problem as children’s books stand the most to gain from the added visuals the screens would allow. Not to mention the obvious hurdle of getting readers used to wearing a headset that at first looks plain bizarre to an audience unfamiliar with it. So while VRbooks may not be in the position to replace paperbacks or even ereaders for the foreseeable future, they can offer an added value and a different experience that can coexist with current mediums. This is just the tip of the iceberg for how VR could add to the reading experience in the coming years if readers want VR experiences and publishers embrace the new technology. The latter part may be the most challenging. Publishers are generally cautious when it comes to adopting a new change on the technology front, at least until they see it has already worked. Even then, they may still hold a lower status in an industry where nothing may ever topple paper and ink. In an industry that was slow in adapting to the ebook and, in some parts, still resent it, how quick will major players in the industry adapt to potentially such a fundamentally different experience?

While the headset may look curious at first, it could change how we read forever.



Published by

Teapot and the Dragon By Nick Jordan

Much to her parents’ chagrin, strong-willed and courageous Princess Rosehip wants a life of adventure and to choose her own path in this delightful children’s book by experienced art teacher and illustrator. www.teapotandthedragon. com RRP £8.99 paperback, £4.99 ebook

Attack at Dawn By Ron Cope


On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Narvik, author Ron Cope shines a spotlight onto the brave young sailors behind this dramatic military campaign, including his father. RRP £11.99 paperback, £7.99 ebook



They Can’t Touch Him Now By James Williamson

We Never Let Go By Tracy Peppiatt

As a young family of seven is divided by their aggressive father but united by their longsuffering mother, they must endure the aching poverty and sweeping social change of 1970s Britain in this moving novel, inspired by the author’s childhood. RRP £6.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook

Adopted into an impoverished and violent family, tenyear-old Jimmy sought security and affection in all the wrong places, becoming trapped in an abusive relationship. Today, older and stronger, he finds his voice on behalf of vulnerable children everywhere. RRP £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook

A Clean Pair of Hands By Oscar Reynard

As a French businessman succumbs to the seductive and unbridled excesses enjoyed by the country’s ruling elite, he slowly becomes trapped by rampant corruption and moral decay that will threaten his family and his own survival in this insightful, contemporary novella. RRP £8.99 paperback, £4.99 ebook



The lost art of storytelling In the modern world, we are constantly bombarded by information. Stephanie Winkler looks through the eyes of famed cultural critic Walter Benjamin to examine this phenomenon and its effect on how we communicate.


In his short, thought-provoking essay The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin analyzes the written work of Nikolai Leskov, the forgotten Russian novelist of the 19th century. The German philosopher explains that there are two types of narrators: the ones that travel the world and have stories to tell and those who have never left their land and know it better than anyone else. Leskov, having travelled extensively throughout the Russian territory for the better part of his adult life, brought exactly these experiences to his stories. The Russian short-story writer had the rare opportunity to travel to the most remote parts of the country and meet their fascinating inhabitants. In the eyes of Walter Benjamin, that was Leskov’s trump card: narrating complex stories about relatively ordinary people, skilfully bringing their own jargon and culture to life in his texts. It quickly becomes evident that, for Benjamin, the ideal narrator is the wise traveller, the one who comes back and shares all he has learned abroad. However, though oral tradition might have ruled in the past, the German critic looks upon the future with pessimistic eyes. He becomes concerned with the incommunicability of the modern world. It seems rather ironic that in an age where communication has never been more efficient, the basic elements of storytelling have been put into jeopardy. The dissemination of information made possible with the advances in communication methods, have made people unable to reflect on their own experiences and share them with others. Benjamin’s vindication for storytelling is clear. A narrative gains its value by its ability to refrain from any explanation to its audience; storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when they are no longer remembered; However, information is not alone as the villain in the decline of storytelling. Benjamin also blames the novel by erasing the traditional narrative form. It’s no mystery why Benjamin exalts Leskov in his essay. The Russian author, in most of his stories, makes use of a prominent narrator, a wise voice who is able to tell stories and give great advice. In oral narratives, it is the reader who puts the end point in the story and consequently, always learns a lesson or takes something away from the experience. Those who listen to a story are always in the presence of a narrator and therefore never alone, while those who read a book are always on their own and unable to learn something. We can then, perhaps, take a minute to ponder the thoughts of Walter Benjamin and try to understand how it applies to our current society. We are so bombarded by information that we have also lost the ability to discern fact from fiction exposed to us from the media. Information overflow has left us dazed and confused and we are constantly questioning who or what to believe. We have lost the art to listen in the midst of this communication frenzy as well. Society demands fast-paced news and one must comply to this information-driven model. In the end, it seems that Benjamin’s pessimism was just foreshadowing a reality that was nearer than any of us could have expected. And it would be safe to assume that he would not have hesitated to tell us that he told us so.


Just say



When promoting their books it’s all too easy for authors to overlook smaller media opportunities and focus solely on securing national press. Authoright publicist Kate Appleton advises writers to embrace a ‘never say no’ approach when it comes to PR. Like the author of Yes Man, Danny Wallace, we call for new and old authors to embrace each and every publicity opportunity no matter how small that comes your way. Why? Because you never know who might be reading, watching or listening. To move slightly away from creativity for a moment to that of maths - of a sort: The number of books being published is increasing + column inches for book reviews decreasing = greater need to seek out new and different ways of securing coverage for an author and their book. You can probably see from that simple equation the reason why I stopped doing maths at GCSE. As a publicist here at Authoright, this is a situation I battle with everyday and as much as I do reach out to national press offering review copies or serialisations, the stark reality is that securing coverage in the types of publications like The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The New York Times is difficult. This was reinforced by a recent event I went to as a member of the Publishers’ Publicity Circle which had a variety of speakers from, in this case, women’s magazines, including Vogue, Good Housekeeping and Red. Listening to the women on the front line, deciding which books to review and authors to interview, I was left with the overwhelming knowledge that an easier way to get featured in these - and newspaper titles - was

to be open to writing first-person memoirs and comment pieces. The article would always carry a credit for the book so, by proxy, if the article was enjoyed by the readers, they’d naturally gravitate to finding out more and consequently purchase the book. During the marketing meeting - that all our authors have when signing up to have a publicity campaign whether it’s UK, U.S. or both - it’s our job and focus to draw out as many pitch ideas to present to the media. Sometimes I feel a bit like Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer as I delve into author’s personal lives, asking inappropriate and downright nosey questions. Are they okay to share pictures? How about details of their love lives or professions? My job is always to give clients the best advice I can, offering them an insight into the realities of working with the media and how best they can work to position themselves effectively. But ultimately, if an author feels unable to take my advice, I will always respect that. Equally as you’re working with your publicist the important things to do during a campaign are: make yourself available (don’t go on a long holiday!), be openminded, be patient and, finally, have fun. I canvassed the opinions of some of Authoright’s favourite authors - Julianne O’Connor, Declan Milling and Ben Adams - to get a handle on their understanding of working with the media and their expectations of book publicity.



Julieanne O’Connor, author of the Spelling it Out series How important do you think it is to be available and open to new opportunities with the media? I believe this is actually critical. Without being open, people miss extraordinary “one-thing leads-to-thenext” type of possibilities. Were you happy to do extra writing during the campaign - what requests were made of you by the publicist? I loved when my publicist would tell me that there were publications and websites requesting articles from me. It said a lot about the work my publicist was doing with regards to active and ongoing outreach and it lead to further exposure. What were the results of your publicity campaign? My campaign from start to finish was handled with complete care and personal attention. I not only had a consistent stream of exciting opportunities, but I met incredible people through the process. One thing led to another, and because of my campaign, I ended up with my own radio show, a request for a second book from my publisher, and an overall whirlwind of activity that led to sales, added credibility, and a continued stream of speaking opportunities which continues still today.

Declan Milling, author of Carbon Black Did you have any expectations from the publicity prior to the campaign - and if so what were they? Not having been through a process like this before, I didn’t really know what to expect – some reviews, perhaps, media coverage maybe. The possibility of interviews. I guess, if anything, my thinking was in terms of the limited mainstream media coverage with which I am familiar. How diverse was the media that covered your book? Most responses to my book so far have been through digital media, which I never would have thought of. Responding to online interviews, being available for radio interviews: before starting the process I hadn’t even considered these would arise. As a result of my campaign, the New York Times climate journalist reviewed a copy and tweeted




about the book; interview on US radio (Suspense Magazine); interview with Dan Bloom (who coined expression ‘cli-fi’ as a genre), dozen other requests for review copies, including Huffington Post green section, review on CorporateKnights website, contacted by journalist writing for The Guardian article on related topic, book giveaway competition in Yours Magazine. Were you aware of all the types of publicity that were going to be contacted on your behalf? No, definitely not! When I received the list of all the media contacted in the UK and US during the campaign, I was amazed. There were hundreds of book blog and websites, subject-related blog and websites, hundreds of magazines, newspapers – both national and regional, newswires, podcasts, radio stations and programs.

Ben Adams, author of Six Months to Get a Life


most of which are from book bloggers. So my number one tip for other authors would be don’t sit on your hands. My number two tip would be ‘keep at it’. There will come a time when your publicist has to devote some time to the next author. That doesn’t mean that your book is destined to drift into literary oblivion, unread by the masses. Have faith in your work and pursue leads yourself. My own website, blog and social media activity has opened a number of doors. Would you do it all again? Undoubtedly, yes. In this new age of easy publishing, an author needs a way of standing out from the crowd. Engaging a publicist doesn’t guarantee you success, but it massively enhances your chances of being noticed by someone influential.

How important do you think it is to be available and open to new opportunities with the media? When I wasn’t writing Six Months to Get a Life, I spent much of my time reading other authors’ accounts of how they went about promoting their books. It quickly became obvious to me that, as a debut author, I needed to do everything I could to get my name known, and my book in front of readers. Kate and Diana asked me if I would be willing to write tailored copy for a variety of publications. I was more than happy to oblige. They got me a Huffington Post blog, which I will continue using for as long as I can think of something relevant to post. I also got my book featured in Female First magazine. What advice would you give to future authors embarking on this journey? Because I had invested so much time and money in writing and producing my novel, I needed to feel comfortable that I was giving it every chance of being noticed. I couldn’t just sit back and leave it to Kate and Diana. While they were pitching the book to the media, I busied myself with pitching it to book bloggers. Armed with the press release produced by my Authoright publicists, I emailed hundreds of bloggers from both sides of the Atlantic. My efforts have been pretty successful. So far, Six Months to Get a Life has received more than 40 excellent reviews on the US and UK Amazon sites,

So really at the end of the day what I am saying is if your publicist asks you to have an interview or write a first person piece for a small sounding website or podcast it should ALWAYS be seen as an opportunity to - if nothing else - to practice talking about your book. Ultimately, though, by doing it what have you actually got to lose?



Everlasting Blume Some things never seem to change. One is that young girls will learn about life from Judy Blume. Authoright US publicist Diana Rissetto takes a look at why Blume’s work continues to comfort and entertain readers today and won’t stop anytime soon.

In her novel Mailbox: A Scattershot Novel of Racing, Dares and Danger, Occasional Nakedness, and Faith, Nancy Freund’s scrappy heroine Sandy Drue idolizes Judy Blume. Mailbox’s full title might seem a bit long, but that’s okay. When Sandy is reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, she acknowledges that even though the title seems too long, it is still one of her favorite books. We write what we know, and Nancy Freund knows how many women grew up swearing by Judy Blume. That may be how the author has sold more than 85 million books in 32 different languages and garnered a fanbase so dedicated they hold a special “Blumesday” annually. Many times, we might remember something from our middle school years


Rissetto’s personal copy of her favorite Judy Blume book has withstood the years of reading.


and have to question, “Did that happen to me, or was it something that happened in a Judy Blume book that I read four hundred times growing-up?” A new Blume book, In the Unlikely Event, will be hitting the shelves in June and millions of readers around the world are anxiously anticipating the book. Nancy Freund will, in no doubt, be one of the first in line to buy a copy. Reflecting on her lifetime of reading her novels, Freund said, “Judy Blume gets to the root of so many things in her fiction, it’s easy to fall in love with every book, every page, every protagonist approaching adulthood in their own unique ways.” A couple of years ago, I was sitting


had the immense power to entertain and teach and help young readers grow. I was really happy to think that I could have the great honor of giving Mia her first Judy Blume book and I went with Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself, which was my second favorite of her books. As excited as I was with the prospect of getting to give my little cousin a copy of the book, Freund realized that she had never shared one Blume’s book with anybody else. “I realized how many conversations I’ve had with friends about Judy Blume,” she said. “They already had their own copies of everything, same as I did. We didn’t need to share! Turns

“It might be true about my tastes about perfume changing, but I promise I will always love dogs and ice skating and hockey and swimming and Judy Blume, even when I’m grown-up.” - Nancy Freund, Mailbox on the couch with my then 7-year-old cousin, Mia, and she asked me what books I liked to read when I was her age. She is clearly being raised right. I started telling her about a boy named Peter and his crazy little brother, Fudge, who once swallowed Peter’s pet turtle (whose name was Dribble). This all happened in a Judy Blume series that I can remember reading like it was yesterday. Mia immediately began giggling and asking more questions about the story. This kid ate a TURTLE? And why was this kid’s name FUDGE? I was relieved to realize that even though so many things have changed since Blume’s first book came out in 1969, but her stories and characters still

out, Judy Blume is an institution within many of my communities of friends.” The Fudge series was for little kids, and then Blume’s legendary others Are You There God? It’s Me, Magaret, Just As Long As We’re Together and Deenie were for the older set—girls around 12 trying to find their way. My all-time favorite was Just as Long as We’re Together. I can still see the bright yellow cover in my head. The story follows three girls in the 7th grade through first dances, kisses and, yes, periods (girls in Judy Blume books were always really excited about the idea of starting their periods, even to the point of lying about it). Blume touched upon bullying with



the book Blubber, the loss of virginity in Forever, physical disabilities in Deenie, parental divorce in It’s Not the End of the World. No girl could ever truly feel alone, as long as there was a character in a Judy Blume novel going through the same thing. Books that mention things like VCRs, nondigital cameras and having to share a landline phone with an entire family might instantly date a book and, to a modern-day young girl, might make them feel like she is reading about the Stone Age. However, Blume’s fans think she can stand the test of time. Freund firmly thinks, “They’re true to a specific time period, and they’re a great welcome into it... or return to it, as the case may be. I read Wifey recently, knowing my mother had it on her bedside table when I was a kid, and that at the time, I wasn’t supposed to read it. When I finally read it just a few years ago, it was like meeting an old friend of my mother. Really fun! Also, the country club outfits and cocktail parties are just as fun to read in that novel as watching similar scenes in a James Bond movie. That stuff isn’t ‘dated,’ it’s history! Accessible and fabulous.” For her part, Blume still makes an effort to connect with all of her fans as an active user of Twitter with over 120,000 followers. “I like the way it connects people,” she told the Los Angeles Times. Belinda, a 27-year-old woman, and another who read a lot of Judy Blume as a young girl, noticed that Blume’s books have been updated slightly to make them seem less dated, something Blume was not sure about.

Judy Blume returned to her own elementary school and another generation of kids discovered her work.


“I changed electronics in the Fudge books, and I don’t know whether that was a good decision or not,” Blume told NPR. “The problem is that I wrote those books over many, many, many, many years, and yet the books take place, you know, [in] fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade. “And so how do you go from mimeograph machines in the fifth grade to computers in the sixth grade, right?” Blume may not have been sure of the change, but readers didn’t seem to mind any inconsisitencies that came with updating the books for modern times. “It was a subtle change, and the overall integrity of the books were not compromised,” Belinda said. Blume even has devoted fans among the famous. Singer Amanda Palmer has a song titled, simply, Judy Blume. The book Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You (sadly out of print) is a compilation of letters from readers to Judy Blume, confiding in her their fears and secrets that they couldn’t trust with anybody else. But they could trust her. Another book, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume, is a compilation of short stories, including ones by Meg Cabot and Meghan McCafferty, which illustrates how young women all over the world have carried Judy’s lessons with them throughout life. I make it a point to reread Summer Sisters, Blume’s last book written for adults, every summer. Reading this book, which follows a pair of best girlfriends from childhood to age 30, is just like reading her as a grown-up (which, of course, it is). In fact, I think of this book less as a Judy Blume book written for adults, but one written for girls that once read her books and just happen to be adults now. The Chicago Tribune review of the book says it all: “As warm as a summer breeze blowing through your hair, as nostalgic as James Taylor singing ‘How Sweet It Is.’ You remember. So does Judy Blume.” We will never forget Judy Blume.


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