A few months ago, I saw that Judy Blume was coming to the Greenwich Library. I jumped on that action and I immediately signed up for tickets. I’d never seen her in person—appalling! I was Judy Blume’s #1 fan as a child in the ‘70s. (At least I thought I was until I became a writer and learned that everyone was her #1 fan.) I was serious about my fandom, though. I wrote her a letter once and told her that I hoped to be a writer like her one day. I received a mailing back (from the publisher, I imagine) with a signed photo and a really nice letter that was probably a form letter, but I cherished it. I never stopped dreaming of becoming an author, but that’s all it was—a dream.
When I was seven, I loved to invent characters and make up stories about them. I would use my Fashion Plates (anyone else have these?) to create a girl, paste her on cardboard, then cut her out, and—voila— paper doll. On the back, I’d write everything about her: name, age, where she lived, her family members, favorite foods, favorite activities. And then I’d create lives for them.
Down the road, I wrote a few bad short stories for my high school lit magazine, took some creative writing classes in college, started a couple of “novels” that fizzled out after 40 pages. But it wasn’t until after my first son was born and I stopped commuting, that I realized it was a good time to change careers and give it a shot.
Fast forward a few (or ten) years later, and here I am, less than two months away from the publication of my first young adult novel. When I saw that my childhood idol, the person who made me want to write in the first place, was going to be a mere twenty-five minutes away, I knew it was fate.
When the evening of the event came, I had coincidentally driven back and forth to Greenwich earlier that day with my son. My friend who was planning to come with me cancelled. It was the end-of-year party at school for two of my sons and, even though I’d arranged for my babysitter to take them, I was still feeling guilty about not going. It was supposed to thunderstorm. I’d gotten an email from the event organizers to get there early because parking was limited. (Anyone who knows me understands that going places where parking isn’t guaranteed gives me hives.)
So there I was, forty minutes before Judy Blume was set to speak, sitting on the couch, checking my email, hemming and hawing, thinking: You know what? I’m just not going. I don’t feel like dealing. My kids were all ready for their event at school, and I was about to say, “Change of plans, kids, I’m coming with you.” But before I could speak, my sitter said, “Aren’t you going to the thing? Shouldn’t you have left by now?” And I said, “I don’t know, I just came from Greenwich and it’s supposed to rain, and I don’t really feel like it.” And then she said, “You’ve been looking forward to this, you should go.” And it clicked. Of course I should go. I was going to let inertia win over Judy Blume? THE JUDY BLUME?
I got up, grabbed a granola bar (I’d be missing dinner) and an umbrella, waved goodbye and took off, back the way I’d come only an hour before. I found a spot in the library parking lot, no problem. I found a seat and started reading the book I had in my bag. The woman next to me was also reading. When I looked up, she said, “Of course, we’re all reading. Anyone who’d come to this event loves to read. All these people in the same room who love to read. It’s the best.” Yes, I am in the right place. This is where I should be right now, I thought. We started up a conversation, she was excited to learn that I was a writer and that I was seeing my idol for the first time.
When Judy Blume came out, I was starstruck. Really. I couldn’t stop smiling. She was articulate and funny. She described how the idea for this book came to her, how it was the first time she’d ever had one of those “lightbulb” moments when she knew what she wanted to write—the first time! Judy Blume! And she talked about how difficult writing this book was—the research, the planning, the writing, the length of time it took. And I knew what she was talking about. I wasn’t just a reader, I was a writer too—and I could picture her process, her frustration, and her satisfaction when she got it right.
After she finished, I was thisclose to going home. The line for the signing was long, and rumor had it she she was still chatting with her interviewer, and hadn’t even gotten to the signing table yet. But I decided to stick it out. I’m so glad I did. She signed my book. I mentioned someone we knew in common, and she and her lovely husband (who was standing to her right side) and I chatted for a minute or so. A nice woman snapped some photos with my phone. They may not be my most photogenic, but I will treasure them Forever.
Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing September 1, 2015.