What Judy Blume Means To YA By GCC Member Jennifer O’Connell

I don’t think there’s a YA author out there who doesn’t bow down and worship Judy Blume. She’s our Yoda. (Good writer she is.)

We not only grew up reading her, (I learned everything I needed to know about my period from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret—except what a menstrual belt is), but she also paved the way for us all to be writing in this genre today. Let’s face it, the young adult shelves have come a long way, baby. And much of that progress—especially with regards to themes previously labeled “taboo”—is thanks to Ms. Blume.

This is why I’m thrilled to introduce GCC member Jennifer O’Connell whose latest book just came out in trade paperback: EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL, I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME. How true is that title? And the book’s filled with fabulous essays by acclaimed women writers including: Megan Cabot, Megan McCafferty, Cara Lockwood, Melissa Senate, Laura Caldwell, Stacey Ballis, Shanna Swendson, and 17 others.

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

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.

Here’s what Jennifer had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Jennifer: I am a terrible surprise keeper, but a good secret keeper. I love surprises and I know they make people happy, so I have a hard time keeping a lid on it. But secrets are things people don’t want to share, and telling one only makes you feel better, but not the person whose secret you’re keeping. So I try my best to keep it under wraps.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

I love Anguilla, a small island in the Caribbean . I’ve been about six times now. The entire island is less than 40 square miles, very small. The people are so nice, chickens wander around, the beaches are pristine and deserted. The coolest thing I’ve done there is spend the day on an even smaller island just off the coast, a boat dropped us off and left. Just me, my husband and a little tiny shack where they cooked us chicken for lunch and kept the chilled beverages coming. For the entire day. It was the best.

No joke, this is my next vacation. I have the Jimmy Buffett “Live in Anguilla” album and everything. I hope I love it as much as you do, Jen!

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

I LOVE psychics!!! I’ve been to several (there’s a great place here in Boston called the Tremont Tea Room, very famous for its psychics – you have to check it out if you’re here). In college I went to the Tremont Tea Room and had my tea leaves read. The woman looked at me and said, “Who’s Joe?” I was like, “What??!!” She pointed to the side of the cup where the tea leaves (I swear) spelled out Joe. Well, Joe was my boyfriend at the time. The same psychic said she saw me writing by a large body of water. I wasn’t even an aspiring writer at the time. Ten years later I wrote my first book in Chicago, where I lived beside Lake Michigan. So many things like that have happened when I’ve seen psychics. So much fun.

You know I love me a good psychic story. Now I have another reason to head back up to Boston! (My original psychic prediction was in Salem, by the way.)

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Jennifer: Unfortunately, no. My father’s side of the family is Italian, my mother’s Germany. I’d love to go to Italy one day.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

This is pretty sad. I completely don’t remember. I was under contract to write other books at the time and was on deadline after deadline. All I could think about was finishing the books I was contracted for—not selling another one!

Thank you, Jennifer! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

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