This year's exciting event, which ran alongside the London Film & Comic Con, boasted many beloved YA authors, including Cassandra Clare and Malorie Blackman. The highlight, though, had to be Judy Blume, the woman who saw so many book-lovers through their youth! Blume took to the Super Stage for a fascinating Q&A that was somehow endearing, hilarious, unapologetic, outspoken and illuminating all at once.
As the event's host, Patrick Ness, mirrored the audience's glee, gushing about how important her books had been to him and repeating 'It's Judy Blume!' until he started to actually believe it, the audience sat in eager anticipation of the wisdom Blume was about to share about writing, feminism and more...
'I just remember feeling this is ridiculous,' she said, 'that she's reading these books and being fed this idea that boys have no feelings – I had a son too – and that girls have no sexual feelings. Because I know we do. And we did.'
'when you go to write you have to get everybody off your shoulders – critics, sensors and all your wonderful readers – because otherwise I think it will paralyse you'
Blume explained that 'feminism came very late to suburban New Jersey' and she didn't realise at the time the impact and importance of the feminist messages throughout her writing. She just wrote what she wanted to write because she loved doing it and had stories she wanted to tell.
'I loved my little kids,' she said, 'but I had that creative energy and getting up every morning and writing just gave me some kind of renewed zest for life.' When asked what her best advice to aspiring novelists was, Blume kept things simple: 'Read read read read!'
So, when she started to build huge popularity and the expectation grew, did she start to feel the pressure? 'You can't take it into that little room with you when you're writing,' Blume explained. 'You can write the books, you can hope that somebody will publish them some day. In my wildest dreams, I never expected anything like this. But when you go to write you have to get everybody off your shoulders – critics, sensors and all your wonderful readers – because otherwise I think it will paralyse you ... then I get deeply anxious [laughs]!'
(Yes, even Judy Blume is not immune to anxiety!)
Though her new novel In the Unlikely Event is classified as being for adults, Blume says 'I don't see any reason why any smart teenager who wants to can't read it'. The perspectives are teenage, after all, she explained.
'We [writers] are in all our characters, or else how could we make them real?'
So is she in the new book? Not exactly. Blume says people keep asking if her new leading lady is based on herself and though she says the answer is no, Blume clarified: 'We [writers] are in all our characters, or else how could we make them real?'
Judy Blume appeared at Book Trust's Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) at London Film & Comic Con. YALC is presented by Book Trust in partnership with Showmasters, with the support of headline sponsor Prudential plc.
Judy Blume's new novel In the Unlikely Event was published on 2 June 2015.