A Chronological Account of My Day with Judy Blume

If you live in Toronto and you’re on any social media platform, it would be hard to miss that Judy Blume was in town earlier this week. There were pictures of signatures, far away images and many exclamation marks. The queen of children’s and adult literature graced Canada with her presence on Monday and Tuesday while in town to promote her new book, In the Unlikely Event.

9:05am I knew I was going to see Judy Blume. I had a ticket to her Toronto Public Library event that evening, so I was kind of prepared, but then I got to work Monday morning and opened my email. In it was an email from Judy Blume’s publicist that read, ‘A Toast to Judy Blume’ with instructions to come to our newly minted large boardroom at 10:15 to toast the talented author we all fell in love with at ten years old. I’m not going to lie, I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. After eight years of working in publishing, I’ve met many people that I admire and I get a thrill out of it, but this was Judy Blume. Judy “freaking” Blume.

10:10 I walked into our boardroom and from a distance I could see her standing in the lobby of our publishing house. Then I shook and then I cried a little. I even poured a little bit of mimosas on myself.

10:15 She walks into the room and I’m about 5 feet away from her. I am dying inside.

IMG_1413

10:16 The toast begins where we all acknowledged the talented woman she is and how much of an impact she’s had on us as children, teens and adults all over the world. Her response was so humble and genuine, she smiled with grace and beauty as we all gushed. She sings the praises of George, her husband of thirty-five years, who is clearly more to her than just a partner, he seems to be her best friend. She’s then shown the I Heart Judy Blume buttons and she seems embarrassed but humble.

10:20 She gets behind the desk to sign books and everyone scrambles to grab a copy of In the Unlikely Event and an I Heart Judy Blume button. Two lines form, confusion ensues, we all figure it out. Luckily, I’m in the line near the beginning, you know, “lean in” and I’m going to be like the 9th person she meets. I counted.

10:24 I get up there and tell Judy Blume that I had a hard time deciding what to wear to meet her. She looks at my dress and proclaims, “oh dear, you make an excellent choice”. She then says, “I feel so silly, because I wore the same shirt as I did that’s on my book jacket”. We laugh. I tell her how much I love her and she says thank you and proceeds to sign my name and the words “Love, Judy Blume”.

10:25 I walked out of the room and make a gawking face to my pal beside me. Did that just happen?

10:30 Run around to every one around me and talk about our Judy experience.

10:45 Sit back down at my desk and “try” to answer emails.

11:53 Get a call from my Mom in London, England, because she thinks she spots Ryan Gosling at the villa their visiting, which is equally as beautiful as the Ryan Gosling doppalganger she has spotted.

12:49 She has taken a photo. It is not him.

11033074_10153497904803885_2809089625870303294_n

2:00 Meet with Judy’s publicist and the other team members who will be helping to operate the Judy Blume Toronto Public Library event that evening. Determine that my role will be to leave at 4pm to go flap books and be the picture taker at the event.

4:00 Leave office to head up to Yonge and Bloor to get a bite to eat before the big event.

4:30 Head over to the TPL to see an already huge line of other die-hard Judy Blume fans.

5:00 Grab a set of post-its, a sharpie and start walking through the line asking people their names to flap the book.

5:05 Answered several questions about how others could get their hands on an I Heart Judy Blume pin.

IMG_1399

5:30 Line is flapped, now just walking past crowd who are so, so excited!

6: 10 People start being let into the Appel Salon to take their seats. I stand by the women handing out the buttons to just see the excitement on people’s faces

6:40 Take my seat.

7:00 Judy Blume comes to the front of the room with host Rachel Giese.

7:01 Judy gets introduced and receives a standing ovation.

7:04 A conversation between Judy Blume and Rachel Giese commences and they talk about her influence, how she categorizes her books, the movie Tiger Eyes (that she made with her son), her children, the events that inspired In the Unlikely Event, George and more.

IMG_1427

7:40 The Q&A begins. People gush. People cry.

7:45 I run to the back of the room to take my photo taking place.

8:05 Judy Blume is brought to the back of the room to sign books.

8:06 Her sharpie is in place, she raises her hands in triumph and says “okay people, let’s do this!”

8:10 People come up to meet her and I take 6-8 photos on everyone’s iPhone.

9:20 I have not dropped one camera or one phone. Huzzah.

9:45 The line is coming to an end.

9:50 Everyone is gone, but the publishing crew, the library staff and Judy Blume and her husband. We know she’s tired and that she has a busy day tomorrow, but her husband insists on taking a photo on their camera. That’s right people, Judy Blume has a photo of me on her camera. This fact alone, weirdly gives me so much joy. Sam, our lovely publicity intern manages to get her phone in this mix and we get this incredible picture of us with Judy Blume.

IMG_1432

9:51 Judy Blume raves about how amazing the night was and how much fun she had meeting her Canadian fans. She tells us about the day she has planned tomorrow. Up early for Canada AM and The Social and then it’s home for a vacation and then off to the UK in a week.

9:54 We thank her for everything and say goodbye.

9:55 I force Sam to stop what she’s doing and email me the picture on her phone.

9:58 Jump in cab and head home.

10:30 Go to sleep thinking that this is a day I’ll never forget.

 

Something to look forward to…

As a child I thought I would never grow up, that I could will it so. And then I realized, quite recently, that I had crossed some line, unconsciously cloaked in the truth of my chronology. How did we get so damn old, I say to my joints, my iron-colored hair. Now I am older than my love, my departed friends. Perhaps I will live so long, that the New York Public Library will be obliged to hand over the walking stick of Virginia Woolf. I would cherish it for her, and the stones in her pocket. But I would also keep on living, refusing to surrender my pen. 

– From M Train (on sale October 2015)

IMG_1398

Periscope: An App for Authors??

When you work in social media, you have to be prepared for changes every time you open an app or type in a url. Think of every time you’ve opened up Facebook and Zuckerberg has adapted the format… again. You mutter to yourself or you use Facebook to post your feelings, as so many of us have done in the past. Many of the new apps that have been developed in the past year haven’t been my cup of tea. I’ve downloaded SnapChat twice and both times, got completely overwhelmed with it’s complicated functionality. And I’ve yet to master Vine. The idea of being funny in only six seconds feels incredibly difficult. I need at least 10 seconds to get my punch line out.

All that being said, I took a different approach when I started hearing rumblings about Periscope – an app that allows you to view live video streaming. I was immediately intrigued. With this app, you can experience concerts, gorgeous views, car rides with celebrities (I won’t tell you how long I watched Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen) and more. You also have the ability to share your world with everyone by hitting the ‘start broadcasting’ button and letting everyone LIVE into your surroundings. Viewers who have the Periscope app open are able to write questions that pop up, visible to the broadcaster and all viewers and it makes it easy for them to answer. For example, I just opened the app and watched:

  • The Braves playing baseball
  • A plane ride over Vancouver
  • A tour of the Robot Expo at #DARADRC

The likelihood of me ever going to a Robot Expo before I started writing this was slim to none. But if I’ve ever in a conversation about robots, I can at least speak with some (very little) knowledge about them now that I’ve taken an insider look at what their expos look like. This app provides so much accessibility to “connect” that we decided to use it out when Twitter famous James Rebanks, author of, ThShepherd’s Life came to town last week. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you definitely should be: @herdyshepherd1

IMG_0980It wasn’t hard. We handed him our phone, opened the app, hit ‘start broadcast’ and waited for a few minutes while people joined. The great thing about the chat is that the second you start broadcasting, there is a tweet sent to your Twitter account saying that you’re over on Periscope waiting to chat live with everyone. It didn’t take long for people to start to roll in with questions about agriculture, sheep, family and more. For fifteen minutes (I think anymore would be too long), James Rebanks live chatted with people from all over the world. Granted there were some questions that came in that were a bit obscurer; boxers or briefs (answer: boxer briefs). He handled them like a pro and ignored the ones that he felt weren’t relevant or added anything to the conversation.

Some might say that it’s an app that is much too “social”, in some cases, I’d agree. No one should Periscope something that makes them feel their privacy is being violated, but I do think it’s got amazing opportunities to share those rare occurrences that don’t happen every day. Like ‘Periscoping’ some of the Judy Blume’s event when she comes to Toronto at the end of this month or sharing a stream of video of the new office we all just moved into last week. I think there’s some real fun to be had on this app if used responsibly. I can’t wait until the day, and it will come, when we start seeing authors embracing this app and letting us into their worlds, if only for 10 or so minutes.

What do you think of the app Periscope? Is it too much or interesting to you? Share with me in the comments below.

To Blog, or Not to Blog, That is the Question…

IMG_0971

Dear Reader,

I started blogging in 2011 to meet friends, join an online community about books and reading and to provide an inside look at some of the amazing opportunities I get to experience by working at a publishing company. In those four years, I’ve met so many of you face to face, I’ve got to interview authors I admire and best of all, I’ve got to write about books I have loved reading. But with all those amazing experiences, comes new responsibilities; writing schedules, promotions, expectations I’ve created for myself and new goals. I’ve been pretty good at balancing it all, a few minor slips on the blog, but really, I’ve made coming back here to write a priority. But lately, not so much. Posts that have recently been posted were written almost 3 months ago…

I’ve been really anxious about the whole thing. In an effort to help make a decision, I have been asking friends and family members if I should continue to blog to help make my decision. (By the way, if any of you are reading this, thank you for your amazing input). I even got rid of my cable recently, so I’ve had lots of time to sit down and just write. But every time I amped myself up to do it, I’d come to the computer and have nothing to write. It turns out that I’m really good at creating lists of all the things I could write about and I’m not so good about following through with actually writing about all these “brilliant” ideas I’ve created.

I know now that I just needed time to think about the direction of this blog and whether or not doing it continues to bring me joy or anxiety. Reading has always been my passion. In every sense of the word, I’m a reEder, but writing about reading and books allows me to gain access to a pretty amazing community, which in turn, brings me happiness. Not writing about the books I’m reading or about the amazing experiences I’ve encountered isn’t nearly as fun when I don’t have anyone to talk about it with. SOOOO, I’ve decided that I’m going to continue with blogging. It might not be as frequent as it once was and I might not follow through on challenges I’ve started (sorry to all you Green Gables Readalong readers), but I can promise that I’m not going anywhere.

So stay tuned and here’s to lots of blog posts in the future.

Reeder xx

Why a Book Narrated by a 13 Year-Old Had Me in Shambles

IMG_8079Oliver Dalrymple has the undesirable nickname of “Boo” in his Illinois middle school. The nickname originates because of his pale completion and hair that’s always staticky. At age thirteen, he’s more focused on the periodic table and scientific facts than hanging out with other people his age. In the first few pages of Neil Smith’s debut novel, Boo, a tragic event happens and Boo finds himself literally knocking on heaven’s door. Unaware of the facts and details about what’s landed him on heavens doorstep, he sceptically enters to find that his version of heaven contains young boys and girls who all appear to be the same age as him,  thirteen year olds. He quickly learns that although everyone looks the same age as him, some residents have been been in heaven for much longer, although their appearances don’t change. He also learns that each and every one of the people living in heaven is from America.

As someone who functions  on fact and logic, Boo/Oliver can’t seem to wrap his head around the logistics of this newfound world he’s entered. How did this happen? Why can’t he find his Mom and Dad and how can he convey to them that he’s alright? Why don’t people physically age? None of it makes sense. Then something crazy happens. He finds out that he’s not the only one from his middle school that lost his life that day. His classmate Johnny was also killed and he’s got a vendetta in place. Sure, Boo is distraught and gets upset knowing that he’s no longer able to talk to his Mother and Father, but Johnny has a completely different agenda. He’s determined and focused on who would take their lives. He wants answers and he wants them now. Of course, Boo and Johnny are an unlikely pair, as the two were not what you’d call pals in their middle school. More like acquaintances, but because of the unlikely circumstances the two find themselves in, they pair up to solve the mystery of their deaths.

When I first started reading Boo, I kept getting the same feelings I felt when I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Reading a book about children or teenagers entering heaven isn’t easy. That being said, besides the fact that both books are set in heaven, the similarities end there. This book takes a completely different path that isn’t always an easy path, but man oh man, is it imaginative. Neil Smith has written a book unlike any other I’ve read before. For instance, the first sentence in the book is,

Do you ever wonder, dear Mother and Father, what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven.

I’m always mystified at an authors ability to think outside the box like Smith has done in this novel and I can say with full certainty that I’ve never thought of what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven. The amount of detail and quirky elements weaved into Boo‘s plot had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading the book, I really couldn’t put it down. From the beautiful and expressive cover to the bond formed between two unlikely boys, Boo was a novel written with a lot of energy and bewildering imagination that I think will have everyone talking. Fair warning, you will cry, so ensure you have tissues nearby when reading. Neil Smith’s debut fiction is on sale now.