Judy Blume, beloved writer and KWLS board member, took the stage Friday afternoon for a conversation with Mary Hays. It turns out these two are old friends — Mary worked for Judy as an assistant back in 1978 — and Mary published a few stories in magazines back then. But her first novel, “Learning to Drive,” was published in 2003. “What took you so long?” Judy asked. The answer was, of course, complicated and simple at once: Mary had a story to tell, about growing up in a Christian Science household, but the telling was difficult after decades of “hiding” by NOT telling people about it.
“Why do we write when it provokes such anxiety in us?” Judy asked. The answer, was of course, because we can’t help it. Mary actually went to school and worked as an elementary school teacher for 10 years in the interim — until she found herself being a “renagade in the faculty room.” “Maybe I should think about actually trying to write that novel after all,” she said. “So I did.”
There are lots of young writers at this year’s seminar, on stage and in the audience, but Judy also made a welcome point: “A new voice does not necessarily mean a young writer.” (“Thank you!” someone called from the audience.) “A new voice can come at any time,” Judy said, “and we celebrate its arrival.”
Welcome words indeed, especially for those of us on the far side of 40 …