The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Judy Blume

Blume-JudyWho has created a bigger impact on children’s literature than Judy Blume? She was among the first authors to write teen novels about racism, menstruation, divorce, bullying, masturbation, and teen sex. She’s also written chapter books and novels for adults, selling more than 82 million copies of her books in 32 languages. In the 1980s, Judy found herself in the center of an organized book banning campaign. Ever since, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read.

Judy Blume Quotes

• The best books come from someplace inside. You don’t write because you want to, but because you have to.

• I’m really quite bad at coming up with plot ideas. I like to create characters and just see what will happen to them when I let them loose!

• I wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in sixth grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.

• I wanted to show sexuality with responsibility. I wanted girls to have a good time. Damn, I was a girl.

• I talk to God as a confidant, the way Margaret does.

• Censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives.

• You cannot say, “I don’t want a book in the library because I don’t want my child to read it” when everybody else’s children have the right to read it.

To learn more about Judy, her books, and her views on censorship, visit her website. To watch video interviews of Judy, go to here.

Simon & Schuster is reissuing Judy’s middle grade novels in April with cover illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Click here to read about Debbie’s new covers as well as her exciting news about other Blume classics.


Modern Miss Muffet: Stand Your Ground

spiderReally? It’s only Wednesday? Because it has been one of those weeks where it feels like I’ve already lived ten days of it. I’m talking about a loooonnnggggg stressful week. Given that, I didn’t get to write the post I had planned, so today I am going to share something I decided might be too silly. But now I need a little silly. This came about when I was playing around with modernizing nursery rhymes and giving the female characters more backbone! So here’s my version of Miss Muffet, which I’ve given a sparkling new title. 


Stand Your Ground

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey.

Along came a spider

And sat down beside her

What did Miss Muffet say?

Did she call for a man?

No! That wasn’t her plan.

Instead, she took off her shoe.

And said to the spider

“Be frightened away!

Or else you’ll be smashed into goo.”

 See, it’s all about choices. So stand your ground!  (I might have to apologize to arachnophiles for this one, but note that the spider has a choice here too!) Here’s hoping  all of your weeks are going better than mine. But as Judith Viorst’s Alexander might say, “Some weeks are like that. Even in Australia.”  🙂 

13 Things I’ve Learned From My Teen

My oldest daughter recently turned 13. (I’m sure that’s a recordkeeping error, as I am in no way old enough to be the mother of a 13 year old.) She has been a joy, a pain, a source of contentment and of frustration. Meaning, she’s a regular teenager.

Oldest children are typically described as conscientious, reliable, organized and even dominant. Unlike many oldest children, mine tends to be the opposite of most of these things. She’s emotional and emotionally needy. She’s flaky and more interested in fun than victory. She’s disorganized to the point of messy. She asks ridiculous questions and feels no disgrace if she doesn’t know the answers. And despite being firmly entrenched in middle school, she wears whatever she wants (including an array of My Little Pony hoodies, complete with manes), ignores “cool” or “trendy” to pursue her own interests (my kid skips study hall to play more violin!), and she laughs loudly and often, even when people stop and stare.

She’s taught me more about life than I’d ever expected. Here are 13 things I needed my child to teach me:

1. Battles should be chosen wisely.

I’ve seen her do this with her brother and sister – if she thinks she’s going to win, she bares her claws. If not, she lives to fight another day. That taught me a valuable lesson. If the standard was, “you break a rule, we have a fight,” my teen and I would be fighting all the time. And nobody wants to live like that. Instead, I cut her slack on the messy room and the unfolded laundry, and save my fight for the really important things.

2. Housekeeping is overrated.

In the theme of choosing one’s battles, my teen has taught me to view housekeeping appropriately – meaning, there is almost always something more valuable to do with your time. At the end of the day, does it matter more to make sure beds are made or to make sure you’ve had a 10 minute conversation you’re your child (even if the only answers you get are monosyllabic)?

3. Ask questions.

I’ll be honest, sometimes her questions are a little over the top. Sometimes, a little irritating. Sometimes, my response is to scream, “your phone has Google! Go look it up yourself!” But the fact that she constantly asks questions means she is constantly curious – and constantly willing to be educated. Many of us would benefit from those qualities.

4. Be unafraid of failure.

Oh, does my kid fail. Sometimes several times in a row. And yet, she keeps putting herself out there. Would that we all had that kind of courage.

5. If people are staring at you, assume it’s because you’re doing something right.

Like I said, my teen laughs loudly and often. (She actually has this witch laugh that she loves to show off.) She fails at things and she asks aggravating questions. And when people stare at her for doing all those things, she acts like she is the star of the show, instead of shrinking away in embarrassment. It takes a lot of self-confidence to pull that off, and she does. Consistently.

6. Keep hugging.

My oldest may be 13, but she cuddles like a toddler. I’ll be honest – sometimes, that’s annoying, and I often find myself wanting to talk to her about respecting personal space. But then I realize that (1) she already knows that, because she doesn’t go around hugging strangers, and (2) that I should be as comfortable showing my love for the people in my life as she is. So I hug her back, and thank the universe for sending me someone to teach me this.

7. There’s always room for ice cream.

My teen is never one to forego a pleasure. Already, she understands that life is too short for that!

8. Having fun is more important than looking like you’re having fun.

I know I’m biased, but my teen is gorgeous. I wish I’d looked like her when I was her age. And yet, she is completely oblivious to her beauty. At an age where other girls are worrying about their hair and makeup and just looking good, my kid is out there having fun. If anyone cares that her hair isn’t perfect while she’s doing that, it certainly isn’t her.

DSCN00069. That I never understood love before I had kids.

I think kids sometimes think of their hearts as being finite like a house – the more people you love and have in your heart, there less room there is for each person. After you have children, you realize what it means for love to be infinite, and how unconditionally you can actually love.

10. That I never understood fear, either.

Before I had my daughter, I worried about things that could happen to me. Now, those don’t even make my top ten list of things I worry about. I can’t watch a crime procedural on TV without thinking, “That’s something I wasn’t scared of…until now.”

11. They’re my dreams, but it’s your life.

This one was a tough one. The day she was born, I decided that my daughter would have the “perfect” life. At least, perfect by my definition. So I enrolled her in ballet and karate, I took her to art museums and to fancy restaurants, I bought her everything trendy and “cool” I could think of (or read about). I did my best to Disney-princessify her, and yet, over time – well, ballet has been replaced by cheer, karate with soccer. Art museums are out, orchestra is in. And trendy and cool? No interest whatsoever. But she is awesome exactly the way she is, and while I would’ve loved to have a frilly, fancy sidekick wanting to explore fashion, art, and culture, I couldn’t be happier that she is following exactly the path she wants to be on.

P103047612. Feeling like you’re part of the group gives you the strength to forge your own path.

I truly believe that giving my kid a childhood filled with lemming-like activities helped make her unique. Adulthood is about individuality – but you can’t teach a child to be an individual by forcing them to be different than their peers. That’s because childhood is about assimilation, feeling like you belong. And it’s only when you feel like you fit in that you can build the confidence to stand out.

13. Democracy is fine for government, but families are corporations.

The more social studies my teen learns, the more outspoken and confident she gets, the more she believes in democracy and wants everything to be a vote. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday. In our house, we are no democracy. We vote on equity share of the mortgage. Which means I have controlling interest of everything.

Books + Children = Happy Librarians

kami kinard Last week I attended the South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference in Columbia SC. I’m thinking there’s no better place to be than with a bunch of people who love children and books. What a happy event!

My participation in the event started with an Author’s Round Table. During this, librarians moved around the room and spoke with different authors about their books. The different groups were interested in different aspects of a book’s life. One question I got more than once was whether or not I designed the cover. I did not. Almost all book covers are designed by in-house designers with input from Sales and Marketing teams. These are the people who usually know consumers best. If my book is going to be judged by its cover, I definitely want them to be behind it.

The next even for me was the book signing. Here I am at the Scholastic booth with a stack of The Boy Problem, which is only available through Scholastic clubs and fairs until April 29. We sold out by the end of the event. I love the girls who work for Scholastic book fairs! They are fabulous. 

It was also great to meet the Barnes and Nobles representatives who were super nice and took a picture of me and nerdy chick Amy Carol Reeves that I couldn’t get to upload. Grrrr. (Amy and I will both be at the SC Book Festival this year on May 17).

On Friday I led a poetry writing workshop for librarians, which introduced a way to use poetry for nonfiction research assignments and book reports. This scasl poetrymight have been the best group of students I’ve ever taught. Now they’re all poets! One attendee blogged about it HERE.

The event ended with an Author’s luncheon, for which I was the keynote speaker. Can I tell you how thrilling that was for me? And intimidating.

kinard keynote

The Flash of Blue is Wonder. “An author might want the world to be a kinder, gentler, less judgmental place.”

I promise the world would be a happier place if we could hang out with librarians every day! But since there’s no way  to make that happen,  I will give you this little bit of happiness that I discovered this morning on Facebook. I watched it a couple of times to get my day off to the right start!


Hooray for School Librarians!

Five Reasons to Read Aloud

Last week was Read Across America week, and I and many other authors participated by reading to kids all around the world. World Read Aloud Day was March 5 — for me, the day was filled with virtual visits to classrooms from Maine to California. I got a bonus day of reading on SNORING BEAUTY’s book birthday (March 4). By the time I was done, I had connected with over 40 different classrooms. It was AWESOME!

In honor of Read Across America, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone why reading aloud to kids is so important.

skype1. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to build literacy skills. Children can listen to and comprehend books that are much harder than the ones they can read themselves. By hearing more complicated stories, plots, and concepts, they build their vocabulary and increase their interest in books and reading.

2. Taking time to read together demonstrates how you feel about reading.  Children learn from the adults in their lives. They model their own behavior on what they see. If you want your child or your students to value reading, show them that you make time to read. If you take it a step farther and not only block out time in your busy day to read but to read to them you will show them in your actions how important reading is. That is a lesson that will stay with them.

By the way, for all you math geeks (like me!) just 15 minutes of reading to your kids each day means that over the course of the year you will spend an extra 91 hours, 15 minutes with them.

3. It forms connections. There are many difficult topics that we have to discuss with children today. As a parent, it can be awkward to launch into some of these conversations. But when you do it in the context of a book or a story that you are sharing, it opens up the lines of communication. As a bonus, it teaches children that when they need guidance in life, they can turn to books.

goat war4. It makes kids smarter. We already talked about literacy skills. But reading aloud lets you introduce your child to all sorts of topics that he or she may not run into in a school curriculum for years. One of my favorite things to do with my own children is share interesting news articles with them. We’ve talked about everything from impressionist art exhibits, to giant squids, to baseball history, to (most recently) the possibility that there may be a terrible conflict with goats in our future. (It turns out the goat war is unlikely.) The result is my kids are not only able to converse on a wide variety of topics, they are interested in cool things, too.

5. It’s just fun. In my life as an author, I may never win huge awards or make tons of money. But I’ve had the great privilege of connecting with hundreds of kids and getting them excited about books. If that doesn’t make you happy…well, you need to look up the word ‘happiness’ again.

Confessions of a Chronic Doodler

It’s HERE! The trailer for THE BOY PROBLEM, created almost entirely from my doodles. My confessions follow, but first, watch the trailer! And stick around for the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post! 

Now for true confessions:  

I’ve never been good at taking notes. I probably shouldn’t admit this while I still have children in school, but often when I’m listening to someone talk, my mind starts wandering. And when this happens, my pen starts wandering too.  I confess.

Ever been on the phone with me? You know those times when you were talking and there were long periods of silence on my end? I was probably doodling. I confess.  doodles

Add to my list of confessions that I doodle on paper menus when dining at restaurants, church bulletins during church, programs when at performances, and in notebooks I take to conferences. I even doodle when I’m listening to my own internal voice. Doodles are crammed in between the words of all of my revision notebooks. If you could stretch out the pen marks from all of my doodles into one continuous line it would probably wrap around the world a few times. Times ten.

2harley2-watermark-copyHere’s another confession for you. I often curse the fact that my artistic skills are limited to doodling. My mother is a real artist, capable of rendering realistic landscapes and still-life paintings. My fourteen year old daughter is becoming an excellent media artist and has even started a little business creating drawings from photos of pets.

But me? I seemed destined only to doodle. And yet….

My doodling skills help me communicate visually. So when I turned in my manuscript for my first novel, THE BOY PROJECT, I included some doodles along with a note explaining that these were just to illustrate my ideas, and a publisher could hire a real artist to do the actual art.  The manuscript sold! And some of my actual doodles were used in it, along with others that they altered a little.

For my second book, THE BOY PROBLEM, forthcoming from Scholastic in April, everyone understood that I’d include some doodles, but that another artist would probably do the work for the book. But my own doodles ended up being the ones that grace the pages. And then, when I hired someone to make the trailer for THE BOY PROBLEM, she built the whole thing out of my doodles.

bookmarksI have to admit, I’m a little shocked by this. I’ve never thought of my artistic skills as good enough for publication. But the book turned out really well! And the trailer is so cute! Empowered by this, I used my doodling skills to create the 8 ball and mustache for these new promotional bookmarks.

The Boy Problem

Book designer Whitney Lyle created the doodles for this cover.

The bottom line here is that I’ve been selling myself short. And I think that as women, a lot of us do this. It’s important for us not to think in terms of what we CAN’T do, but in terms of what we CAN. I will never be able to sell an watercolor painting masterpiece. I’m not likely to create a digital rendering of your pet iguana either. But I can create one heck of a doodle! Go Me!

Oh yeah. There’s another bottom line here. I wanted to introduce my new book trailer to our readers! Did you watch it? See that guy’s head at 0.18. I had to doodle it about sixteen times to get it right. That’s how good I am.  Hey, it’s not about the first fifteen times I couldn’t draw a decent circle. It’s about the one time I did. 🙂


To celebrate the release of THE BOY PROBLEM trailer, and the arrival of the new bookmarks, I am giving away class sets of bookmarks to teachers, librarians, and bookstores. If you are an individual who wants just one or two you can get some too. I’ll mail these to the first fifteen people to fill out the form below. If you leave a comment too, I’ll throw in a BOY PROBLEM bracelet when they arrive. This Giveaway ends on St.  Patrick’s Day, 2014.

Boy Problem Bookmark Final Front

Marybeth Cornwell: Executive Influencer

Marybeth CornwellIf you have ever been in a Walmart, a Sam’s Club, or a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, you’ve probably seen Marybeth Cornwell’s influence. As Walmart’s Senior Vice President/GMM Ladieswear, Intimates, Jewelry & Accessories, Marybeth is responsible for sales and profitability of the multi-billion dollar ladieswear apparel business at Walmart. She is also on the Board of Directors of The Walmart FoundationSoNA, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas and Hope Cancer Resources.

A member of the President’s Global Council of Women Leaders, Marybeth has had an amazing career in marketing and merchandising. I am thrilled that a woman who has been so successful in the corporate world is willing to share her knowledge here on Nerdy Chicks Rule!  Thank you for joining us today, Marybeth!

1.       You’ve held Vice President or Sr. Vice President positions at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lexington Furniture, and Hanesbrands, Inc. Can you attribute your success in marketing and merchandising to particular skills or talents?

In all these roles, I have had the opportunity to work with products that directly impact customers in their everyday lives.  I think I have a knack for seeing through a consumer’s eyes regarding product design, color & trend, product assortment, display, and packaging.  I adore shopping :), so I get to do professionally (with a very large checkbook) what I love to do in my personal time!

I don’t think I would have been as successful working with a product that is more abstract, like financial services.    I would, however, enjoy being a researcher.  It’s close to the consumer and I am so nosy.  🙂

2.      Speaking of consumers, whether they know it or not, most of our readers have seen your influence in the products offered by major retailers like Lowe’s and Walmart. What are the challenges you face when trying to select products for your company to sell?

Well I never thought of it that way but, thank you, that makes me very happy.  I love to see my products in use.  (Apparel merchants especially love to crowd-watch and report sightings of their products back to their teams.)

Anyway, as a merchant or product manager, you must have the ability to set your personal preferences aside in order to maximize sales by giving your customer what they want and need – for a great value.  Since retailers are closer to the customer than suppliers (who sell through us and can only see their sales numbers) we spend a lot of time representing our customers wants and needs to the manufacturing community.

3.      I toured your alma mater, Wake Forest University, with my son this year and was so impressed with the academic atmosphere. Which college experiences best prepared you for entering the business world?

Hands down, it was the combination of small class size (I had one TA teach a class, and that was only a lab – in undergrad through business school) and leadership opportunities at Wake.  The school is the perfect size – large enough to offer the resources of a major institution, but small enough to allow a student to be a leader.  I was the Pan-Hellenic President, a founder of the Volunteer Service Corps, active in student government and more.  This was great preparation for business.

4.      I can see why! I understand you have always been a voracious reader. How has that helped you excel?

Marybeth CornwellI think I am supposed to say something esoteric like “well, I taught myself Mandarin” or some such.  But no, I think reading (I prefer almost exclusively fiction) allows me to completely enter another world and relax.  Reading gives my brain time to breathe and fiction, in particular, expands my creativity.

A side benefit is connecting with colleagues who are also bookworms.  One of my key suppliers has a CEO who is a first rate bibliophile and we always start our meetings discussing our latest reads.


5.    Actually, I love that you equate needing to relax with reading! As a Senior Vice President of the world’s largest retailer, you must have an outstanding work ethic. Can you share any work habits that have helped your career?

Well I got started early – I’ve had a job since I was 15 and had to apply for a special work permit.  I worked every weekend through high school, full time in summers, and throughout college and grad school.

I think I have been late to work less than a handful of times and I’ve never been a clock watcher.  I am willing to put in the hours I need for my team to be successful but I still have an active personal life.  In my current role I arrive at work just after 7am and leave after 6pm.  Then there is travel (domestic and international), commuting, our monthly Saturday Morning Meeting, etc.  What I love is that no day is ever the same, and the pace is invigorating.

That said, most people are surprised to know that I rarely take work or reading home and I am passionate about taking every single minute of vacation time.
6.     It sounds like you’re able to combine hard work with fun in your career. So can you share something you like to do that might be considered a tiny bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? 

I love designing a good spreadsheet whether for work or personal use.  I was famously horrible at math until I learned Excel in grad school back in the early 90’s…oooh…each cell is like its own little calculator!  Serious geek territory.  I could finally “see” the math and I was hooked.

Maybe there’s hope for me in math! I love these answers. Thank you, Marybeth. I also want to thank your lifelong friend, Nerdy Chick Nancy Kennedy, for introducing you to us.

Marybeth has agreed to come back in October to talk about being a Breast Cancer Survivor, so keep a lookout for that upcoming post.