Article by Wendy McCance
I have been writing posts since February 2012. Not a very long time for sure. When I began writing, it was like I had finally found myself. I found out how much I love writing. I became obsessed with putting my thoughts out into the world as often as I could. I began to dream about where this would take me and how I would get there.
Yesterday I was on the internet and decided to look up my favorite author of all time, Judy Blume. I began reading Judy Blume’s books when I was in 3rd grade. I remember the day our class went to the library. We were allowed to browse and pick out a book to check out. I had no idea what books to look at. I was in a transition and was looking for something new. I had outgrown several authors and had no idea what to look for so I was just looking at anything that caught my eye. I found Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, by Judy Blume and checked it out.
I had no idea what it was about the book that made me decide to read it. I do remember I really had no idea what the book was about. Throughout the rest of the day at school, my friends were comparing books they had picked out. When some friends looked at my book, they were shocked. I heard comments like, “isn’t your mom going to be mad you picked out that book?” and “my mom would never let me read that.” I started to panic. My mom had never put any limit on what I was allowed to read. I had no idea that there could even be books that were so different from what I had always read.
The bus ride home was the worst. One of my friends told some other, older kids (5th graders) what I had decided to read. One of these 5th graders said, “your mom is going to kill you for bringing a book like that home.” I also heard, “aren’t you a little young to be reading a book like that?” All I could think was what the heck had I picked out? I started to really worry that I was going to be in big trouble when I got home.
At home I ran up to my room and hid the book. I had no idea what was in it, but it couldn’t be good. Later that evening, my mom came into my room while I was doing homework. She spotted the book and picked it up. She flipped it over and read the back cover. She then started flipping through the pages. This was torture! Finally she asked if it would be alright if she read the book when I was finished. I was stunned. My mom never read my books. What was in this book that she wanted to read? I nervously said sure that would be ok, but wondered if she thought the book sounded good or if I would get in trouble for something in the book when she read it.
Well, I debated reading the book at bedtime. I was scared to even begin to read it. What if something in the book scared me? Why was this book supposedly inappropriate like one of the 5th graders said? How come all of these kids knew something about this book but I had never heard of it? If my mom actually saw me read the book, would she be mad? Was she just testing me by saying she would be reading the book too? Maybe she didn’t want me to read it and this was her way of telling me so. This book I had innocently picked up to read was torturing me. I decided that I wasn’t going to go through all of this and not read the book after all. I wanted to know what the big deal was.
I found out quickly, like within the first chapter. This book was like nothing I’d read before. The author had a way of telling a story that just sucked you right in. It’s probably the only book that made me feel as though I knew these characters intimately and would have been friends with them. I also fell in love with the writing style and thought that Judy Blume must be the coolest person out there.
If you haven’t read this book, I will give you the briefest reason for all of the drama amongst my friends. The subjects spoken about in the book are just not usually talked about. I don’t know about these days, but back then, I didn’t know of any other book that would dare talk about bra’s, menstration and coming of age in such descriptive language.
I have to admit, there were things in the book I had no knowledge of. I was after all only in 3rd grade. I didn’t have the manditory reproductive class until 5th grade so I was way ahead of myself. When I was done, I was proud to have read such a grown up book. I felt more mature and looked at my other books as though they were books for babies.
My mom did read the book and I cringed all the way through her reading it. I have to admit, although I had no idea about some of the things I was reading, I did still feel like I was going to get in trouble once my mom read it.
After she was done, she said she wanted to have a talk. I was horrified that we would have to talk about the book. This had never occurred before. We sat down to talk and she had brought a pen and paper with her. All I could figure out was that she wanted to take notes on what I would say. This was getting really uncomfortable really fast. Turns out, she needed the pen and paper to draw diagrams. I got the big S.E.X. talk. I am in 3rd grade! My mom figured I wouldn’t understand some of what I read which was true. She asked me questions to see if I understood which sucked. I didn’t know what to say and so I hemmed and hawed my way through it. She then drew pictures, explained how babies were made, what I should expect to happen as I got older once a month and then said she had a gift for me.
I have no idea where this box had come from, but she had gotten a box the size of two boot boxes. Inside was every type of pad imaginable. There was even a belt (which was already an outdated concept when I was growing up). She told me to keep this in my room and to look it over and feel free to try things on.
My mom handled everything well. Even so, I was still mortified. It was a big moment for a little 3rd grader who had no idea what she had gotten herself into by picking out a random book.
I have never forgotten this event in my life or how much I appreciated Judy Blume’s writing style. I went on to read every book she published and still have them all today. My hope is to be the type of writer that is familiar. Judy Blume had such a unique style. No subject was off the table. The way she wrote made you feel as though it was just for you. I would finish a book and feel as though I had been hanging out with a close friend and that we had just finished a personal conversation.
What makes books so great is that no two people are alike and writing styles vary between authors. It’s not that I want to copy a style (which would be tough to do and not a great way to write). I want to have an authenticity about my voice and a straightforwardness that really makes the reader feel at home with a book I write. I want to create a feeling of familiarity.
If you have ever written a book, or are in the process of writing one, do you think about what your voice sounds like to others? Do you ever hope to achieve a certain tone to your writing? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions on this. If you have an all time favorite writer, I’d be interested to know who and what it is about their writing that you love.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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If you want to be “sort of” like Judy Blume, you should try to emulate her style and voice. You won’t succeed, but you will have an adaptation of it, which could be wonderful.
I think copy another style is just setting yourself up for failure. What makes an author great is reading their authentic voice.
I loved that book. It’s a book for all ages. Thanks for raising the question- what does my writing voice sound like? Important to think about. Excellent post.
Hi Jaimie, thanks so much. I think that book is my favorite book even today.
I think about this a lot. I remember something in a writing book I read one time that said to pick a favorite writer and have their book open as you are writing yours. I knew that by doing that I would lose my voice just as surely as if I had developed a sudden case of laryngitis. There are authors that I love to read for their style. One favorite is Jan Karon. I was hooked with the first book about the small town of Mitford. I could re-read the whole series, and I own them all. But other writers give me goose bumps for other reasons. Right now I am reading a memoir called “Falling Apart in One Piece, by Stacy Morrison. I practically idolize the way she writes about her thought process. So my hope is that reading other writer’s will help me improve the way I express my own voice.
Hi Linda, thanks for the terrific comment. Now I’m curious about the authors you mentioned. I’ve never heard of them, but I think I’ll check them out.
Hi Wendy. One day i was browsing at my local bookstore (as we are want to do) and I picked up a book based on the title, “At Home in Mitford.” I turned it over and read the teaser on the back. It sounded like a “quaint” story and I wasn’t sure I would like it, but gave it a try. I LOVED it. There is a whole series and even a “Mitford Kitchen Reader.” You can find more about these books and the author at http://www.mitfordbooks.com. Enjoy!
Cool, thanks for the link.
I have never read any of Judy Blume’s books well not that I can remember but hell when I was younger I read so much I could read between 1 & 2 books a week. I find I will go through stages when I will read a lot of say Dick Francis and other times I would rather read Danielle Steel.I have found my own voice since writing my blog mostly in the last year and I like the way I write now…….I think others like it to even though I do ramble a fair bit now…………..really I do can you believe that me rambling……………lol
I think your writing voice sounds like a good friend. I love Danielle Steele too.
What a great story. It goes to show that no one should prejudge another’s decision as your classmates did. Your Mom was a wise woman allowing you to explore that author and subject matter that this book offered.
When you asked, who is my favorite author I paused. I have many for many different reasons. I have always admired a person who can create an image with words. To write in such a way as to transport us to a different place in time is such a great gift. One I hope that I accomplish in my life time.
You are well on your way to accomplishing your goal. Keep writing my friend. Your book will emerge and it will be amazing.
Thanks. I agree that when an author has the talent to make you forget your reading a book and instead feel you are experiencing what is written it’s incredible. I know you will be one of those special individuals that can accomplish that!