Friday, September 9, 2011

Full Disclosure

Not long after Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was published I got a call asking me to write a new edition of a booklet called Growing Up and Liking It. This was to be an educational booklet, preparing girls for the big day when they, too, would get their periods. I was offered $5,000 to write it. A small fortune to me in the early 70's. Five times as much as my advance for the book!

I didn't have a clue how to make this booklet fun without making fun of it, but I took my assignment seriously. I came up with the idea of three friends, Patty, Donna, and Ginny, who write letters to each other. (Any of you remember?) I gave one of them gerbils to add interest to the story but, alas, gerbils were vetoed by the male execs (or so I was told) for being too rodent-like. They strongly suggested changing gerbils to kittens. Also, they didn't want anything icky about periods. The ick factor was not acceptable.

Bless my first agents, who made sure my name would never appear on the booklet or in any connection with the booklets. But, recently, when I came across a website from the Museum of Menstruation featuring covers from the various editions of Growing Up and Liking It I decided it was time to come clean.

I was especially tickled by an editor of the website who says of the booklet:

I thought it was a wooden version of Judy Blume's famous book Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.... but I think the writer(s) had a tin ear for what passes between girls of that age - at least that is how it appears to this non-expert in girls' conversation.
Oops! I guess this proves I can't write to order.

I've never endorsed any product (though, personally, I loved those modess....because ads -- pictured left --so elegant!) But recently I've been getting invitations to write something on the subject of menopause, featuring Margaret and her friends forty years later. Margaret, menopausal? I don't think so. Maybe Patty, Donna, and Ginny are menopausal now, but to me Margaret will always be 12.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Margaret & Menstroo-ation

Why Margaret Gave Up Those Bulky Pads and Belts and Opted for a More Modern Solution

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
was published in 1970. Just months after the book came out sanitary belts became obsolete when adhesive strip pads hit the market, leaving poor Margaret behind to struggle through the age old question: belts with pins or belts with hooks? Here she was, a modern girl of the early 70's trapped into using the same equipment I used growing up in
the 50's. A few years later a smart editor in the UK suggested that Margaret trade in those belts and pads for the new, more friendly Feminine Products. Until then I'd never guessed it was possible to revisit this issue once a book was published. But from that moment on, it was Go For It, Margaret! I made the few changes myself then approached my US editor, who readily agreed it was a good idea.

Some of my readers who grew up with the earliest editions of the book get angry when they find out Margaret isn't using sanitary belts anymore. (I think it's been at least 25 years since she has.) They feel cheated, as if my publishers are messing with a classic. I appreciate their concern - really, I do -- but in this case I disagree. We're not talking about historical fiction. We're talking about the millions of girls who have read the book since then, and continue to read it today, thinking of Margaret as their contemporary. For the purists among you, I'm writing a novel now that takes place in the early 50's and you can be sure some of my characters will struggle with belts and pins.

This is Part One of a two part blog. Stay tuned --