I was thrilled to be asked to record the Fudge books. I had no experience in reading books professionally but I'd always enjoyed reading aloud to kids. To get ready I listened to Stockard Channing's recordings of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books. I listened in the bathroom, I listened in the bedroom, I listened in my office. Stockard Channing reading Ramona became my gold standard. No one could be better. And there was no way I could do as good a job. I wished that she were recording Fudge instead of me.
I was heading to the recording studio for the first time when I ran into the actor, Eli Wallach, in my elevator. We used to live in the same building in New York. I told him what I was about to do, how insecure I felt, and asked for any advice. He said something like Don't try anything fancy. Don't try to do different voices. Just read it as well as you can. That helped. It reminded me that I’m not a professionally trained actor, that I'm not Stockard Channing, but that I'm good at reading aloud.
Once I was in the studio and began to read I relaxed enough to change a word here, tweak a sentence there. Each time I did the director's voice would fill the tiny sound proof space where I sat facing the mic. He'd tell me I'd made a mistake and ask me to read it over again. "But it's not a mistake," I explained. "I'm making it better."
"Too late for that," he told me. "Every word has to be exactly as it is in the book."
"Even if I'm the one who wrote the book?"
"Sorry, Judy. This isn't the time to edit."
I learned a valuable lesson from that session. Read everything you write aloud and listen carefully, really carefully, before it's published.
I gained experience and confidence after that but I've never actually listened to an entire Fudge book. I can't deal with the sound of my own voice.
When my grandson was very young, before he was reading himself, he loved listening to the Fudge books. My daughter said, "You don't know what it's like to be a grownup with your own home and have to hear your mother's voice day in and day out." I suggested she get Elliot a head set so he could continue to listen to the Fudge books without bothering her. And listen he did, over and over, until he'd memorized the stories. I like to think part of it was his sense of me reading to him, the way I did whenever we were together.