Defending Judy Mays

I had never heard of Judy Mays until Wednesday. That’s when, out of the blue, her name was all over Twitter. Every other tweet was about Mays, author of erotic romance novels featuring supernatural elements. It seems Judy Mays is really Judy Buranich, a high school English teacher. A few parents disovered this fact and rasied a ruckus that someone who wrote about sex on the side was teaching their children.

This, sadly, did not surprise me.

What shocked me, however, was when I clicked on a news story about the kerfuffle and saw it was taking place in my former back yard. Snyder County, Pennsylvania, to be exact. Just two counties away from where I grew up.

It was disheartening, to say the least. I wanted to believe that people in my home state were more open-minded than this. That they understood the concept of freedom of speech. That they realized someone who wrote fiction didn’t necessarily want their made-up stories to be real.

I was wrong. Here are some quotes from concerned parents and students:

“I was shocked. If you are a teacher you shouldn’t be doing that.” — Shanette Apple, former student

“I was sort of shocked. Sitting in her class I had no idea. She is a good teacher, but I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.” — Drew Hollenbach, former student

“She is teaching children that are under the age of 18, and definitely the books that she is writing are adult books.” — Deanna Stepp, concerned parent

These quotes say a lot. They tell me that no one in Judy Buranich’s classroom knew about her side gig. She kept it separate, which of course is how it should be. It’s also clear that she’s good at her job. (Hence the “She is a good teacher” quote.)

But the quotes also make it clear these people think that because Judy Mays write about sex with werewolves, for example, it means she wants to have sex with a werewolf in real life. Maybe an underage werewolf. Maybe even (gasp!) a werewolf in her classroom!

Perhaps they’re right. Maybe Ms. Buranich/Mays does wants to be sexually ravaged by a 17-year-old half-man/half-beast in the silvery light of a full moon. Or maybe she’s just making things up for the fun of it. Writing is fun, after all. And those of us who are authors rarely want to do the things we write about. My book, DEATH NOTICE, features a serial killer who tries to embalm his victims. This does not mean I want to kill anyone or embalm anything. It simply means I made it up. (Oh, and werewoles don’t really exist.)

But Deanna Stepp, that concerned parent, goes even further, saying: “I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author.”

Well, Ms. Stepp, it’s not that easy. Many authors, myself included, need our jobs. We enjoy getting steady paychecks, to pay for things like food and shelter. We enjoy having health insurance, in case things go wrong. I know many writers who would love to be able to support themselves with their writing alone, but it’s just not in the cards. We must work and we must write.

(But since you’re so concerned about how we make a living, Ms. Stepp, I encourage you to buy several thousand copies of my book. Here’s the link:  Thanks for your support!)

As for Judy, I hope she can continue to do both. Officials at her school aren’t commenting, but I pray they understand that writing and teaching have been and can continue to be separate. She isn’t hurting anyone. She isn’t reading her books aloud in class. She’s simply trying to be an English teacher during work hours and tell stories in her free time.

I applaud her. And I support her. Every writer should.

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings

2 Responses to Defending Judy Mays

  1. Eric

    I agree! But somehow, I’m not surprised that certain folks back in “Pennsyltucky” (I’m from one town over from Todd) are reacting this way. It’s sad. I hope the rational, normal people of Snyder County (read: the ones who aren’t flapping their gums to the media) can see through the squeaky wheels and not grease this teacher, as it were.

  2. Paul Joseph

    I’m with you, Todd. Team Judy all the way! As a former teacher and aspiring novelist, I find this situation embarrassing. It continues to upset me because, regardless of what happens or how much support Judy receives, her teaching career will never be the same. In today’s world (with the help of sites like, a teacher’s reputation is fragile. Once tainted, not much can be done. It’s like waking up one day and, out of the blue, learning you have an illness that will stay with you the rest of your life.

    I’m disappointed this story was able to spread rapidly like a modern epidemic of the bubonic plague. Her union needs to get on the ball; if Judy is like me, she’s been paying them nearly $800 a year to help in situations like this. Where is the statement on her behalf? Where is the professional explanation that one has nothing to do with the other – that Judy Buranich is an English teacher and Judy Mays is an author. The two do not intersect.

    Until Judy Buranich assigns her romance novels for the next book report – or, until she has the kids acting out chapters for the rest of the class – I fail to see how this is any concern of the school district, the students, or the parents. Sorry, mom and pop, but you can’t control this no matter how much you feel you’re entitled to do so.