Lessons Learned from Judy Blume’s Masterclass Session on Writing

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Judith Blume is an American writer of children’s, young adult (YA) and adult fiction. She published her first novel in 1969, Blume was one of the first authors to write Young Adult novels about topics that some still consider to be taboo. Blume’s books have sold over 82 million copies and they’ve been translated into 32 languages

Judy Blume is a beloved author whose best-selling books for younger readers have maintained relevance and impact for generations. Her best-known works include Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Deenie, and Blubber.

The New Yorker has called her books “talismans that, for a significant segment of the American female population, marked the passage from childhood to adolescence.” Judy has also written four novels for adult readers, each one a New York Times bestseller. Judy Blume has won more than 90 literary awards, including the Library of Congress Living Legends Award, the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ E.B. White Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Here are my favourite take aways from viewing the

Finding Ideas

  • Details are key to creating characters and situations that feel real to you and to your readers. Practice this heightened awareness in your everyday life. From there, consider the difference between life and fiction. A simple transcript of life would be boring. Use real-life experience but transform it, make it more important. 

Writing for Different Ages-

  • Returning to your own childhood doesn’t mean that you’ll need to simplify or “dumb down” anything. Children are much more complex and understand a lot more than they’re sometimes given credit for. Their lives are complicated and they want to deal with reality. Judy desperately wanted to read about real life and about kids who were like her as she was growing up, who were dealing with the same things she was.

Avoid Themes

  • When Judy writes, she stays away from themes. Themes in books tend to hit readers over the head and not give them enough credit. This can turn readers, especially young ones, off. Present situations and characters instead, and leave your readers to make their own minds up about the story’s meaning.

On Reading

  • Reading good books is the best way to learn to write. Sometimes you’ll read something and figure out what you don’t want to do, as well as what you do want to emulate. Both of these are important. Read not only classic books but contemporary ones that are products of today’s publishing marketplace. Reading helps you learn how to put a book together.

There’s nothing more important than characters when you’re writing. It’s the characters that make the story work.

  • There is no right or wrong way to discover character, and part of her writing process is to start writing and be surprised. The more you write your character, the more you get to know them and the more they seem like a real person. That is essential to make your reader believe in them. 
  • A character’s inner life is crucially important, and you create it with specific details. The details can be your framework, and from there, you can play around.
  • Try writing stream of consciousness in first person, or third. Experiment with voice—that’s going to be key. A character’s voice is your voice, in that it comes from you, but it also belongs to your character. Everything contributes to voice. 

Writing Dialogue

  • Dialogue helps to advance story and illuminate characters. It gives characters knowledge they may not have had otherwise. Dialogue can also give you little scenes or moments that form bigger chunks of the story.
  • Stay away from making the dialogue too literary. Let your characters interrupt one another! Think also about what the character might be leaving unsaid. This is a wonderful way to reveal character and also build tension. 
  • When writing dialogue, try to make it clear who’s speaking without using too many dialogue tags or fancy synonyms for “said.” If you get stuck, keep moving on. 

Plot Structure

  • Leave room for surprise when you’re thinking about plot. You have your characters, and now you are writing scenes to find out what happens. 
  • As you go along, feel free to use flashbacks and backstory. These elements help you discover your character and let your readers get to know them. Use setting and location as an integral part of the story as well. Specific details create setting and make it real for a reader, so do your research or visit the place you’re writing about.

Judy’ Writing Process

  • When you are drafting, don’t edit yourself or criticize your choices. If you hit roadblocks in the murky middle, go back to your notebooks and see if you have ideas for what could happen to your characters. 
  • The second draft is all about finding surprises along the way and starting to tease out the shape of your story. Think about the story you want to tell and the age group you’re writing for.  Use the second draft to go deeper into character. Don’t worry too much about the plot yet. 
  • Be careful of falling in love with your story. That will make seeing it objectively difficult, and may get in the way when it’s time to cut or tighten. As you move into the more polished drafts of your work, read the text aloud. This will train your ear to edit and fine-tune your own writing 

“You have to want it so badly and need it so badly that rejection cannot stop you.”


  • Try to find the positive in the negative. Sometimes a reviewer or agent or editor will be right, which may inspire you to revise your story and make it stronger. 
  • Fear is the greatest enemy of achieving your dreams. Don’t let fear keep you from trying. As you have a few more rejections under your belt, the process will get easier. 

Controversy and Censorship

  • Difficult or controversial subject matter in a novel should never be gratuitous. If it doesn’t illuminate character or advance the story, it needs to go. But if it is a central part of your story or something you really want to explore, it belongs. Use your own inner guide on whether or not to include controversial material.


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Judy Blume Teaches Writing

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