Finding Ideas - Part 2

Judy Blume

Lesson time 9:04 min

Judy discusses the highly personal calculation every writer will make about whether to raid their own lives for material. She also talks about the importance of letting ideas percolate before committing them to paper.

Judy Blume
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In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
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The mood that you're in when you're writing a book will come into the book, I think, and be a mood of a book. When I wrote Tiger Eyes in New Mexico, I had moved to New Mexico and I had left Los Alamos, where I started out. And I left a marriage that took place there. And I got down to Santa Fe, and I knew that I wanted to write a book about a family in a place, and that place was going to be very important to the book. And the family story actually came from-- I don't know. I heard a story about a young girl who's lost her father and the mother picked up and moved to another place where she had family. I had no idea when I was writing Tiger Eyes-- it was a long time after-- maybe not until we made the movie of Tiger Eyes-- that I realized this book is about the loss of my father, my father, who I worried so when I was nine years old, would die at 43, died suddenly at 54. And I adored my father. And in my family, we didn't talk much about loss. My mother didn't-- if my father had been living, we would have talked about it, but my mother didn't talk about anything. And I thought I was writing about one thing, and maybe I was-- the story of this girl who had lost her father suddenly and the mother moved them to another place. I mean, that didn't happen in my life. But that loss, that pain-- that's what Tiger Eyes is all about. That's what came up from inside. And when I realized what it was about, it must have been very cathartic for me to write that book about a girl who feels this pain and this loss. I know in Tiger Eyes, there's a scene-- every time I've ever read that scene aloud, I burst into tears. I can't tell you why that is. It involves a Christmas, Hanukkah present that she's bought for her father in New Mexico. It's a candle. I had a candle like that, because I lived in New Mexico for a long time and it had five wicks. And it burned down, but I never got to give that to my father. But there's something about her giving it to her father, even though he's not there anymore, he's dead, that just makes me dissolve. I think that's a very personal decision, what to use and what not to use. And again, sometimes you are using your own personal feelings and experiences and emotions, and you don't even know it. You don't know it until after the fact. I have gotten great ideas in the shower. And the one that I remember best is a whole book came to me in the shower. And that was Superfudge. And I guess it had been about eight years since I wrote Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing-- same characters. And I wanted to write another book, but I just I didn't have an idea for it. And then suddenly, I was in the shower one day, and covered with soap and shampoo, and it came to me and it was such an easy idea. It's laughable to say it out loud. It was like, OK, here's what happens. The family has a new baby, and we go on from there...

Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

So moving and authentic. Judy Blume was probably one of the best teachers on Masterclass. So real and transparent about the business and her process. Great class overall!

I got chills watching this because I feel like this is what I finally need to be doing! I feel validated hearing Judy's words of encouragement.

Judy Blume made me a reader and as a writer, I continue to learn from her. I cried right along with her during this course. Amazing experience.

This was my first go round of simply listening to Judy. Takeaways: listening to my true self yet humbly utilizing the coaching of respected mentors.


Lynn C.

I knew Judy's name but wasn't familiar with her books. There's something about her that makes me feel calm, and it's amazing that as she talks about her childhood that I've had some happy memories come back. I'm making my first attempt to write a story, and one character is an artist/musician who never seems to have a paper or pen when he has ideas, and ends up scribbling on whatever's available, like restaurant menus, bar napkins, business cards, etc. His girlfriend decides to keep a notebook in her purse to make life easier for him. So my imaginary people are doing something that I've never thought to do for myself, so as of today I have a notebook in my purse, too. Thank you, Judy!


I am so terrible about the notebook thing! I always mean to, and I always have one in my bag. But I'm terrible at keeping at it. This makes me so determined now to cultivate that habit. Judy's right--the older we get, the less we will remember. And I need to form this habit now before it's too late! On another note, Young Judy was so much like me as a child! Especially the story about her in piano lessons. Oh my goodness! I used to do something similar! At 30 years old, I still do that, admittedly.

Diane C.

I understand now how Judy creates such wonderful characters and stories. She is visibly emotional when she talks about how her life experiences helped shape her books. That depth of feeling is present in her books, which is what makes her readers fall in love with her characters.


I chose Judy Blume because I didn't know as much about her and her books as some of the other writers. I'm happy I did. Not only did it reinforced some of the things I already do, but made me think about what an interesting childhood I had. As for the information gathering, I have spent a lot of time on local buses and my ears are always open. I get some great dialog and there are always interesting characters to describe and wonder about in my notebook. I haven't been doing much of it lately, but this encourages me to get back in the habit. I even wrote a series of poems that were titled with the # and name of the bus I was riding when I wrote it.

esther H.

The notebook was a helpful idea. I often think I need to sit down with a blank page or screen and conjure up fresh ideas or dig up past ideas. It is so painful. It hasn't worked. JB's simply sharing of scribbling in a notebook for months before sitting down to write. With the notebook, you are never without an idea or without a security blanket. I can use this.

Grant W.

Mainly I raid my own live for story ideas. I think of old school friends and what might have happened to them. I imagine their lives and whether I would still connect with them. I like to walk and think of stories as I go.

A fellow student

I chose Judy for my first lesson, and it was a good choice. I can relate to her.

Joanna H.

Judy is great! She is inspiring me already, and I have only begun. I chose her class (my first Master Class) because in the trailer, she talked about how writing is hard, but some people NEEN to write, and that her class is for those people. It was so spot-on for me, and I am looking forward to seeing where these lessons will take me!


I totally relate to Judy talking about the catharsis of writing about the impact of her father's death and the grief in a book years later -- and not realizing that's what she was writing about. In my book FORCED JOURNEY: THE SAGA OF WERNER BERLINGER I also break into tears at a certain moment (others do too). I'm writing about the Holocaust, one child's experience in leaving his family in Europe and coming to the U.S.on his own. I didn't have any family who were personally affected by the Holocaust but I still had strong emotions about it. And those feelings of shock and grief suddenly flooded out when I was writing this book. And that's why the book is so personally meaningful to me and I think to others.


I chose Judy as my first lesson because she takes me back. I remember reading one of her "box sets" (which I still have) on a 2 week family trip in the 70's.