Writing

Idea Case Studies

Judy Blume

Lesson time 8:20 min

Judy shares the inspiration behind some of her most iconic and enduring books and characters: Margaret, Fudge, and Blubber.

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Judy Blume
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From Margaret, what I remember is saying, now I'm going to write a book-- forget the rules. I had taken a class, and there was some rules about children's books. Everything has to be tied up neatly. Children can never eavesdrop. I mean all the things that-- I was just so-- not true for me. So my idea was I'm going to sit down now, and I'm just going to start telling this story that I know to be true, based very much on my own sixth-grade experience, although very different in terms of the characters. But am I, was I, like Margaret? Yes. I was small. I was skinny. I was a late developer. I was obsessed by the idea of growing breasts and getting my period. That was so much a part of that one year of my life. Oh, I tried everything. I had a little bra, and I tried socks in it. And I tried toilet paper. Maybe I didn't have a bra yet. Maybe I just put cotton balls inside my t-shirt, and they fell down. And I tried socks, and that was like a little overkill. And I just played with the idea of, when will this happen to me? A lot of my friends in sixth grade developed years before I did. Because at 12, some of them were fully developed. They had their periods. They had breasts. They were as tall as they were going to get. And I was just this little skinny Judy. And so that was a very big part of it. Puberty, the whole idea of growing up, I really wanted it. I wanted it. And I've met a lot of kids who are just the opposite. They say I never wanted it. I cried. I never wanted to grow up. But I did. I wanted to grow up. I think the fantasy of a lot of children is to be grown up. That's what we play that. We wanted to be grown up. So I was going to put that in, in this book. I was determined to put this in, whether it had ever been done before, I don't know. I didn't care. I was going to do it. And it never occurred to me to be afraid to do this, that there would be any problems doing this. This was real. This was, again, the reality that I knew. The question of religion and how do you choose a religion, that was fictional. And it's interesting when I think about the book today, it's really so much about finding your place, finding what you believe in. Margaret went out there looking for God everywhere, in churches and synagogues. But she never found the god that she had, obviously, inside-- the god that she talked to, that she confided in. I had my own relationship with God, a very private relationship with God that I also would never, ever have told anyone about. But that was true. I did say, are you there god? It's me, Judy, not Margaret. [MUSIC PLAYING] So for "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," the character of Fudge was definitely inspired by my little son, Larry, when he was that age. Larry was probably-- he was past toddler age by then. ...


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.



Reviews

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

I am an aspiring writer and this course has encouraged me to actually start my novel, as well, it has given me some great tips.

I enjoy learning how other people obtain ideas. Although I don't get mine entirely the same way, it's nice knowing some of the ways are similar.

Great advice. Writing for children can be a discouraging business.

Novels are not my kind of books, but after I made this masterclass, July transformed my way of reading, of looking at novels, and I start reading Smart Woman, and Iam loving it* Thank you July for your authenticity.


Comments

A fellow student

As a teacher I can definitely see how you could get story ideas from students or things that go on in the classroom. It has me thinking about my own childhood memories too.

A fellow student

Remembering my childhood and my children's growing up is making me think in a way that I haven't done for a long time. It's too easy to forget. I need to mull over these memories.

Deborah

I can relate to Judy's experiences that she wrote about in Margaret. This lesson, as well as the previous lessons, have me thinking/reflecting on my childhood experiences. I am thinking of how I can incorporate those ideas into my writing.

A fellow student

I grew up reading the Fudge books and Are You There God?, so it's fascinating hearing about the ideas behind them!

Kai D.

I love hearing about where the first sparks of an idea for a story came from. Sometimes I think about my own ideas and laugh about how I came up with them, that is, if I remember.

A fellow student

You are so lovely. thank you so much for sharing your experience and opening my eyes about how to get ideas and learning from stories around me. Your spirit is beautiful Thanks Judy

Olie K.

Miss Blume has given me so much inspiration. I love how her books were created from the small details and memories in her life. She seems to connect well with her characters and knows how to see things through their eyes.

Mia S.

"Eight years later came 'Superfudge,' and 'Fudge-a-mania,' 'Double Fudge.' I wrote those five books - 'Sheila the Great' I wrote immediately, as soon as I finished 'Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing,' I knew I wanted to give Sheila her own book. I didn't have the next idea until we went to Maine for the summer and I saw that swing, and I knew that swing in the front yard of that house was 'Sheila the Great,' and the idea of taking Peters's family with Fudge and Sheila's family and putting them in one house, that was the idea. Everybody I met in Maine that summer went into the book - there was a Bicycle Bob, a Sawyer's Market, Sheila of Oz. Everybody went in, and yes it's imagination and it's fun and creative, but that doesn't stop you from using everybody along the way. When my daughter was in fifth grade, she came home, we'd sit at the dinner table and she would tell us stories of what was going on in her classroom, which was absolutely unbelievable, and if I had a fifth grade child telling me that today, I would go to school the next day, and I don't know what I would do. She had a teacher who had no idea what was going on in the classroom, and some pretty terrible things were going on. They weren't happening directly to my daughter, who was the shy, quiet child who sat in the back and observed, but it certainly got to her and frightened her, and that is where I got the idea to write 'Blubber.' I might never have written 'Blubber,' but the school bus culture - I listened to the kids, knew the kids, and they spent a lot of time in my house... Again, you don't have to have kids to write books about kids. But when you do have kids of the age group that you're writing about, which I did, certainly you're going to get ideas from those kids."

Mia S.

"'Margaret,' what I remember is saying, 'Now I'm going to write a book - forget the rules' - I had taken a class, everything has to be tied up neatly, children can never eavesdrop, all the things that are so not true for me. So my idea was, 'I'm going to sit down now and I'm just going to start telling this story that I know to be true, based very much on my own sixth-grade experience, although very different in terms of the characters. Was I like Margaret? Yes. I was. Puberty, the whole idea of growing up - I really wanted it. I've met a lot of kids who are just the opposite, but I wanted to grow up. I think the fantasy of a lot of children is to be grown up - that's what we played at. I was going to put that in, whether it had ever been done before, I didn't know, care - I was going to do it. It never occurred to me to be afraid to do this, that there would be any problems doing this - this was real, this was the reality that I knew. The question of religion, and how you choose a religion, that was fictional, and it's interesting when I think about the book today, it's really so much about finding your place, finding what you believe in. Margaret went out there looking for God everywhere, churches and synagogues, but she never found the God that she had obviously inside, the God that she talked to, confided in. 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,' the character of definitely inspired by my little son when he was that age. That story about Fudge swallowing a tiny turtle came from a newspaper article that was given to me by our babysitter, and she said, 'Look at this story!' Every day, there was a followup story in the newspaper about this little boy. In the story were the x-rays, the laxative they gave him so they would not have to do surgery. I followed it every day, and that's where that chapter came from - that didn't come from my imagination; I don't think I ever would have imagined a small child swallowing a turtle."

MJ (Mary Jane) H.

Do not like that Judy only speaks about motivation in writing and not skills....