In the Unlikely Event Case Study - Part 1

Judy Blume

Lesson time 14:16 min

Judy deconstructs how she researched her sprawling novel, which she based on series of unbelievable-yet-true events that happened in her hometown when she was a teenager.

Judy Blume
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
Get All-Access


So I've chatted with you about how ideas usually come to me. Slowly, over a long period of time. And now comes In The Unlikely Event, which came in a flash, in a way no other book has ever come to me. No book will ever come to me this way again. So I want to share this with you too, because it could happen to you. In January of 2009, I was sitting in an auditorium in Key West during an event that we have every year, a pretty great event called the Key West Literary Seminar. And it's a seminar where the audience is almost all made up of readers. There may be some writers in there too, but it's not a learn to write. It's about reading. And the guest speakers are all writers, and it's usually around a theme. And in 2009, the theme was new voices in literature. So we had a lot of new writers there, younger writers. I'm on the board, so I know a lot about what goes on. But after lunch is usually a sleepy session, you know? People are like, ugh. There's a lot of eyes closing. And here is this wonderful, new, young writer, unknown to almost all of us then named Rachel Kushner, who has since become very famous. But then she was talking to us about her first novel, Telex From Cuba, a book that I had read already because I knew she was coming. And I liked it very, very much, so I was interested in what she might have to say. And she talked to us about how she got the idea to write this book, which was-- this is the way I remember it anyway-- stories that her mother had told her. Her mother, I think, had grown up in Cuba just before Castro and the revolution, when it was just beginning to change. And maybe her mother lived on a plantation. That's the way I remember it. Pineapples or whatever. And this book was inspired by stories that her mother told her about growing up in Cuba in the '50s. The only reason this is important is in the '50s, I heard this, in the '50s, and I swear to you, I was struck at that moment. It was like electricity went through me. In the '50s. And I had a story. I had a story that lived deep inside me that never came bubbling up until that moment. In the '50s. What a simple sentence. How many times had I said in the '50s myself? But when Rachel said it onstage, in the '50s, stories her mother told her about growing up in the '50s, this entire book came to me at once with characters and plot. And before I left the auditorium that afternoon, I knew this book the way you might see a movie. It just went right through me. I had this story. I'm a writer. I'm a writer. I've been a writer all these years. So for 40 years that I was writing then or more, I had this story deep inside me, and I never thought to tell it. Which to me is crazy, you know? How can a person who's a writer have a story like this, such a great story, and never think to tell it? Not consider it and s...

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.

I took the class because I was curious about writing for younger audiences, as it is not my area. Judy has some great advice. She has such a warm heart and emotional connection to what she does. I love how she keeps notes about stories and characters, as it's a lot like what I do. Very inspiring.

Such an unbelievable treat to be schooled by the amazing Judy Blume herself! I loved her books, her fro writing them and now she's simply irresistible not to love even more for her signature candid and straight-forward style of breaking it down for you to relate to and feel soul to soul! Thank Judy, thank you for all of your brave work. You are an inspiration.

Judy inspired me with her authenticity and love. All of us need encouragement - someone in our corner. I am eternally grateful to Judy for her support and enthusiasm and passion. She doesn't simply inspire me to write; she makes me want to be a better person. Thank you. ;-)

It was great to hear experiences from an accomplished writer. Judy has such a positive and encouraging style, and I love that.


A fellow student

I love how Judy speaks of how the interaction with the author lead to a thought that lead to a stored memory. I have that kind of reaction all the time. It's a wonderful "aha" moment. there is one article that I read a long time ago that I always say to myself that I would like to write/explore that story. I never thought of research as being a security blanket. Thank you Judy.

Sandra W.

I am so wowed by this lesson. Judy is so excited about her writing journey and during the first 5 minutes of this talk, I had two of the same story epiphanies come to me. And the excitement! I could feel the same excitement that Judy exhibited in her talk. It was almost overwhelming!

Veronica F.

When Judy mentions to gather memories from people that lived with you during a specific time, it reminds me of times when I talk to my high school friends about things that happened when we all went to school together. It always seems interesting to me how each person remembers different parts of a specific event that we were all at together.

Pamela O.

I'm getting tired of taking this class again and again and not getting credit for it. What I like most about her classes is her enthusiasm!

Pamela O.

I keep taking this lesson and it never had been counted as completed. If anyone else has had this problem and has solved it I would be thankful if you would let me know ho.

A fellow student

She, like she does for children in her books, is showing me that I’m not alone in some of the things I do when writing, that I’m “normal.” Lol

Ann S.

All of Judy's suggestions are useful for writing for any age. She reminded me that I have some humorous incidents from my childhood that would add a little sparkle of fun to my adult fiction and still fit in, and move the story forward. Thanks Judy!

A fellow student

I love how her voice so soothing and calm. She also reasons very good. I don’t read her books but one of my friends do. Like Judy I have a passion to write. I even created a group that creates books for my school library.

A fellow student

I am enjoying all the suggestions here. I especially like the format of Judy sharing her personal stories and suggestions for writing.

Colleen P.

What hit me most is that so many of the stories in my computer or file cabinets are based on my childhood back in the 50's. I lived in a small rural town. My friends and I rode our horses all over countryside. We had many adventures which now give me stories to tell. My problem is will the stories still be interesting when we lived in a time and place where no one locked their doors. Where if you did something you shouldn't, it got home before you did. We had party lines and there was always someone who listened to everyone's calls. I can't bring these stories into today's world. What we did and felt back then would never fit today. So I guess I need to just go ahead and tell the stories and somehow let them know when it happened. Right?