Writing

Rejection

Judy Blume

Lesson time 12:12 min

Rejection is a fact of life if you want to be a writer. Learn how Judy overcame her doubts when the letters piled up—and how she used rejection to fuel her determination.

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Rejection is a fact of life if you want to be a writer. It's never easy, it's painful. But you know, I think determination is every bit as important as talent. You can have all the talent in the world, and if you can't take it, the rejection, negative reviews, you're just not going to do it. You're going to stop. So I took a writing class and started sending things in very quickly, and for two years, I got rejections back. The first rejection sent me into the closet for a good cry. And after that I determined. I said, yeah, well, OK. Maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see the one that I'm doing next, and that's going to change it. And then not to wait, not to send something in and wait to see about rejection, but to just start working on something new I think is the best therapy, because then you're involved in another story. And you can say to yourself, well, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see this. So, it is a fact of life. And it's never easy, but I think you just have to learn to deal with it. I know that the early rejections that I had made me much more determined. I went from being a crybaby to being determined. I can do this. They might not know it yet, but they'll say, I'm going to do this. I know I'm going to do this. And so I think that's an important attitude. And attitude is a lot. Some people are so turned off by any kind of criticism that it paralyzes them, and they can't do it again. It's so funny about my rejection letters. I have kept all my rejection letters. I think I have a folder with every one of them. I had a letter from a semiprofessional very, very early on. That husband knew somebody, who knew somebody, and sent an early picture book manuscript to him. And he wrote me a letter an onion skin-- that's that thin, thin paper that we used to use. It must have been three pages long, but I just remember how it started. I'm sure you were a really nice girl, Judy, but get out your hanky and get ready to have a good cry, because you just can't write. Ah, I'm sure you're a nice girl. I had someone else once tell me, you're a nice girl Judy, but you'll never be a writer. That really makes me feel good now, right? We know-- those were both guys, of course. OK, I have a series of rejection letters from the precursor of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which was a short book called Peter Fudge and Dribble. And this is from a company called Parents Magazine Press that I had read about. "Dear, Ms. Bloom, This is a very good story, well written, and with mood sustained right to the end." I wrote in the margins, wow. "Unfortunately, I'm not sure it is a children's story. I think parents would dig the humor of the situation more than children would. Give it a try, in any case." This was then considered by me a fabulous rejection letter. If you get an...


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.

Terrific explanation of the process of writing and publishing books ... and loving what you do!

I have just com to the end of Judy Blume's Masterclass and I can honestly say this is the best investment I have made towards my creative life so far. Thank you Judy. x

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.

Judy says about the same thing as others writers but with a bit of something extra added to it. She puts her spin on each subject. Each writer has his or her way of doing things. I'm grateful Judy shared her way.


Comments

A fellow student

I really appreciated how honest Judy was about this painful subject. Inspired too by her tenacity and commitment to keep writing. She found a way to make her book work, despite the obstacles and the critics.

Rachel M.

Ouch. People can get nasty. The real professionals these days will at least be more polite with rejections.

Mia S.

"This just says to you, 'This is one person's opinion, one person doesn't like your book - that doesn't mean it's the end, it doesn't mean you stop writing, it doesn't mean that you don't have talent.' And that's when you have to be determined, you have to have such strong determination, you have to want it so badly and need it so badly that this rejection cannot stop you. Sometimes even negative reviews can be constructive. I especially think of a couple of rejection letters I had telling me why they weren't going to publish the book - that of course in my day, when you could send directly to an editor, that was huge when someone wrote you a letter, a personal letter, not just some form rejection letter, and said 'This is why.' I wrote on it, 'She's absolutely right,' and I've totally rewritten this book (it was 'Freckle Juice') and I believe I sent it back to her, and I think she published it. Yes, you can get that kind of feedback, 'this is what doesn't work for us about it, and maybe it's right.' Not so much in reviews, though - by then, your book is published. So is it constructive, is it going to help you? I don't know. Maybe with the next book. But some people just don't like what you write, and that's somebody's opinion. Don't dwell on the negative ones. What good is it going to do you? Memorize the positive ones and think about them. Remember that most readers aren't reading reviews anyway - they're going to the book shop or the library and they're choosing your book for other reasons. What's done is done."

Mia S.

"There was one review of 'Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself,' and it was by a reviewer who had liked my other books, my earlier books. And this review was so painful, so awful, that it got me in the way that I'm telling you, don't let it get to you - but it got to me. And I took that big IBM Selectric typewriter that I had and I carried it, it was heavy, out of the house - I lived in New Mexico; I lived - there's a canyon, an arroyo next to the house, and I held it over this arroyo, and I was going to throw it in. I thought, 'I cannot do this anymore.' Because that book was so important to me, you know, and it was my most autobiographical, so it was like - 'this is personal, this isn't just a review of my book.' That's how I felt that day. I held it there, and then this little voice went off in my head and it said, 'Wait, you're going to let this one review, this one reviewer, stop you from writing? That's crazy, that's one opinion, don't do that.' And so I turned around and carried it back into the house. What's really interesting is that I later at a convention met that reviewer and she came up to me and she apologized, she said, 'I was in a terrible mood that day.' You know, this is how things happen - we don't normally know this. 'I read about the cockroach in the chow mein' - which was a little detail in my book because it really happened to my brother - and she said, 'I lost my lunch, and I punished you for that.' And what do I say? 'Yeah, it was really hard'? I don't know what I said, I don't think I said anything, I was so taken aback."

Mia S.

"If you're scared to be rejected, you're never going to find out if you've got it and you can be published, so push that out the window. You can't be scared of it. What is it? It's some person sitting at a desk somewhere that you're probably never going to meet saying that he or she doesn't like your book, your writing, or isn't really the right person to publish it. So what, okay? The next person may love it. So you have to get over the fear of being rejected. There is a lot of fear of being rejected - it hurts. So practice. Accumulate the rejection letters, and it'll get easier. It will. Don't stop. It's never too late, just keep going. You're doing this, after all, because you have to. You're doing this because you love it, because it relieves something that's inside of you -that's why you're doing it. So you're not going to let one person or 12 people or maybe 78 people stop you from doing what you need to do. After you're published, all that joy of being published, and then - wham, you have to face reviews. Some people say they don't read their reviews - I'm not sure I believe them, but maybe. I'd like to say that. I'm too curious a person, so I read my reviews, and I've had my share of great and terrible. I had a scrapbook when I started to write and I kept all my reviews and all my letters and I got a particularly nasty review once, and I just wrote in red ink, 'You bitch,' and other words on it. That made me feel better, but I don't sit down and write a letter to the reviewer to say anything."

Mia S.

It's so funny about my rejection letters, I have kept all my rejection letters - I think I have a folder with every one of them. 'I'm sure you're a really nice girl, Judy, but get out your hanky and get ready to have a good cry - because you just can't write.' Ugh - 'you're a nice girl.' I had someone else once tell me 'you're a nice girl, Judy, but you'll never be a writer.' That really makes me feel good now, right? We know - those were both guys, of course. I have a series of rejection letters from the precursor of 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,' a short book called 'Peter Fudge and the Dribble.' Parents Magazine Press: 'Dear Ms. Bloom: This is a very good story, well-written and with mood sustained right to the end' - I wrote in the margins, Wow! 'Unfortunately, I'm not sure it is a children's story. I think parents would dig the humor of the situation more than children would. Give it a try, in any case.' This was then considered by me a fabulous rejection letter - if you get any encouragement in a rejection letter, 'Yay, celebrate!' I think it's funny now. I'm not sure why I kept all these letters. They've stayed with me for 50 years. I'm glad that I have them, I think it's so important to remind yourself of how you started and how far you came, and that you've survived the ups and the downs of the writing life - and it's never smooth going."

Mia S.

"Rejection is a fact of life, if you want to be a writer. It's never easy; it's painful. But you know, I think determination is every bit as important as talent. You can have all the talent in the world, and if you can't take it - the rejection, negative reviews - you're just not going to do it, you're going to stop. I took a writing class and started sending things in very quickly, and for two years, I got rejections back. The first rejection sent me into the closet for a good cry, and after that I got more determined; I said, 'Yeah, well, OK, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see the one I'm doing next, that's going to change it.' And then not to wait, not to send something in and wait to see about rejection, but to just start working on something new is the best therapy, because then you're involved in another story, and you can say to yourself, 'Well maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see this one.' I know that the early rejections that I had made me much more determined - I went from being a crybaby to being determined. 'I can do this. They might not know it yet, but I'm going to do this, I know I'm going to do this.' So I think that's an important attitude, and attitude is a lot. Some people are so turned off by any kind of criticism that it paralyzes them and they can't do it again."

Adelaide S.

Judy Blume's point about not taking reviews to heart is wonderful advice. I had a class where the reviews of my work could be brutal, but in the end at the end of the class I always felt like a better writer. Believe in yourself always, and no matter if it's a rejection of your book or anything else of yours "Let it slide right out the door."

Christina

I like how Judy says that most readers don't read reviews anyway. So true! For someone who is a very prolific writer and has had so much success in her career, it's comforting to hear that she jumped over the same hurdles that most writers do.

Linda J.

It is encouraging to hear that a top- notch author like Judy, had the same rejection and feelings about them as beginning writers do. She's right; they are just opinions you have to keep trying.