From Judy Blume's MasterClass

Working with Editors

A young editor discovered Judy in the slush pile and changed her work—and life—forever. Judy shares how she approached working with editors to arrive at the best possible version of her work.

Topics include: Find a Dick Jackson • Remain Open and Willing With Editors • Editing Summer Sisters

Play

A young editor discovered Judy in the slush pile and changed her work—and life—forever. Judy shares how she approached working with editors to arrive at the best possible version of her work.

Topics include: Find a Dick Jackson • Remain Open and Willing With Editors • Editing Summer Sisters

Judy Blume

Teaches Writing

Learn More

Preview

I was discovered in the slush pile at a new, young publishing company called Bradbury Press, by an editor, Dick Jackson. I had no idea how lucky I was that Dick Jackson took me on. I once said to him, what did you see in my first book-- it was Iggie's House. What did you see in that book that made you want to do it? And he said, I saw the next book and the book after that and the book after that. And not everybody gets as lucky as I was to find the perfect editor for your work early on, and somebody who was willing to work with you for the next ten books. And we were a team, and I learned so much from Dick. And I wish that for everyone. He finds in a writer the right way to release what they can do, and he helps them find the best way to tell their story. So, in working with Dick, we talked a lot about characters, about story. But more about characters, really, because characters always lead you to what is this story and what's it about. And it was always through sitting together, face-to-face, at his desk, going over things, and Dick would ask me questions. And I learned from Dick, when I'm not working with him, to ask the same questions. They're not as good, and I get lazy and I don't always do it. But I learned from him that in answering these questions, I release something inside, that I know much more than I've presented in my early drafts. There's much more in there. And that's why I say, for me, sometimes the very best surprises, the very best moments, emotional moments, come at the very end. [MUSIC PLAYING] I always, always listen. And I, in most cases, always give it a try, what they're saying. Because why not? I give it a try. And if it's wrong, it won't come to me. It won't come when I'm trying to revise along that line. It just won't work. And then I know it's wrong, and I can say, this isn't working for me. This isn't right for me. Sometimes, by figuring out what's not right, again, you'll figure out what is right. But I never am offended by what an editor says, because an editor, by that time-- by the time you're working with an editor, an editor has accepted your book. This is fabulous, right? Except that I worked with Dick Jackson the first time, editor, writer together, with no promise of publication. I doubt that that happens much today. But he cared enough about Iggie's House, he saw something in it, that he was willing to call me into his office and to sit with me for a couple of hours and talk it through, without a promise of publication. But it was so exciting, and it got me going, and the book was so, so much better the next time I sent it in, which I think was maybe a month. I really came home and I was fired up, and I revised the whole book and it got better. And then I sent it back to him, and then came the most wonderful day of my life. And it will be, the day that he called to offe...

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.

It was wonderful to learn about Judy Blume's process and her story. It was inspiring and gave me some great ideas to consider. I loved this class!

Judy Blume is a great teacher and she has taught me to let go and not overanalyze everything.

I feel like the luckiest human! Being invited to sit with Judy Blume while she tells me all about being a writer? YES PLEASE!!! :)

Just listening to her stories and her thought processes was very enlightening. Thank you, Judy and MasterClass Team.

Comments

Eileen N.

Sounds like finding an editor is more work than actually working with one.

Mary H.

This could apply to the general lack of honesty in writing in 2019. "Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?" - Isaiah 33:18

Josh B.

Great Advice and I have a blog that I write I've faced criticism for my reviews on movies as well my choice casting actors. One of my friends is now my editor and she's editing my story and I know if I try get it any stories published I will get reject but I'll learn from it and never give up and work hard.

Rachel M.

Actually, some of the best piece of advice I got was from a rejection letter. The editor said they liked my story, but there was a problem with one character being too stereotypical. And I realized: "Oh my gosh. They are RIGHT!" So I replied thanking them for that advice, even if they still weren't going to publish my story I wanted them to know I was grateful.

Sydney

I’ve always been terrified of potential criticism from editors I might work with someday. I’ve feared that they would want to change too much about the story I submit and it wouldn’t feel like something I love anymore. Hearing Judy’s experiences with editors over the years has really opened up my willingness to work with one in the future and genuinely listen to the advise they give me. It will still be a long and difficult process, I know, but it will hopefully all be worth it in the end. The reality is, offering up suggestions to make a book better is their job, and I need to respect that and try what they say to do with my work. Who knows? Maybe even more amazing things will happen once I’ve tried out new ideas they’ve suggested to me.

Supansa K.

Did anyone else cried after watching this? I am glad you got it right after all your effort, Judy!

Coach438

I love this woman. What a jewel in the crown of humanity. Her friends are truly blessed. Yes, I know we are here to learn about writing but, right now, I just want to express how impactful she has been throughout this course as a kind heart.

Mia S.

"One of my dearest friends said, 'I know how to help you do this.' She did and I don't know how, but just talking with her - she believed in it, number one; she said, 'I know how to make this work, a success.' It was summertime and I went back to my writing cabin and I worked day and night and day and night, and I'm not kidding, day and night. Break for dinner, come back, work until bedtime, until I couldn't keep my eyes open. It was there, I just knew it was there, and that's when I let the men in, to have their say the way the women were. I could have them all come, and finally it just all came together. And it came together with a lot of music. I talked to a lot of young people about, 'What were you listening to?' All of my children's friends who are now pretty grown, 'Oh I know, she's listening to...' I got out all this music, I was listening to the music, and something just clicked. It was probably a month, that's all, that I kept going on it. You know what? I was so afraid when 'Summer Sisters' was about to be published that it was going to be the end of a wonderful career, would just ruin me forever. I was terrified. 'If you're that afraid of the reviews and what's going to happen, let's just leave the country and come back and it'll be over.' But I couldn't because I had to go on the biggest book tour of my life. I had just turned 60 and so it was a real celebration of everything. I had Kleenex boxes on all the tables when I was signing because everybody was crying and I was crying with them. It brought me all those wonderful women and men who grew up reading my books who were now grown up themselves and were reading 'Summer Sisters.' It was a highlight of my life."

Mia S.

"I had an agent for 30 years and we were to be together for the rest of our lives, but she died which wasn't fair to her or to me - she so helped make my career, wonderful agent, tough, no frou-frou ('Don't call me and tell me about your butter dish, about your love life, I don't want to know about that,' and so I never did). But we were best friends in a professional way; she sent it to my editor, publisher, who I had worked with on 'Wifey' and 'Smart Women,' and she rejected it. I want to tell you, after all those books and a lot of success, that really really hurt. She said, as people do who are rejecting your books, 'I don't know how to publish this book, make this book a success.' Basically, she didn't like it, and she didn't want to publish it. That was the most painful time in my life as a successful writer. I went out on my bike, feeling very sorry for myself - very hurt. I came upon Bob Stone, the great writer (there are lot of writers in Key West, we all got together regularly; we never talked about writing, we talked about real estate, and what was going on in Key West) coming back from the beach. He said, 'How are you?' I got off my bike and just started to cry. I told him what happened, and he patted my back. We weren't close, but that day we bonded forever. He said, 'You know, I'm having an awful time writing my book, too.' We were on the bestseller list together and that was wonderful, and I'll never forget his kindness. After that rejection, I went back to work on it, and I think that's when it became a deeper, more interesting story. It went longer in their lives. The women's voices came in and I started to like it, to understand it. But even then, it went to another publisher, editor, who I'm very fond of, and there was a powwow at the publishing company - one of the worst days of my life - and I walked into a room, unprepared for this, there were probably seven editors from different imprints sitting around who had read the book, throwing things at me. One-on-one with an editor - yes. Seven-to-one - no, no no. I came out of there, I just felt ripped apart. I didn't know where I was or what I was going to do."

Mia S.

"My advice is, if you're working with an editor: listen. Don't be offended. Maybe he or she has a point and sees something. If you close up and go away, it's over. The editor will sense your willingness. You're learning - you want to learn from this editor, and this editor wants to help you write the best book that you can write, because what do you have to lose? You have everything to lose if you say no, and everything to gain by being open and willing and letting it run around in your head. There's nothing that any of us write that can't be made better or together, leaner, or whatever. There's always room and I would always listen. When you're known as somebody who's open and willing, that makes a big difference to your career as a writer. You have to learn to revise. But the editor is always waiting to see, 'Can this person take a suggestion and run with it? What's going to happen?' Sometimes it will wreck your whole book, you'll want to please so badly that you'll wreck it. You have to watch out for that too. Don't go all the way over and completely rewrite your book and make it into something new when it was working; don't destroy it. We're all in danger of doing that when we know it so well. Time to let it go, when you start to destroy it. 'Summer Sisters,' two major characters, starting at age 12, I didn't know where they were going - but then other characters' voices started to come in, women's voices, then somebody else would come in and want to say something - it was their inner voice commenting on the action, and the characters, and their own lives, letting us in on their own lives. Don't ask me where this idea ever came from, I have no idea. I got in trouble because I didn't know what I was doing - had they gone from age 12-17 without these adult voices popping up here and there it might have just been the story of the summers they spent together. But somehow, it wanted to be more. It wanted them to grow up, fall in love, have sex, get married. The voices kept coming. It was a very odd book and I was kind of lost, and I didn't know where it belonged, who would ever publish it."