“My first rejection, I went into the closet and cried. After that, it was all about determination…Determination is as important as talent. Talent is certainly important, but without the determination, it’s probably never going to happen. So you need to say, Okay, okay. They didn’t want this one but wait till they see the next one!”
It’s not every day that we get to soak up the wisdom of a legend like Judy Blume, the author of Blubber, Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and many more. During her conversation keynote with Lin Oliver, Blume confessed that her first crack at a children’s book manuscript was a “terrible imitation Dr. Seuss picture book” that she illustrated herself. After two years of rejection letters, she found a class about writing for children that she says “changed her life”. The instructor was incredibly supportive, which was key to Blume’s journey of finding her voice as she worked on her debut novel, Iggie’s House. By the time she wrote Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, her third published book, she had found her distinctive voice.
She advised artists to surround themselves with supportive people while developing their creative identity. “If you ever take a class in writing and find yourself with a teacher who is not supportive, get out of that class!”
Judy Blume said that she always uses a notebook for ideas so that she “never has to face a blank screen”. She also takes five drafts on every book. “I am a re-writer,” she said. “If I died during a first draft, nobody would know what I was trying to do!”
Judy Blume spoke of pushing against her own limits and that most destructive enemy: self-criticism. “Get rid of the critic on one shoulder and the censor on the other shoulder. When you finish, the critic can come back…You have to be in that place where you can be without fear, because you can’t write if you’re fearful.”
Summer Spectacular attendees can click here to rewatch the keynote conversation.