Happy Birthday Judy Blume

My friend Mo, posted this on facebook about Judy Blume on Saturday (2/12/11):

“Today is Judy Blume’s birthday. Judy Blume is directly responsible for inspiring me at age 8 to become a writer. That never went away. Thanks, Judy, and happy birthday!”

I went to Judy Blume’s website to look at her books and writing and found that she had written about her experience writing an adult novel Summer Sisters.  The idea came to her on her first trip to Martha’s Vineyard in 1983:

“Every afternoon I’d row the dinghy around the pond, often out to the jetty where it opens to the Sound. Alone on the water, with time to think, the idea for Summer Sisters first came to me. It was just a vague idea then – two young women from very different families in Santa Fe spend a series of summers on the Vineyard, one the guest of the other’s family.

That was it. No more. The idea stayed in my head for ten years before I actually began to write anything down. For a long time I thought of the book as Caitlin Summers and I thought the characters might go from age twelve to maybe seventeen. I never guessed it would take almost twenty years to tell their story or that so many adult characters would be involved, jumping in and telling the story from their points of view.”

I love that description of how the story came to her.  She had no idea that it would span almost 20 years, but when she went to write it, that’s what it took.  And the way characters jumped in to tell the story from their different points of view.  This quote means a lot to me, and makes me feel good about teaching my creative writing class, “It Writes Itself,” again.  There are exercises in the class about letting the story go where it wants to go, even when you have no idea what that is, and about allowing characters to “jump in” and say their words their way from their perspective.  For me it’s been about listening to ideas as they come and allowing the world to create itself.  It is very encouraging to me that I’m on the right track and makes me feel that the exercises and class are really designed well to help people write.

And the fact that her book was just an idea for ten years is so beautiful to me.  You can’t force creativity.  It’s there when it’s there.  All you can do is welcome it.

Thank you Judy Blume, and happy birthday.

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