I had the pleasure of attending a Los Angeles Public Library ALOUD Lecture featuring author Judy Blume in conversation with Alex Cohen on June 9. Blume has been on a whirlwind book tour for her new novel for adults, In the Unlikely Event. I was there to grab a copy and hear her speak for the second time.
I’d hazard to say it’s more worthwhile to hear authors as prolific and successful as Blume speak about her process and her path than it is to take classes on writing. The first time I heard her in conversation I was working through what seemed like the millionth draft of my novel and was encouraged when she said she was on her twenty-third draft of Summer Sisters.
And Blume said it herself, during this most recent conversation, “Nobody can teach you to write, but they can encourage you.”
But one of the most interesting series of moments happened during the Q&A when aspiring writers approached the microphone to ask Blume to elaborate on her process–what inspires her to write specific stories, how does she write dialogue, what’s her secret?
And nine times out of ten, Blume shrugged. She said, “I don’t know how my process works. I’m just glad it does.”
She did add that dialogue comes naturally to her, whereas descriptive prose does not. She actually drew from newspaper stories reporting on the crash that forms the central focus of her new novel for the descriptive prose. This isn’t a secret method; it’s just being aware of the tools available to you.
I think what hit me most about the Q&A session was seeing so many people who, like me, are on the road, trying to figure out how it all works and how to put a story to the page and make it speak to others. One audience member broke into tears–she begged for one crumb of knowledge that might help her with her own story. I felt like I’d come a long way since I first saw Blume in 2012 because I knew the answer.
“You have to be determined,” said Blume. “Get the critique and censor off your shoulder. You have to keep going.”