She Who Writes the Story is in Charge of What Happens Next

 

 

“I was in every way a weird and out-of-place child in that school, and though I tried desperately to fit in for a year or two, chopping off my braids and searching the mall for clothes that looked like what the other kids were wearing, and circulating slam books, I got nowhere.  I suddenly discovered that I was a strange ugly gross misfit.  I hated myself, I hated my classmates, and I hated my teachers….I would walk home from school at lunchtime, narrating my walk home inside my head–largely to spare myself  the awareness that in fact I was a weird-looking child walking home alone because no one wanted to walk with me.  Instead, I would tell myself every detail of my walk–in the third person.

“She paused at the corner, hesitating, watching every moment to see if the German soldiers were nearby.  Then she slipped across the street, moving swiftly but silently.”  There was one block where I could walk on a little grassy rise instead of on the sidewalk:  “Her skillful feet clung to the mountain path as she hurried towards the hut…”  Everything interesting in my brain started to happen in the third person.  I narrated my meals to myself as I ate them, narrated my own gestures as I brushed my teeth in the morning or lay down in bed at night.

And so I grew up to be a writer, not much to my surprise.  Many of the heroines I cared most about in fiction wanted to be writers–probably because that was part of what the authors remembered from their own girlhoods.  Jo in Little Women, Betsy in the Betsy-Tacy books, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon both, not to mention Harriet in Harriet the Spy, and Laura in the Little House books, who never becomes a writer in the books, but grew up to be the author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  And every single one of those girls I mentioned exists in at least three books.

So what was the message of all those books?  Why did they grab me so, from the very moment I could read?  What did they mean to me when I felt myself alone and misunderstood? Perhaps by their very nature, series books assure us that life is made up of many different parts, that growth and change are possible, that there is another episode to look forward to.  And that life is more interesting when it is narrated, and little girls who tell stories inside their heads can grow up to be writers and tell stories on the printed page.  And, of course, that she who writes the story is finally and completely in charge of what happens next.”

Perri Klass, Years in the Life

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