My childhood was spent literally surrounded by the written word, as the first house that my family lived in was so full of books that you could not walk through the rooms and hallways without stepping over stacks of them. Before becoming an officer in the U.S. Air Force, my father had been a schoolteacher and believed in the importance of reading and education. I learned to read on my own before the age of four. When I was six my father retired from the military and we moved from Texas back to his childhood home in Virginia. After the move, I retreated further into the magical worlds created by authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, C.S Lewis, Robert E. Howard, Isaac Asimov, and J.R.R. Tolkien. By nature I was shy, as well as short and slightly built, and this, coupled with my reading ability and western accent, did not win me many friends at school. Characters such as David Copperfield, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, Meg and Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time, Little Lucy from Narnia, and Laura from The Little House on the Prairie, became my friends. Even though I was an avid reader, and I often wrote poems and short stories, I had not thought of becoming an author myself until two events occurred in my childhood.
The first event that inspired me to become a writer was reading Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women. This was one of my favorite books as a young child, as I identified with its character, “Jo”. I, like Jo, aspired to be like Jo’s sisters: Beth, Meg and even Amy. Jo’s character was a “tomboy”, and I admired her outspokenness. Like me, Jo wrote poetry, plays, and short stories. I also identified with Jo as she always felt as though she was the “odd” one out in her family. Meg was the “beautiful” but responsible one, Beth was the kind, sweet, musical, “good” child, and Amy was the spoiled, but “artistic” one. I particularly identified with Jo when she talks with Laurie and her sisters about her dreams in Chapter 13 of Little Women, “I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic, or wonderful-that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.”
While Jo dreams of being a writer as a young girl, it’s only later in the novel, as she grows older, that she is inspired to work on and improve her craft and make a living as a novelist. After reading Little Women, I was inspired by Jo to also become a writer.
The idea that being an author was a legitimate profession became more “real” to me soon after I read Little Women. Shortly after I had read the novel, my aunt, Patricia Stallard, an education specialist with the U.S. Navy, and a historian as well, had her master’s thesis, Glittering Misery, published in book form. With the publication of my aunt’s work, being inspired by a fictional character to become a writer was suddenly much more realistic and feasible since I now knew someone who had been published in reality.
While I was inspired to want to be a writer by the character of Jo in Little Women, and also inspired by my aunt’s publication, like Jo, I remained doubtful of my writing abilities. It has only been recently that I have realized that if I want to make my dreams of being an author a reality, I must make the efforts to do so. Regardless of what anyone’s dream is, it is up to each person to not leave their dreams “floating around” inside of their own mental processes, but to make plans and take concrete steps to make their dreams come true in reality.