Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #15



Again, from my new book, The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron:

Open this book to any page and do one of the prompts. Don’t consider if it interests you or is appropriate to your background. As you do it, try to move beyond distracting thoughts and feelings. Focus on the prompt and let yourself go.


Anna Quindlen…begins an essay with the sentence, “I was a Paul girl,” meaning that, as a young girl, her favorite Beatle was Paul McCartney. Girls who liked Paul were different than the ones who liked John, George, or Ringo. Describe yourself as a child or teen by filling in the blank of this sentence: “I was a _______girl.” From there, write about your view of yourself as a child by refracting your view through the prism of this favorite person or object.

Now, I was a Paul girl, too, and that’s what I’d like to write about, but since it’s already been done, I’ll try something else.

I was a Jo March girl. My only question was, “why would anyone want to be any of the other girls?” Brenda wanted to be Meg. Meg was the oldest, just like Brenda. She liked to dress up; she worked hard at her appearance. She was obedient and helpful. When I think about it, Brenda kind of was Meg. I thought she was crazy, anyway. Clearly, she was not the most interesting character in Little Women.

Brenda and I read the book at the same time, and both loved it. I felt like I got a little more out of it, though. Brenda’s first mistake was choosing Meg as the character she most related to. Her second mistake was insisting that Laurie (short for Laurence), because he was a boy, was pronounced “Larry.” We got in huge fights about it. “Look at the spelling,” I would tell her, “Larry was not even a normal boy’s name in those days!” She held her ground, countering that Larry was a fine name, and that Laurie was a name for a girl, or a sissy.

Because we were both so taken with the book, and wanted to live our lives in accordance with it, we imagined our mother to be kinder and quieter…more like Marmee. We forced Sheila into the character of gentle Beth, only because that’s where she was in the birth order. Cheryl got the role of Amy. So, I took Sheila under my wing, as Jo had done with Beth. I let her follow me around the yard, and sometimes play in my fort. Brenda, in keeping with the story line, took Cheryl as her charge. She was allowed to watch as Brenda curled her hair or picked out clothes, and sometimes she helped her do the same.

Jo March was intelligent, spunky, creative, and a bit of a tomboy. She was a writer. She was always running from one project to another. Clearly, she was the author’s favorite. Some experts suggest that Louisa May Alcott modeled Jo’s character after herself. I wanted to be a writer because Jo was. I worked at being spunky, and quit worrying about being a tomboy.

As I read the book identifying with Jo, I was madly in love with Laurie (who was not a sissy at all!), and was broken-hearted when he married Amy instead. I was hugely disappointed when Jo settled for Professor Bauer. It was small comfort to note that Meg – for all of her fancy ribbons and curled hair – had not done that well for herself, either.

Looking at it today, I still identify with Jo, and I still love the character of Laurie. However, from this age, I can definitely understand the professor’s appeal, too!

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