I’m hunkered down at the Loussac Library here in Anchorage, sitting at a table facing the windows. The sun is that deep blue that hits just before dusk and I feel restless and itchy, the way I always do at the end of the day (or at least, the end of the daylight), as if I haven’t done what I intended to do, as if I’ve squandered all of my time.
I came here to work on my novel but so far I haven’t written a word; I’ve been too busy reading up on Louisa May Alcott. This, you see, is because Louisa is right across from me, a bust of her head on the shelf below the window. She’s staring at me. It’s a friendly stare, inquisitive. Yet she also looks tired. She lived a hard life.
On one side of Louisa’s bust is a red sign that says “Filipino.” (The Filipino books are shelved below.) On the other side is a bust of Mary Mapes Dodge (“Hans Brinker”). And then a grim-looking Mark Twain, his hair all a fluttered.
But this is about Louisa May Alcott and how I fell in love with her as a young girl. I read “Little Women” of course, and I identified with Jo and I cried and cried when Beth died. But I was too much of a nerd to totally love “Little Women.” Instead, I fell in love with a biography of Louisa May Alcott.
Growing up, our school library (which wasn’t really a library, only a cart of books wheeled into each classroom every week) housed a series of biographies geared for children. These were in green covers and they were old and smelled slightly of mildew. I read as many as I could, and I read everywhere: during school and during recess, during lunch and on the school bus ride to and from school. I read Louisa’s biography during the winter and even now when I think of her, I remember the smell of damp woolen mittens and the cumbersome weight of my snow boots.
I identified with Louisa. She had three sisters (ditto), was headstrong (ditto) and their family didn’t have much money (ours didn’t either, though we had more than they did). She knew she wanted to be a writer, and I did, too.
I don’t know why but even as a child, curled up on the school bus and ignoring the noise and madness around me, I knew I would like Louisa May Alcott if I could ever meet her in person, and I wanted to meet her, too. For days I dreamed of meeting her, even though I knew she was dead. I imagined how she would walk out of the pages and touch my hand, and we’d run through the snow, laughing and laughing.
How odd yet how right, how fitting, that I can no longer remember how to divide fractions but still remember a daydream I had about Louisa May Alcott when I was in elementary school. (Oh, Louisa!)
News: Check out Nikki Jefford’s new Aurora Sky cover . Jefford worked her butt off on this, and it shows, too. She hired a photographer, who put out a casting call, selected models and held a photo shot. Jefford then selected the shot she liked the best and had it professionally designed. This, people, is what it takes to have an original and professional cover.
My biggest excitement: Robert Olen Butler, who is one of my many literary crushes, replied to one of my tweets. Oh, heart be still!
Up soon: This is also exciting. Kevin Brennan, author of Parts Unknown, Our Children Are Not Our Children and the soon-to-be-released Yesterday Road, visits for an author interview soon. Stay tuned.
This haunts me: I can’t stop thinking of two bears shot down in Seward (where I used to live). One was a sow and three cubs are now motherless; they probably won’t live long. Really sad. Read about it here: “Police Shoot, Possibly Kill Two Bears”