Long before A Room of One’s Own was a twinkle in Virginia Woolf’s eye, Jo March was escaping upstairs, donning her writing garb, and “scribbling” in the garret. While she inexplicably welcomed the presence of a rat named Scabbers in her writing pursuits, in all other ways, Jo was my hero.
She has had, from the moment I made her acquaintance in Little Women in the fifth grade, a profound influence on me. While I could appreciate Meg’s yearning to make things beautiful, Beth’s tragically gentle ways, and Amy’s wish to be an artist and marry Laurie, it was Jo who captured my imagination and my heart.
She was strong, brash, smart, and absolutely dedicated to the people she loved. She sold her hair—her one beauty!—to help her parents. She doggedly pursued her dream of becoming a writer. She broke out on her own and tried to find her own path. She dreamed big. And she married an intellectual-type who supported her writing and called her “heart’s dearest” (yes, I even love old Fritz Bhaer).
Jo and her sisters transformed me from a normal fifth grade reader into something much more passionate—an intense lover of literature. Over the years, this love of reading has evolved into a career editing children’s books, and even eventually, to writing them myself.
Alas, I do not have a garret, or indeed any space of my own in my little yellow house in which to do my own scribbling. I write where and when I can. But I do have legions of family and friends to encourage me, a daughter who makes her own books at age six, an intellectual-type husband who supports my writing (though, sadly, he doesn’t ever call me heart’s dearest)—and a rather scruffy guinea pig (no rats in this house, thank you very much) to keep me company as I write.
So, here’s to you, Jo March. And while we’re at it, here’s to Louisa May Alcott, as well. I raise my cup of tea to character and creator—and then will put it down again and get back to revising the lost soul of a picture book manuscript on which I’ve been working.