Two Years of Scribbling in the Garret

May Alcott's original illustration of Jo scribbling away at her writing,  from the two-volume publication of LIttle Women.
May Alcott’s original illustration of Jo scribbling away at her writing, from the two-volume publication of LIttle Women.

I realized this blog has been in existence for two years today almost by accident. If a date’s not written on my planner—and is not, say, my husband or child’s birthday—I tend to forget it. And a blog anniversary (I can’t really use the word “blogiversary” with a straight face, even when I’m typing) isn’t the kind of thing you really mark on your calendar. So, the first anniversary went entirely forgotten.

But, it is, in fact, two years to the day since this little experiment in blogging began, and to honor the occasion, I’d like—once again—to have a little celebration of Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, and Jo March. Only this time, I’ve got lovely pictures.

The very gorgeous cover of an 1880 edition of Little Women (both volumes together at last!).
The very gorgeous cover of an 1880 edition of Little Women (both volumes together at last!).

Harvard’s Houghton Library is a veritable treasure trove of intriguing literary stuff. In this case, it’s illustrations from the original two-volume publication of Little Women, illustrated by her sister May Alcott. I wondered what May must have been thinking as she illustrated these two volumes and found the fictionalized version of herself—the artist sister—therein. Was she hurt by Louisa’s portrayal of Amy? Offended that her sister made herself the heroine of the story? Grateful that in the end this same writer-sister fixed her up with Laurie (because who wouldn’t be, really)?

Oh, Laurie, couldn't you see you belonged with me and not Amy?
Oh, Laurie, couldn’t you see you belonged with me and not Amy?

Or was she able to celebrate her sister’s literary achievement just as we still celebrate it today? In my spare time (ha!), I’m going to do some research and try to find out. But for now, enjoy the illustrations, and thanks for being a part of what’s now an ongoing blog experiment!

1868_LittleWomen_byLMAlcott_RobertsBros

Jo March—Writing Gal’s Hero

Jo March, Little WomenLong 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.