Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dear Younger Self by Claudia Mills

Halfway through my career I wrote a middle-grade novel that I so much wanted to share with my younger self that I actually dedicated it to her. The book was Lizzie at Last, starring a bookish, poetry-scribbling girl who doesn't fit in well with her peers, suspecting that she would have fit in much better with, say, Emily Dickinson.  The dedication read, "For the girl I used to be" (the title of a poem Lizzie writes to herself in the story).
Here's what I wanted to tell to my younger self, via this book:

"It's going to be okay."

Just that.

"It's going to be okay."

Because it did turn out okay (well, give and take all the hideousness and hardship and heartbreak that is part of the human condition). I grew up and joined a community of fellow bookish scribblers (you know who you are!), and wrote and published a bunch of books, and found love and friendship and companionship along the way.

As each new year dawns, I always worry about what it might contain - what kinds of challenges, what kinds of loss. Some years have been delights, others have been doozies. But you know what? They all turned out okay, more or less, every one of them.

That's why I write for children, to tell all of them what I tried to tell my younger self in Lizzie at Last. Oh, my darlings, it can feel so hard, so hard, so impossibly hard. But you are not alone so long as someone in a book somewhere understands and shares your experience.

And it's going to be okay.


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