Gems of the Past

By Charlotte Bennardo

If you haven't been paying attention, our theme this month is "Hidden Gems." For some, it's digging through old manuscripts looking for that shining idea, sentence, or character. For others, it's rereading favorite books to reconnect with a character or situation, or combing through used book/library sales, discovering a gem someone has left behind. Maybe it's finding wisdom in a new book.

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Besides all those, I find gems in the past - my past. Whether we try to do it consciously or not, we authors put a bit of ourselves in each book we write; maybe not directly in the character, making them just like us, but in little ways, gems of our past find their way into the manuscript. One of my favorite memories, which acts as a happy trigger, is the smell of the ocean. A saltwater breeze conjures up my younger years, when either my parents took me to Jones Beach on Long Island, or I went to parties on Mattituck Beach in my high school years. That smell brings me instant joy and I've used that for a character in turmoil in a manuscript draft - the character breathes in the salty air slowly, savoring a moment of contentment.

Other 'gems' from my past which have found their way into my writing: my love of nature, seen all through the Evolution Revolution series about a squirrel named Jack fighting against construction machines and scientists to save his wood. My fanatical belief in recycling shows up in the Sirenz books, where the character Meg nags her counterpart Sharisse about being responsible for her share of recycling waste. And then there's Sharisse's love of sparklies like diamonds (ooooh, I love the sparklies!). In my sci fi novel draft, it's all about space and exploration. My dad worked in the space program, building the Lunar Evac Module (LEM), and passed down a love of science and space.

I'm not the only author who does this, mines memories for precious bits of 'brilliance' to make our stories sparkle. Twilight's Bella reads the same book over and over- Wuthering Heights. Do you want to bet that is was a favorite read for Stephanie Meyer? Sirenz co-author Natalie Zaman has a love of fashion, which was used for both characters Meg and Sharisse, but in different ways. Fellow writing colleague Audrey Vernick's book, The Kid from Diamond Street, reflects her love of baseball. I think it would be almost impossible for any author not to put part of themselves, even minutely, into their work.

Next time you read someone's novel or picture book, see if you can pick out the pieces of their lives and memories, hidden in the prose like a diamond in a cave wall, waiting to shine.


  1. Lovely piece Charlotte, especially the idea of looking for the "hidden prose like a diamond in a cave wall." One of the things that I am always fascinated by is figuring out what the inspiration is for an authors story is, now I'm also going to be looking for that piece that the author thought was important of themselves to include.

  2. Yes! For me, it's the smell of Coppertone sun lotion - one whiff and I'm back at Island Beach State Park in NJ hoping that Dick Thistle will ride the rollercoaster with me. Lovely post.

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