Words to My Younger Self

There are moments in my publishing journey where I wish I could go back in time, slip my arm around the shoulders of my 14-yo self, and tell her a few things. One would be to show her the review that was posted today in The New York Times. (To say that it was a bit of a dream is an understatement.)

And I’ll give you some context. When I was a kid, The New York Times was the most prestigious paper around. And the only big one I’d heard of. Yet in my rural town, just our bookstore carried it. Anyone who had it mailed got it two days late. It was a precious newspaper.

When I was young writer, I was always looking for tips on how established writers wrote. And a tip I’d heard one summer was that they read newspapers for ideas. What better paper than The New York Times then, for my young self to pick up and hunt through, article by article?

Every Saturday that summer, I’d get up early, beg a ride from my mom, and we’d drive to town, getting to the bookstore just when it opened. From the sidewalk outside, I could smell the brisk, clean scent of salt water from the harbor, which was just down the street. I’d buy that Saturday paper with my own money, then carry it, careful not to fold it, back to the car. I’d sit with it in my lap in the front seat, my arm across it to keep it from rumpling in the breeze through my open window. I’d sit and wait, not reading anything, not yet.

When we got home, I’d take the paper into my bedroom, set it on my bed where there was room to open it fully, grab my notebook and pen, and I’d start reading. I’d sit there hunched over, writing down random ideas. I wrote down everything that was new, strange, or dramatic.

That’s the young writer self I wish I could speak to just now, hunched over the open paper on her bed. I’d nudge her shoulder and whisper, “Guess what. Your book’s going to be in there one day. You’ll be a lot older, but it’ll be there. I bet you never thought it would happen.”

And my young self would stare back at me, grin, and say, “No, actually, I was pretty sure it would happen. Why wouldn’t it? I’m a writer, you know.”

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