I began my writing career as a reader. I had no intentions of ever becoming an author; if you had asked me at age 50 who I was, I would have said, “I am a teacher, a parent, and a reluctant housewife.” I have never kept journals, jotted down story ideas, or dreamed of spinning tales that would be read by thousands.
Nope. But what I did do was read. As a child, I would become so immersed in my books that my mother would have to touch me to get my attention, because calling my name was futile.
I identified completely with the heroines of the books that I read, especially those precocious girls who had deep souls, the need to be heard, and the courage to step up to the adults around them and demand attention. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) and I were “kindred spirits.” She was just like me: an adult being, one who saw and felt with tremendous maturity-but who was “trapped,” albeit temporarily, in a child’s body.
Nancy Drew. Jo March. Eloise. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. These were courageous girls. They stood up to adults, and they never gave up being themselves-no adult could keep them down! These girls became a part of me, and as I grew (late in life!) into a writer of fiction, I knew that the idea of the girl warrior would play a big part in the stories I wrote.
In Keep the Ends Loose, my first novel, Mandy Heath, a 15 year old, is drawn into a family drama of epic proportions when her mother decides to track down a long-lost relative. When things get dicey, it isn’t the adults who hold things together, it is quirky Mandy and her “sophisticated” best friend Barley who brave the storm and ultimately save the day. Mandy discovers that the adults in her world are no less wobbly on their feet than she feels at 15. What a discovery-we are all feeling our way through the world, no matter how “mature” we may be!
My second novel, Crossing the Street, has as its protagonist a very valiant 7 year old, Bob (Roberta) Bowers. Bob at her tender age has already gone through the sorts of traumatic events that many of us in adulthood have not experienced: a drug-addicted mother, a father serving in the Middle East, an ailing grandmother whom she fears might die, and the insecurity of being shunted from home to home. Yet, she never wavers in her enthusiasm for life. Bob is a little warrior, and she marches into the lives of all she meets and makes things better.
As a baby boomer, I grew up and experienced first-hand the ground swell of feminism, the burgeoning anti-Vietnam War protest movement, the racial unrest of the 60’s, and I clung to my childhood heroines’ steadfast optimism and courage. I tried to look at the world through the lens of these girls who never let “stuff” destroy them. It didn’t always work, but the warrior girls never let me down completely. I could always conjure up Jo March’s idealism or Eloise’s refusal to be bossed around. And of course, when the time came for me to have a daughter, I named her Anne.
The warrior. She will never let you forget just how important you are-at age 6 or 60. She is always marching out in front. She is in every one of us.
Molly D. Campbell is the author of two novels, Keep the Ends Loose and Crossing the Street, both published by The Story Plant.