Earlier this week when I was looking up recipes on Pinterest, I stumbled across a poem (side note: this is how I cook. I look for 4-ingredient, cheese-free recipes on Pinterest and go from there). Anyway, someone had pinned several poems by a poet I had never heard of before. I love poetry, so I began to read. After the first poem, I was interested. A couple more and I was hooked.
One poem later, I was crying.
At the last two lines, I was ripped apart.
That poem was a long one about a girl who writes books. Her bookshelf holds rows and rows of stories she’s penned about people she’s met along the road of her life. Books about friends new and old. Books about lovers and strangers and men who have become both in the span of a few years. Some books she rereads again and again if only to remember the good times. Some books she keeps closed because the memories are too painful to revisit. One book she’s pushed to the back of the shelf so she never has to look at it again—the memories it brings are completely unwelcome, I suppose. Still, she writes and writes. One, because writing is how she processes life. Two, because she loves people and wants to immortalize them in the only way she knows how. And three, because she holds out hope that one day she’ll mean enough to someone that maybe—just maybe—they’ll write about her too.
I attached myself to this poem right away. I held my breath because I saw myself in the words even when I didn’t know where it was going. I cried because once I found out, I could relate in every way.
I’ve put nearly everyone I know in all my books—some in obvious ways, most in ways people wouldn’t guess. As for the obvious, of course I’ve named characters directly after people—my kid’s names have all made an appearance, as has my husbands, my parents, my sisters and brother’s in law, a dear friend who didn’t get mad when I gave her name to a fictional child abuser. My neighbors are in there by name, my kid’s teachers, an old family doctor, a high school crush, a girl who was mean to me when I was a kid (she’s a villain because I get to do that sort of thing). Once I even put a sweet friend of my son’s on a book cover.
But as for the less obvious…
Once upon a time a friend told me a story of how she set her dining room table on fire in a freak snow globe accident; that’s in my very first book as a nod to her. Another friend had me crying with laughter when she told me how she’d gotten poison ivy by unknowingly using a leaf down there when she was camping; that’s in a book. Once I stood talking to good friend while we dug through Christmas stockings at Hobby Lobby; that’s in there. I named a character April after a friend who was born that month. I wrote about a homeschooled girl who was a bit afraid of the real world as a nod to someone I once knew in college. I put a whole lot of personal details in my sixth book, maybe that’s why it’s my favorite. I’ve flipped names and used acronyms in a nod to other friends. I’ve used lines of dialogue that I’ve overheard at Christmas parties, had a character sip a drink that a dear friend loves, named fictional animals after my own childhood pets, used neighborhood street names as names of fictional towns. I could keep going. You’d probably fall asleep from boredom so I won’t.
And of course, I have written about me. So much of my books are about me, though I’ll never tell you the specifics. But as for having someone write about me someday…
I think every author would tell you that would be the highest compliment imaginable. And also highly unlikely. But just thinking about it…sigh.
Anyway, I write about people I know and love to immortalize them in some way, figuring that if some detail about them is written in print, a part of them will live on indefinitely. Maybe I’m the only one who will know it, but I guess now you know too. So next time you read—if you read—see if you recognize yourself. You might. You probably will. Because chances are, if we’ve met…you’re in there somewhere.
Chances are, I probably cried when I wrote your part.
“She has a bookshelf for a heart
And ink runs through her veins.
She’ll write you into her story
With the typewriter in her brain.
Her bookshelf’s getting crowded
With all the stories that she’s penned
Of all the people who flicked through her pages
But closed the book before the end.
And there’s one pushed to the very back
That sits collecting dust
With its title in her finest writing
“The One’s Who Lost My Trust.”
There’s a book she’s scared to open
And books she doesn’t close,
Stories of every person she’s met
Stretched out in endless rows.
Some people have only a sentence
While others once held a main part.
Thousands of inky footprints
That they’ve left across her heart.
You might wonder why she does this
Why write of people she once knew?
But she hopes one day she’ll mean enough
For someone to write about her too.”