My series for March is the four most influential people in my writing career. And what better person to kick it off with than Jo March?

I remember learning to read and reading board books. The magic of letters having sounds and the sounds making words and words making a story. I remember realizing the way a character spoke gave them a voice all their own. The same words could mean vastly different things depending on who in the story spoke them.

I remember the first “real” book I read, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Jo captured something in me. She wasn’t interested in finery, she wasn’t interested in no one seeing her, and she wanted more than a husband and family. She wanted her words to mean something, her stories to evoke emotion, she wanted nothing more than to write every story that came into her mind. The more I read about her the more I loved her. The more I learned about the Alcott family the more I wanted to be them. The more history I knew of Louisa the more she inspired me. She taught herself to write with her left hand in order to write more in a day. The first part of Little Women left Jo without a husband. Her editor had a fit and told her she had to write a second half and marry Jo off or the readers wouldn’t be satisfied. The way she got back at her editor? She created Professor Bhaer and married Laurie off to Amy. This is what I enjoyed most about her. It hurt the readers not to have Jo and Laurie together, but it was true to who they were. It wasn’t romanticized, it was real, it was raw in its own way.

I stood in the home of my literary hero and knew I would never give up on my dream.

When I was 10, I entered my name in a drawing and won a trip to Wisconsin to see The American Doll factory and a trip to Boston to see the Keds factory. While we were in Boston, we tried to go see the Alcott home, but it was closed to visitors. We drove past it and something in me ached at not going in.

Then in 2014, my best friend moved to Boston and in 2015 I surprised her by showing up on her doorstep. In all honesty, it hadn’t even occurred to me that we could go to Orchard House, but we did. We took the tour and when we got to her room I couldn’t leave. The rest of the visitors moved on to the next room and I just stood there, staring at her desk, looking out the small window, imagining all those words she wrote. When we made it downstairs and were on our way out, the mailbox they used to pass notes in stood in the hallway. I was overcome with emotion and started crying and laughing all at once. The tour guide spoke with us for a long time about my love of the movie, the book, what she meant to me. It was magic.

Every manuscript I print I think of Jo in the movie, finishing Little Women and standing back to look at it, wondering, what did it mean, how would they receive it, what it meant to her. Each time it connects me back to her as I wonder the same things. I often wonder if it weren’t for her books, for Jo, for Louisa and her family, would I be the same person I am today? I’m sure I would write but would I keep going? Would we host an artist group in our home? Would I see the world the same?

Then in 2014, my best friend moved to Boston and in 2015 I surprised her by showing up on her doorstep. In all honesty, it hadn’t even occurred to me that we could go to Orchard House, but we did. We took the tour and when we got to her room I couldn’t leave. The rest of the visitors moved on to the next room and I just stood there, staring at her desk, looking out the small window, imagining all those words she wrote. When we made it downstairs and were on our way out, the mailbox they used to pass notes in stood in the hallway. I was overcome with emotion and started crying and laughing all at once. The tour guide spoke with us for a long time about my love of the movie, the book, what she meant to me. It was magic. Every manuscript I print I think of Jo in the movie, finishing Little Women and standing back to look at it, wondering, what did it mean, how would they receive it, what it meant to her. Each time it connects me back to her as I wonder the same things. I often wonder if it weren’t for her books, for Jo, for Louisa and her family, would I be the same person I am today? I’m sure I would write but would I keep going? Would we host an artist group in our home? Would I see the world the same?

Who’s your hero and what do they mean to you?