I’ve said it before and I’ll clarify here again, I never draw events directly from my own life for my fiction (I save that for creative essays), but certain things about my real life definitely inspire my fiction. Emily and Regan’s friendship has a lot in common with my relationship with my real life BFF, Katie. Unlike Emily and Regan who knew each other from birth, Katie and I met my sophomore/her freshman year of high school, but she has been one of the most important people in my life ever since. Like Emily and Regan, she and I both had a tough girl façade in our teen years. We had a hard time trusting anyone but each other and sometimes we were so busy acting tough, we couldn’t even share our feelings with each other which led to the occasional “ick” as we liked to call it. This is something Emily and Regan face as well.
Teenage friendship and the concept of “fitting in” interests me immensely and I write about it a lot because it’s something I struggled with all my life. I usually had one or two good friends, but I desperately wanted to be a part of a group of friends, you know, like the gang on 90210 or something. But I was to weird and poorly dressed to fit in with the popular, preppy kids. I didn’t play sports or participate in clubs. In high school, I hung with a group of misfit types who were into punk and indie rock, but I always felt like I was living on the outskirts for some reason or other. I actually graduated high school early because I wanted to get out there and find my place in the world ASAP.
I didn’t find it until I was in my early twenties and I started taking classes in Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Department (pictured above). I went back to visit my home away from home on the 12th floor of a building on
I felt a little weird at first being among students I didn’t recognize, but soon enough I spotted some friends who are either teaching now or still finishing their grad degrees. And honestly, I felt more comfortably at ease with Fiction Writing student strangers than I had many of my “friends” at high school because I knew that we both had the same wide-eyed love for books and writing and nobody was trying too hard to be someone they aren’t. And maybe that’s because it’s not high school anymore. But I like to think it’s because bookish folk are usually not judgmental. They have a wider worldview that they gained from their reading, not to mention, maybe like me, the took so much crap for being nerdy or different, they don’t like to put others down.
I enjoyed informative writing panels, feeling like a student and totally at ease. Then I went over to the building that housed the Fiction Department and I’m such a dork, but when I stepped off the elevator, I breathed deeply to take in that familiar scent, which I can’t really describe to you any better than I can describe the smell of my own home. It’s just familiar, comforting, perfect. Then I walked into the office where I spent 5 years working while in school and I was greeted with shrieks and hugs from my old co-workers and friends. The office looks more professional every year compared to the mismatched, poorly painted place it was when I started working there, but the purple couch is constant. I sat there and talked to my old friends for an hour, even kinda wished I could sit behind the old front desk (even though it was a actually a new desk and Meredith told me that for the first week they had it, no one wanted to sit there and they all edged around it liked nervous dogs). I was so giddy when Nicole showed me that they put my book cover and an article about me in the display case I can't even tell you. I sure as hell wasn't in any display cases at my high school!
So, yeah, that’s my home, my place, my people. I didn’t find them until my mid-twenties, but nowhere else on earth can make me happier because that is the place where I can be 100% truly me. And I guess it makes sense that I feel that way among fellow writers.