Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion or unloading the dishwasher.

Voices from the Past

Voices from the Past

I didn’t have a best friend when I was fourteen years old. I had many lovely friends, but not one soul-mate, Before Anyone Else kind of best friend.

Like all fourteen-year old girls, I had a lot going on inside my head and inside my heart. I had unrequited love and parental idiocy and the horrors of algebra to discuss. I needed an outlet.

So, I invented a best friend. Yes, I was one of those kids. Her name was Emily. I borrowed the name from the Emily of New Moon character created by L.M. Montgomery. I loved Emily. I could tell her anything and she was always there, available to listen, because she lived inside my bedroom in the empty pages of a diary.

I called it a journal, however. I couldn’t refer to it as a diary, because that sounded like a silly teenaged girl locked in her pink bedroom with a poster of the Soloflex Man on the wall writing trivial stories of crushes and heartache and dreams and ambitions and love. I was way too cool for that. So even though this is exactly what I was writing about in my diary, I called it a journal.

I started writing in this journal at fourteen and I continued to write it in, almost daily, certainly weekly, for the next twenty-two years. I stopped writing in my journal when I got married. I’m not sure why. Maybe my husband took the place of the best friend and confidant I’d found on paper all those years ago. Or maybe it’s because I had children shortly after, and just didn’t have time.

How does this relate to voice? Well, anytime I need to be reminded how a teenaged girl thinks and feels, I dig into an old trunk filled with my journals and travel back in time to eavesdrop on a conversation with myself.

I can visit myself at fourteen. Or sixteen or seventeen. I see the deep blue scratches and heavy pen marks and exclamation points of strong emotion everywhere in those journals. It reminds me that I felt everything deeply when I was a young adult.

I read the words I used to describe my mother, the best mother a girl could possibly have, and who I love deeply as an adult, but who I described at fourteen as “beyond irritating.”

I see evidence of insta-love everywhere. “Insta-love” for the non-writers among us, is a term used to describe a book where the heroine and hero fall in love too fast, with no real basis for their affection. But insta-love was a major feature of my journals. I was always falling into insta-love, with Matthew Broderick and Harrison Ford and the boy I saw at the mall but never spoke to. It wasn’t love of course. But it felt like love, and that’s the point.

Everything felt like deep love or all-consuming hate or lethal boredom or explosive excitement. Like all young adults, then and now, I felt everything. Everything.

I’m now many years removed from the fourteen-year-old girl who started those journals. I’m middle aged. The thing I feel most often these days is tired. Or mildly irritated. And so, when I write, I go back to those journals and visit myself again when I was seventeen. That girl was smart, sarcastic, curious, passionate, romantic and above all, she was in love with words and with books. When I write Young Adult books, I write them for her.

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The Write Idea

The Write Idea