Wednesday, August 24, 2011

spark #1: that american girl thing.

Well, now that it's halfway through the week of Christine Tyler's Spark Blogfest (or Sparkfest, if you will), I figure I'd better bring my belated A-game and put something out there.

Looking back on my early childhood, it's obvious (my poor parents) that I was two things:
1. A rampant story-teller at home.
2. Not very social or motivated in school.

At age 8, I was diagnosed with ADD. And my ADD, as a little kid, was about the opposite of what you think of when you hear ADD. I definitely did not have that extra H everyone's always talking about. I could barely handle activity, let alone hyper-activity. I never got distracted by squirrels or planes or other kids. What took my attention away was my own imagination. Just thinking. I was ALWAYS thinking. At school, even though I was never so shy that I hid behind things or constantly took refuge in the gym (my mom was the PE teacher), I did live on my own planet, and rarely spoke to others. I think a lot of introverts can attest to the fact that the inside world felt a lot safer than the outside one, as a child... if not now, as well.

And so, the making-up-of-stuff began early. I got all my creative energy out after school, where I was home and safe and had friends who wanted to act out stories with me, and parents and grandparents who encouraged it. That is, until I held onto whichever unlucky adult was trying to tuck me in, as long as I possibly could, to "tell them a story." It was a cheap guise to not have to face the alone-in-my-room-in-the-dark bedtime monsters. But my grandmother ate it up and still talks about it. A huge catalyst, I think (of the making-up-of-stuff, not the nightmares), was a collection of books about this young lady right here:

Oh my gosh, don't look at me. I loved Felicity Merriman (and American Girl, in general) so much, I'm crying just thinking about her. Here, have some more pictures while I try to compose myself.

Oh man, you guys. One of these days, I'm going to find/share the Olan-Mills pictures
 of me in my pink Felicity birthday dress, with matching doll, reading matching book.
It happend.
The Felicity books also got me started riding horses.
It didn't stick quite as much as the love of reading.
And of course, I adore my Felicity doll.
In a fit of nostalgia during middle school, when I was sad
about getting "too old," (puh) I signed my name on her chest.
It was special.
Okay, I think I'm back together, again.

I can credit American Girl books with a couple of things, actually. They also spurned my long-standing obsession with history, specifically American history, specifically the Revolutionary War, specifically Colonial Williamsburg. Which brings us back to Felicity.

She was my first (and, perhaps, truest) geek-out, and it spanned several years. I mentioned earlier that I had a matching dress. Oh yes. There was also a nightgown, and one fateful trip to Colonial Williamsburg... in costume. It was the one-girl Comic-Con of my early youth (a tradition that died fast). And, last fall, when Joshua and I went to a Revolutionary War reenactment in Louisville, I may or may not have ogled at the costumes for sale, gotten a-little-more-than choked up, and begged him to let me get one next year (we're still waiting on the verdict). So, I guess that means the geek-out is still happening. I don't even get this crazy about Harry Potter.

She was not the only character I read, either. I read Molly books and Kirsten books and Addy books... heck, who am I kidding, I read all of them. But Felicity was My Favorite. The doll was my velveteen rabbit, and the books were my first spark. I remember seeing Valerie Tripp interviewed in AG Magazine (to which I subscribed until I was 15, because you can't fight what you love), and thinking, "Wow, I could do that!" But then, when that same AG Magazine would hold their annual writing contest, I was WAY to scared to join.

But! I still wrote stuff! Oh, how I wrote stuff. Terrible, unintentionally funny stuff.

Because I wanted to really have my own stories. I wanted my own Felicity, if that makes sense. In short, I wanted to be like Valerie Tripp, the first author I ever idealized.

(And, speaking of me getting choked up, that's exactly what happened when I read this article.)


  1. So with you. I love all things American Girl. Felicity is amazing. I had a Kirsten doll (because one of my best friends already had a Felicity), but I think Felicity may be my favorite. I don't even think they sell them anymore. I think it's like the Disney DVD vault and they locked her up for a while. Hopefully if either of us ever have daughters, she'll get unlocked and we can buy Felicity stuff once more.

  2. you are so animated! i can just see girls getting hooked on your "felicity" books! great spark story!

  3. You took me right back to places I hadn't thought about in years. Thank you. Yes, the imaginary world is so much safer and more pleasant than the one we inhabit. My stuffed animals had such rich lives. I don't know how I would have survived childhood without books.

  4. I've never heard of American Girl but I'm going to assume the clue is in the title, as I'm English. I think it's wonderful to look back and have something that you cared about so hard, for so long. It's part of what makes you who you are.

  5. I've never heard of American Girl either--I love learning new things!

  6. If a story chokes me up, I'm all over it.
    I'm here from sparkfest and hope you'll stop by the Write Game to share the spark there.

  7. Oh, I think we need to see the picture of you and the doll in matching dress. ;) I've never read these books, but will have to put them on my list of ones for my daughters. Good to meet you! :)

  8. Oh man, Julie, I think your love for American Girl was just one step above mine lol. My cousin and I got dolls for our birthday one year (it's the same day, but I'm one year older), and the love just grew and grew. We had the matching outfits too, courtesy of Grandma. Ah, the memories... :)

  9. I'm still laughing at one-girl Comic-Con. Williamsburg, why did you not catch on! Fun and nostalgic spark:)

  10. I'm with Ruth: one-girl Comic-Con? Oh, Julie. You are hilarious.

    Also, yes, you need to post the picture.

    Also also, I've never read any American Girl books...remember how I love Phineas and Ferb? :B

  11. American Girl was a huge deal when I was a kid. My sister and I pored over the magazine every month, and yes, we were always way too timid to ever submit anything, but we sure dreamed of it! She was all about Samantha and I was a 100% Molly-girl. There's a lot you can tell about a girl by which AG she resonates with. Felicity eh? We could have used a Felicity addict in our club. Especially with a doll. We would have killed for one of those dolls.

    But not you, no no, we would need you for the club.

  12. I totally had Felicity paper dolls! How fun. Hey, I'm a fellow Campaigner and writer of YA romances. Your blog looks great, I can't wait to check it out a little more!

  13. i totally remember your felicity phase. i'm proud to say i was there for probably all of it. you are the only reason i got into american girls in the first place, and i only favorite-ed kirsten because she was blonde, just like every other heroine/celebrity in my life.
    i totally don't remember you being diagnosed as ADD? geez, missed that one! but i will say i still love your stories, and i'm pretty sure if it wasn't for your brain i'd be drew barrymore on 50 First Dates.


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