In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Susan Bailey, author, Louisa May Alcott devotee, and proud New Englander!
Contributor Susan Bailey cozies up with The Annotated Little Women in Massachusetts.
What is your favorite scene from Little Women?
My favorite scene is when Beth runs over to thank Mr. Laurence, impulsively puts her arms around his neck and kisses him, and ends up sitting in his lap. I thought that took a lot of guts to do that! I am a typical Yankee (“frozen chosen” as they call us in New England) – quite reserved, especially when it comes to showing physical affection, and I know I would have been far too self-conscious to do what Beth did. She totally forgot herself in the spirit of love and gratitude towards Mr. Laurence. She gave of herself and thus forgot herself and that is how she overcame her shyness.
Amy goes to Europe, Jo goes to New York . . . where did your pivotal “coming of age” moment take place?
Right at home. And quite late in life, too (our family members were late bloomers). It’s actually the subject of my essay in Imaginary Heroes because it [the pivotal moment] involves Louisa May Alcott. When my mom died, everything else in my life seemed to die along with her, most especially my lifelong passion for music. I had been a professional musician for most of my life, writing, performing and recording my own songs. Grief sucked that passion right out of me and I did not want to try and bring it back. Empty spaces don’t stay empty for long, however, and soon it was filled with reading (books about and by Alcott) and writing, first on my blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion (and a second called Be as One), then writing for the local Catholic newspaper, and finally, books. I remember the day I dared call myself a writer – Jeff Goins, the author of several books and a wonderful blog about writing, challenged me to do so through an eBook he wrote called You Are a Writer. After reading it, I took a deep breath and said those words out loud (which was surprisingly hard to do!). And I knew then it was my new vocation. In the course of writing I came to realize I had been writing all my life and never realized it, first with journals in high school and college, and then with creating lyrics for my songs. Louisa May Alcott proved to be a wonderful muse and guide, as well as a great grief counselor.
Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?
I don’t have a favorite scribbling suit, but I have gone to great lengths to create writing spaces. Such spaces are sacred and act as a catalyst, inspiring me to work. I first took over our son’s basement bedroom, furnishing it with an old loveseat and lounge chair, and hanging on the wall posters I created of Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Louisa May Alcott and Jo March. After our daughter moved out, I moved upstairs to her room so I could have windows; I rehung the posters on the wall and set up makeshift bookcases for all the books I needed for research. I lounge on my daughter’s bed with my laptop and happily write away.
Tell us about the sisters, or sister figures, in your life.
My older sister Christine is my hero! Five years my senior, it took until our twenties before we became equals. She was away at college while I was in high school and lived on the other side of the country for many years. She and her husband now split their time going south for the winter and coming back up to the Northeast in the spring. Even though she has been back for a long time I always feel like I can’t get enough of her company. She is quiet yet strong, even formidable at times, having that most enviable gift of “the look.” She is smart, a master juggler, compassionate, loving, and such fun. I am blessed to have such a wonderful sister.
Susan Bailey is the webmaster for the blog Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She has
authored two books, Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications) and River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press). Susan is currently working on a biography of Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. She is an active member of the Louisa May Alcott Society, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, and the Fruitlands Museum.
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