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 Trix Wilkins, writer, Aussie, and Alcott enthusiast.
Contributor Trix Wilkins, photographed by her seven-year-old son, reads Little Women across from the iconic Sydney Opera House.
What is your favorite scene from Little Women?
I love the New Year’s Eve ball where Jo and Laurie officially meet. They have an interesting and free-flowing conversation, and of course that wonderful dance in the hallway that happens because Jo says she can’t show the burn in her dress and Laurie says let’s dance anyway. It’s a lot of fun. I think this is the first time in the novel we see Jo unburdened—no thoughts of money or war or work, just joyful moments—and being the person she might always be in the company of such a friend. We also see Laurie not care about things such as burnt clothes or dancing etiquette. This is the scene where I came to first love them both and feel how fitted they are to each other. A close second would be Jo’s visit to Laurie in the chapter “Being Neighborly.”
If the March sisters were employed where you work, what would their jobs be?
I work part time for a mission agency and there are definitely jobs I could see the March sisters fitting into. Beth [would be a] member care coordinator, providing a much needed listening ear, giving gentle counsel, helping in quiet unobtrusive ways. We are given so many glimpses of her courage for the sake of others. Meg would make a great receptionist—a gracious, welcoming host to all. Jo and Amy [would work] in our media department. Jo would be the innovator, constantly dreaming up ideas. Amy would be the graphic designer, diplomatically teeing up meetings for Jo. When she is at ease and among people she likes and respects (and whom she senses mutually like and respect her), Jo’s easy to talk to and I can imagine her generating some engaging copy in that role.
Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?
Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a favorite. She responds quickly, sensitively, and sensibly during times of crisis. I like that she loves so faithfully even when all hope seems extinguished. I also admire Helen Graham from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She makes some unwise decisions that get her in a heap of trouble, sure, but she’s also incredibly brave. When she can choose to close her eyes to the truth and do what is easy, she doesn’t. She takes her son away from domestic violence; she takes all the steps she can for the health and safety of his body, mind, heart and soul. She recognizes that her husband will destroy her son and she removes him from that situation even at great personal cost.
Amy goes to Europe, Jo goes to New York . . . where did your pivotal “coming of age” moment take place?
When I went to Cambodia, it was both an enthralling and humbling time. I came to realize so many things I didn’t know how to do (and thought I did), and to meet people with the sort of life story that can’t help but shape those who hear it, wonderful people who had experienced amazing things and conquered unthinkable things.
At various points in the book, characters like Friedrich Bhaer, Jo, Marmee, and Amy sometimes speak uncomfortable truths to other characters. Whose feedback in your life has helped you to grow?
I think a whole book could be written on this question! I am indebted to so many loving and courageous people who have spoken truth into my life. But just to name a few…my husband, Andrew, who has done this courageous and loving task from when we were friends and throughout our marriage. Owen, who said, “You inherited your religion,” without which I might not have questioned Christianity and found it solid. Amy, who never shied away from pointing out when I was about to do something I’d regret. Joey, who has spoken a helpful, gracious word on just about every conundrum I’ve thrown at her. Claire, Chris, and Calvin—dear friends and mentors who are kind, discerning, and trustworthy.
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?
The local café and city library are my favorite places for writing, but when I can’t get to them (which is most days!), my writing spaces are the dinner table, comfy couch, family computer, trains and train stations (waiting times are handy). I like getting dressed up to write (bell sleeves and tulle skirts are current favorites).
Have you had a “perfect” (or perfect-on-paper) Laurie in your life, only to realize it wasn’t meant to be?
I married my “Laurie,” actually! My husband was my best friend for years before we married (and yes, he’s still my best friend!). There were definitely moments when I wondered should it happen, did I want it to happen?—was it ever going to happen?—is he right for me?—am I right for him?—all that sort of angst—and there were moments that were just fun! We’ve danced, we’ve laughed, we’ve made plans, we’ve kept secrets, we’ve had fights and felt uneasy until we made up, we’ve celebrated each other’s successes, corrected each other’s mistakes, comforted each other in times of distress…I think all this is a huge part of the reason why Jo and Laurie resonate with me, and writing the Courtship of Jo March was like creating a world where Jo and Laurie get to be for each other what we don’t have a chance to see in Little Women.
Tell us about the sisters, or sister figures, in your life.
My sister Jan-Lian is beautiful inside and out. I love her! She’s like all the good bits about Amy and Beth—she’s charming, gracious, hospitable, kind, thoughtful, creative, helpful. She doesn’t care how rich a person is or what circles they move in. She’s quick to speak an encouraging word and slow to speak a harsh one. She’s one of the most generous people I know—no matter how much or how little she has, she is ready to give gifts to others. I am so amazed and thankful to have her as my sister.
Trix Wilkins isn’t a Little Women scholar, academic, or PhD. She just really enjoys reading the novel (especially the bits about Jo and Laurie) and writing about it on her blog, Much Ado About Little Women. And because she married her best
friend and wishes Jo had done the same, she wrote The Courtship of Jo March.
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