Like most teenagers, I struggled to find my identity. I was somewhat tall and gangly with a slight overbite and a too-narrow forehead to be considered really pretty. My hair was an unruly mass of dark waves that stopped growing just below my shoulders and ended in split ends. I knew I wasn't a real beauty, but I considered myself passably attractive. My grandmother made sure that I started each school year with a new outfit and a new pair of black shoes. Christmas brought underwear and another new outfit, and then I usually got another new dress and a pair of white shoes for my birthday in April. It wasn't high fashion, but I thought I dressed pretty well.
I rode the bus to school until I was old enough to drive the old Studebaker pick-up into town on my own. I played in the band and participated in whatever extracurricular activities were open to girls in my small country school. I even held class offices. (I should probably note here that there were only 15 students in my class, so we sort of passed this duty around each year.)
But I still felt like an outsider.
At a time when most of my friends were beginning to pair off at school dances, and go to parties, I was usually not invited. Some of my friends felt bad about leaving me out so they would invite me to a party and hand me a broom to dance with on the slow tunes. At one "sweet sixteen" birthday party, the host tried to mix things up by having all the girls place their shoes in the center of the room and the boys had to pick a shoe to find their partner for the next dance. This was supposed to ensure that every girl got chosen. When all the shoes were retrieved and I was still waiting to be collected by my partner, it became clearly evident that I was going to sit this one out. The host's father finally took pity on me and asked me to dance. I tried to pretend it didn't matter, but inside I was crying.
Like most teenagers, I longed to fit in with everyone else.
I have carried some of these feelings with me into adulthood. Although, my life is good and I have achieved a modicum of success, I still struggle with feelings of inferiority. The fear of being the last one chosen is always there in the background. But what I've learned is that there are more of us out there than I originally thought.
As a teenager, I felt alone and abandoned. As an adult, I believe that no matter how successful we are, we all harbor some of those same feelings. It's what drives us to achieve and succeed. It's also what dooms us to failure if we succumb to it.
This is the underlying conflict that all my characters must struggle with. Whether they succeed for fail, determines the outcome of the story. It is also the unifying characteristic that I hope my readers will identify and connect with. If literature is the mirror we hold up to life, it should reflect not only our hopes and dreams, but also those secret feelings we hold closest to our hearts.