Joining us today is Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of Secrets: You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe. This is the second book in The Truth Series for girls. The Truth: I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything, the first book in the series, is also available at Amazon.
Since this book is written as a series of diary entries from the girl, now 13 years old, we asked Dr. Barbara if she had any diaries as a kid and if she remembered anything she had written in them.
DEAR DIARY, TONIGHT I LOVE LUCY IS ON! I CAN’T WAIT!
I started to keep a diary when I was nine years old. Actually, it was a leather bound Girl Shout Diary purchased downtown in Reid’s Department Store in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Yes, I do mean ‘Girl Shout’. You see, I was dyslectic. Spelling was not my strong point.
Keeping a diary in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades was an amazing commitment for me. I made a promise to myself that every day would be recorded. I almost kept the promise. Once in awhile when I was sick I just fell behind. Otherwise, even if I was three days behind I wrote. I would lie on my bed at night and write about my day, or yesterday. Basically, the diary was a journal of events and a few feelings. It would go something like this:
“Today I wore my brown jumper and my new loafers. My father took me to school. We had indoor recess. I had a tuna fish sandwish for lucnh. I walked home with Angela. We had steake for supper. I had to pratice my violin a lot today. My mother tested me on my spelling words for the week. I got most of them write. I was so happy. I love Lucy was on tonight. I took a shower and then came down to watch it. I went to bed after it was over. Eileen called and asked if I was sleeping over this weekend. I don’t know yet.”
Now as I look back on a typical excerpt, such as the one above, I realize how I shied away from any comments that reflected thoughts or feelings that were uncomfortable to me on any level. I never talked about my parents’ arguments or if my feelings were hurt. I never mentioned the one episode I had when a neighbor was inappropriate as I walked home from school. Although I felt upset for months about the episode, not a word was said in the Girl Shout Diary!
Most of the feelings I was willing to share in the diary were happy ones, such as my pleasure watching I Love Lucy or the excitement I felt about going on a vacation or going to New York City to see a play. Other feelings appear to be much too risky. What was I afraid of? Perhaps my parents would read the diary? I don’t remember worrying about that. Maybe I simply wanted to keep the history of my life simple and upbeat? What is so fascinating is I do remember intentionally leaving out anything risky at the emotional level. But what I can’t remember is why.
Sometimes I think it was girlish wisdom and optimism combined. Could I have known at a deep unconscious level that staying happy means to a large extent not focusing on what is not right?
When I decided to write The Truth Series for girls, tweens and teens, I had to make some other choices. Now I had to build into a young girl’s diary not only what happened to her, but also her feelings and insights. To not do so, would of course have made The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) and Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe as dull as my paragraph above. Also the fictional diary would be without the fabric that is essential for the reader to process and benefit from. After all, it is the window the author provides into the feelings, thoughts, and happenings to the characters in a book, through which we can look at our own lives and how we are handling them.
So I knew I had to take the concept of a diary but imbue it with feelings and words I never would have dared to write. I also knew I had to make my character much more universal that I ever was. She has had happen to her so many universal themes: her parents do not get along; she has crushes; she has sibling issues; she has to deal with moving; a close relative dies; she has questions and no one to ask them to; she has jealousies; she discovers secrets in her family and the list goes on. Yet, she too, must remain basically upbeat and optimistic. That way she is a beacon of light and encouragement to other girls and also a role model for discussions with their moms, teachers, guidance counselors, etc.
I know I have achieved this in The Truth Series. And yes, I have my three Girl Shout Diaries to thank for much of the success of these books. My Girl Shout Diaries reinforced the practice and diligence that is necessary to become a writer. They also left me fascinated with the diary concept and the intimacy it can achieve for both the writer and the reader. I am grateful I had the chance to write at such a young age. I am also grateful that no one checked my spelling!
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, internationally known Positive Psychologist, is the creator of The Enchanted Self,(r) a systematic way of helping to bring more joy, meaning and purpose into our lives. Thanks to authors like her, more people have been studying the mind in psychology degree programs and great advances have been made in improving the human condition. Dr. Holstein has been a school psychologist for more than twenty five years. She has taught elementary school children and was an assistant professor of education at Boston University. She has been in private practice as a psychologist with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein, in Long Branch, New Jersey, for over twenty five years.