Sisters of the Pen

Once upon a time, four girls formed a writing club and named it Sisters of the Pen.

None of the girls knew any authors. None of their parents, nor most of their parents’ friends, had even attended college.

The girls’ mothers knew that their daughters would need to know how to soft boil an egg, polish the furniture with Pledge, curl their hair with rollers, and learn how to type.

Something to Fall Back On

The mothers told the girls that their future unknowable but certain-to-arrive husbands might die prematurely or blow out of town to pursue dreams greater than those that might be hatched in a small San Diego suburb.

They needed something to fall back on.

They needed typewriters.

But the girls had pretty big dreams themselves. Dreams that went beyond Fairy Tale Princess Weddings.

The black Royals with the red and black ribbons didn’t suggest clerical work. They conjured up the lives of women artists like Louisa May Alcott, the grim and mysterious Bronte sisters, and, even the tragic Anne Frank.

Sisters of the Pen

So the girls gathered themselves together into a club, as girls tend to do. On hot Southern California days they sat under the shade of a eucalyptus tree or in a darkened bedroom.

During the fall and winter, they gathered around a formica kitchen table, pouring grains of red Jello straight from the packet into their hands and reading their stories with sticky fingers.

They even had a logo – branding themselves decades before branding became a profession all its own.

Afterwards, they skateboarded home and made their stories better on those black metal machines that could take them to a Mad Men era steno pool or a publishing house in New York City.

Much to their own surprise, two of those girls, after long and winding careers, realized their childhood dreams, becoming writers first, and then “authors.”

One of them is me. The other is Cathy Scott.

I met Cathy in the traffic circle at the end of the suburban street on which we lived – 71st in La Mesa, California.

I was five years old.

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