First of all, I want to say that the dedication to this project is truly inspiring. The author, Meghan McDonnell has taken it upon herself to keep every diary entry that she has written from the age of about nine, to present day, put them all together in book form, and has created these lovely volumes of her life. It is really cool, and it’s something that you have probably thought about doing when you were young but never stuck to it. Personally, I wrote in my diary when I was little, but I wrote in it sporadically and never thought about keeping my entries, let alone publishing them! This is truly awesome, and brave.
The next thing I want to say is that Meghan sent these books to me in exchange for an honest review, so here we go. First I read Minor which is approximately age 8 or 9, through age 17 of her life.
The diary entries in this first volume go from the silly musings of a little girl, who tells about how much she thinks school is weird, to who is mean in her class, and what she likes and doesn’t like. By the way her favorite song is The Way You Make Me Feel, by the one and only Michael Jackson (I can totally appreciate this). Then the diary entries evolve into the inner workings of a teenagers mind.
Most of the feelings that she felt through out her life, sort of paralleled with mine, so it was fun to read about what she was going through. I could totally relate to this book.
The second book in this “series” Is called Novice, which takes place from the age of about eighteen to early twenties. These books are written as if the world isn’t going to read them, which I loved. I think that Meghan’s candor and her ability to let her feelings and ideas been seen by the world is so courageous and it’s almost like watching a television documentary about growing up girl. Most of the feelings that Meghan has felt in her life, are ones that I can definitely relate to.
The book starts off when Meghan is beginning college, where she doesn’t know many people and she misses her high school friends. In these pages, she tells about failed relationships, depression, not knowing where she belongs, where she’s going and just basically feeling out of place most of the time.
I think that this is how a lot of us feel in our late teens and early twenties. We are all trying to find our place in the world, so this book definitely gets those feelings rolling again for me.
I think that Novice has a more somber feeling than the first book Minor, it feels like there is a cloud hanging over Meghan’s head in a way. It’s hard to transition from childhood to adult hood and that’s evident in these diary entries.
The third book showcases the ages of mid twenties through late twenties. This book continues with Meghan searching for a job, with her relationships and finding herself in the world. This volume also speaks about the switch from young adulthood to being a “real grown up”. Meghan finds a job in a restaurant and it seems that she really enjoys working there, and makes some new friends. She has some trouble with motivation though, as she is finding it especially hard to get motivated to look for a new school.
Her words in these pages are so very insightful and sometimes even philosophical. One of my favorite quotes from this volume is:
Maybe I fooled myself into thinking life flows and I am part of that flow and I remain peaceful and calm and excited and pretty and kind and compassionate.
There is just something about that line that just spoke to me. I wonder how many times I have thought some incantation of that through out my lifetime.
These books end in the early 2000’s, which makes me wonder what Meghan has been up to for the past 16 years, and if she will add more volumes as the years go by. This was a really fun and interesting project to read, I give these books 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you Meghan for sending these to me, I had a lot of fun reading them.
Meghan was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions!
Kerrie: When did you decide that you wanted to create this project?
Meghan: I never knew what to do with my writing. I puzzled over it for years. I was writing constantly but I didn’t know how to get the content out into the world. A good friend whom I’ve known for over 20 years suggested I publish my early journals for adolescent girls as a means of comforting them through the rough early teen years. That was in summer of 2013. It must have slipped deeply into my subconscious and resonated with an instinct that was already there. In late 2013, I thought, “Why publish just a couple journals? Why not publish all of them?” By January 2014, I began transcribing volume one and I published the first three in December 2015.
K. Was it hard to continue writing in your diary throughout your life?
M: No. I am compelled to write. There have been moments when I didn’t want to write when I had a pen in my hand and my journal in front of me because I didn’t want to face or explore my life at the time or I was tired and I should have gone to bed or I was blank and empty and didn’t see the purpose of setting anything down on paper. But I’ve need it, needed to do it. I still need it. Writing is my way of processing my relationships and experiences. Parts of me feel that if I don’t write my life down, then I’m not alive.
K: Were there certain things that you wanted to leave out of your books, when you went back and re-read the things you wrote?
M: Definitely. When I’ve been foolish, immature, misguided, dorky. But if I omit those parts, it’s antithetical to what I’m doing. I’m unveiling my interior life and that entails the mundane and embarrassing along with quiet moments of revelation that are on point, meeting readers where they are.
K: Are there parts that you don’t want your family/friends to read?
M: Sure. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to make my loved ones unnecessarily uncomfortable. This could be anything from writing about self-destructive behavior to drug experimentation to detailed accounts of intimacy. I rarely talk shit about anyone in the journals and I don’t feel that I disrespect anyone. But I don’t think about what others might think when I’m writing. I can’t not write (or publish) my work because of worrying what people might think or say about it. Any expression can only reach its true efficacy when we stop being concerned with what people might think. The real concern is if we can express at all and whether or not we do.
K: Do you plan on publishing more of the volumes?
M: Yes. I am currently transcribing volume four and I hope to publish 4 volumes in 2016. I have material for about 23 volumes right now and plan on publishing up through to my present life. If a natural stopping point occurs, I’ll likely say, “Too bad,” and keep publishing the series anyway.
K: Would you ever write fiction books?
M: Yes. I have characters, plotlines, and scenes coming into my mind all the time. I ask them to patiently wait for me so I can see the journals project through.
K: How do you motivate yourself in regards to writing?
M: The writing comes constantly and easily so I really only have to motivate myself to transcribe, edit, publish, market, and promote my books. I’ll always write. I could gladly write till kingdom come but if no one reads what I write, I may as well live in a cave. My mind and body compel me to write but connecting with readers motivates me to see to all of the other aspects of being an author.
K: Do you have a volume that you prefer over the others?
M: Novice: Volume Two. I fell in love. I went to Australia. I went to college and came into a new aspect of myself more radically than in any other era of my youth. I don’t know how it will stand up in the series for readers but it’s closest to my heart of the first three volumes. It’s also the only one of the first three that my Mom couldn’t read – too personal or graphic for her to go through, knowing it’s her own daughter.
K: Do you have a regular writing schedule?
M: It’s seasonal. In warmer months, I write early in the morning. In winter, I write in the evenings. I’ve never been shy about carving out time to write regardless of how busy I am. I feel the tug of it always. I try to respond to that tug as often as I can.
K: What’s your favorite thing to do when not writing?
M: Reading, reading, reading. I read everywhere – while I’m walking, when I do the dishes, everywhere. I like to spend time in nature by hiking and camping. I love being with my man and friends and family around a fire while we tell stories and share ourselves with each other.