Watching ‘Little Women’ dredges up urge to publish

Some day I’ll stop watching late-night movies and save the cost of extra boxes of tissues.

The old movies channel is deep into its 31 Days of Oscar, so it’s a good time to watch. “Little Women” from 1933, with Katharine Hepburn as Jo, came on late last Tuesday. But I forgot to bring tissues to the table next to my recliner, so I had to dig used napkins out of the trash. I wasn’t leaving the room just to get tissues.

You know you’ve seen a movie too many times when you start to cry before the sad parts just because you know the sad parts are coming.

I was 10 when I read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” for the first time. I was still in country school, Newark No. 1, as far northeast in Webster County as possible.

One year the teacher, who always seemed to be new, put a big brown construction paper tree with empty branches on the back wall. For every book we read, we got a green construction paper leaf to stick on our own empty branch. We were to write the name of each book so others knew what we were reading.

My branch had 48 leaves by the end of the school year. I was in love with horses and read every Island Stallion or Black Stallion book I could find. Don’t know how “Little Women” got in the mix, but I remember lying on my bed upstairs in our old farmhouse thinking I’d probably marry someone 10 years older than I because that’s what Jo did. And I did.

Because Jo was a writer, that’s what I wanted to be. Oh, there was a small spat of time when being an astrophysicist seemed a good idea. Such was the plan until I hit physics in high school. Still, I hadn’t fallen back on the writing idea, either. Right up until the Sunday before school started my senior year, I sat squarely in that place called limbo.

On that Sunday, as the pastor waxed poetic, I got to thinking about the first time someone would ask what I was going to do with my life. When you’re 17, you ought to know. I started a mental checklist of the classes I’d signed up for at the end of my junior year, when it struck me that if I actually decided to be a writer, I’d better know how to type. I had to give up my advanced art class for a typing class.

But the rest, as they say, is history.

I finally realized journalism should be my profession because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to pay for my fiction. Coupled with the fact I’d never written any fiction, made journalism the proper course.

Like 90 percent of journalists across America, I’ve got a finished novel somewhere in my attic room and a half-finished novel somewhere in my head. Seeing “Little Women” again has inspired me to find that finished novel and see about finding a publisher.

I shouldn’t need tissues for that.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Sandy Mickelson, former lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at