(cross-posted from Brave New Words)
I knew I wanted to be a writer from at least fifth or sixth grade on, but sometimes it seemed inevitable that I should take that path. My parents had two daughters. They named my older sister Charlotte and then unwittingly (they claim) proceeded to dub me Emily.
Do you know what people of a certain age say when they meet two sweet little girls named Charlotte and Emily? Every single time, they ask: “Are you going to grow up to be writers?”
I didn’t get the joke for the longest time, and it was even more confusing when I explained our name-pairing was an accident, so finally I learned to simply smile and give a shy, “Maybe.” Then one day I discovered an old elegant hardbound set on my parents’ bookshelf of JANE EYRE and WUTHERING HEIGHTS by these two girls, Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I ran to my parents like, “Did you know these two girls with OUR names wrote some books?” I think the reaction I got was similar to the day I asked my dad if he’d heard of a band called The Beatles.
I was probably around nine years old when this went down. I sat and tried to read JANE EYRE, probably because the pictures on the cover were of little school girls and not some gross kissy-face couple under a tree. I distinctly remember that all the school girls had their eyes closed, but ONE girl’s eyes were open. This haunted me for years, and I never did read past the time Jane suffered at Lowood School.
Years later, in college, I read WUTHERING HEIGHTS in an English Lit class. Thankfully, I had a professor with a deep understanding of this book, and it came alive for me. I finally finished reading JANE EYRE soon afterward and loved it even more. Sibling rivalry still boiled in my blood though, and I was annoyed that EMILY hadn’t written the book I loved more. Why did Charlotte have to write it?
My sister and I eventually learned to like each other (for the most part). But I doubt I actually became a writer because of my parents’ choice in names (if I had been a boy, I was going to be Ross…yeah). But you know, if you want a kid to consider writing, it doesn’t hurt to have people asking at every turn, “Are you going to grow up to be writers?”
I’m still trying to get Charlotte to give it a go.