Louise Rennison, one of my favorite authors, passed away today. As I try to understand why the death of someone I have never met matters so much to me, I’m thinking about what it means to be a writer and what it means to have your words read by people that you will never meet.
If you’re a writer, your words are an extension of your identity. There’s a reason why so many people think all novels are partially autobiographical, and there’s a certain validity to that opinion. Although the words I write may not tell my life story, the way that I write, the stories I tell, and the fact that I’m even writing at all certainly says something about me.
Although I am sure there was more to Louise than simply the light-hearted, humorous tone of her books, I have no doubt that there was something in her that saw how important humor and love and friendship and self-worth are. I have no doubt that Georgia’s story and Tallulah’s story were ones she thought were worthy of telling, and that tells me more about Louise Rennison than any interview or biography could.
As I think of my own writing, and my own identity as a writer, I like to think that my words are telling a similar story not of me, but about me. That I believe that the lives of young women are worth telling, that families and friendships are just as important as boys, and that the emotions and thoughts and ambitions of girls are valid and undoubtedly valuable.
The more I think about why Louise dying means so much to me, I realize it’s because she taught me that lives like mine are worth writing about. Lives where you accidentally shave off part of your eyebrow, or your younger sister crawls into your bed in the morning and strokes your nose, or you worry that your bosoomas are too small or too big, depending on the day.
And that’s why I want to take a moment and acknowledge ten things that Louise Rennison taught me about writing.
Boys may not rate girls for funniness, but readers sure do.
Slang is cool. Made-up words, dances, inside jokes, and references are double-cool with knobs on.
A ten-book series can totally work.
Animals don’t have to talk to be main characters.
There’s humor in the details.
It’s okay to have more than one love interest.
Tell to show.
Don’t be afraid to play with form.
“A boy in the hand is worth two on the bus.” Or, the story written is worth two floating around in your head.
Writes stories worth telling.
Thank you Louise for showing me and so many other girls that our stories are worth telling, that our funniness is worth rating, and that we are perfect just the way we are. Result!
I’m away on a fast camel.
For those of you who love Louise Rennison’s books and characters as much as I do, which ones are your favorite?
And for those of you who haven’t gotten to know any of her hilarious and relatable characters, here’s where to start: