Mary Anne Saves the Day

“Just once I’d like to go to school wearing skintight turquoise pants, Stacey’s ‘island’ shirt with the flamingos and toucans all over it, and maybe bright red, high-top sneakers. I’d like to create a sensation. (Well, half of me would. The other half would be too shy to want to attract any attention.)”
-Mary Anne Spier, Mary Anne Saves The Day

One of my favorite things to read growing up was the Baby-Sitters Club. I waited for each issue to come out, and, when it did, I consistently would finish it within a day. I loved being able to peek into the lives of the various girls and experience their feelings - their joys, their sadness, and the friendship they shared. I often heard that books were a great way to escape reality, but little did I know that I was not only escaping the reality of my own childhood, but my own gender identity as well.

My favorite character in the whole series without a doubt had to be Mary Anne. She was the shy one. The contemplative one. The romantic who loved having fun. I remember rejoicing and swooning over her blossoming romance with Logan. Laughing about “Gerber Garden” when she took that trip to New Jersey with the Stacey and the Pikes. For me, I related to her, and she was part of the development of the stories and character that would become Ellie.

In my high school years, with the development of the internet, I began to connect with other people across the US that introduced me to the idea of fan fiction. As part of that, I started studying the writing styles of various authors, and found myself learning about character development and how some of my favorite characters are brought to life not by storytelling, but by the authors fine-tuning their characters and personalities even before the stories get written.

Enter Ellie into the scene. As part of my early desire to start writing fiction myself, I began development of a character I named “Eleanor Anne.” Ellie hated the name Eleanor, but kept it in her back pocket as a means to “sound important and formal,” when the time came. And Anne? Well, that was my throwback to one of my favorite series - Anne of Green Gables. I loved Anne’s tenacity and imagination, and I often pictured her explaining Ellie’s formal name just like Ellie did. In many aspects, Ellie’s personality was shaped off of Anne’s - and inevitably, it became part of mine. People have asked me how I came up with the name of Eleanor Anne - well, now you know.

I guess it’s always an interesting thing to look back on one’s life and see the little decisions and choices that help shape us - sometimes unconsciously - to be who we are. For me, delving into the lives of intriguing fictional female heroines ultimately began the journey to Ellie, and allowed her to grow inside of me all these years. Feeling what they felt, empathizing with their dreams and hopes, and in the back of my heart, wishing for the same, even though I did not know it at the time.

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