I wrote the below as a guest post for http://rowanknight.blogspot.com/, but I love it so much- I had to share it with you guys here!
Like many teenagers in the 90’s I have a thing for kick-ass female singer-songwriters. Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Liz Phair and Ani Difranco are some of my absolute faves. I love the way that just singing the words in their songs can make you feel stronger, can make you FEEL. When I started PRETTY AMY, I knew I wanted people to feel that way when they read it. I wanted the words to be raw, to be real, to be the way that teenage girls really felt, but were afraid to express. The kind of words that when you read them or hear them make you say, YES, that is exactly it! That is what I’ve always felt, but could never put into words. That is what I’ve always felt, but was too afraid to put into words.
When I was a teenager I felt like no one understood me, not really, not even my close friends. Sure, I loved hanging out with them, but a lot of that “hanging out” was just that surface fun, we certainly didn’t talk about the way we really felt. I know for me, I was afraid they would think I was crazy. How do you tell someone that you aren’t sure who you are? How do you tell someone that sometimes you wish you could be someone else?
So when I got home after school, or at night, I would retreat into the words of these strong, beautiful, fearless women, if only to feel strong, beautiful and fearless while I was listening to them. If only to know that there was something better on the other side. That other people felt like me. Amy does not believe she is strong, beautiful or fearless. She is the opposite of all that; the kind of girl who wants to inhabit the existence of anyone else because she is too afraid to figure out who she is. Because she is too afraid she will not like who she is and that others will agree. I wrote Amy this way because I wanted teenage girls to know that other people feel this too. That it’s OK to feel this way and that there are healthy ways to cope with it. Lines from four songs filled my head as I wrote. “I’ve been a bad, bad girl,” Criminal, Fiona Apple; ”She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own,” Girl, Tori Amos; “I can feel it in my bones, I’m going to spend my whole life alone,” F*ck and Run, Liz Phair; “I have to act just as strong as I can, just to preserve a place where I can be who I am,” Talk to Me Now, Ani Difranco.
I wanted Amy’s struggle and her voice to embody these lines. I want the girls and women that read PRETTY AMY to feel the same way you feel when you are driving home on a sunny day and screaming along with any one of these songs that you play on repeat. I know I’m not the only one who does that.
And, I know I’m not the only one who’s felt like Amy.