Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 6

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 6:

“‘I’ve never been who my mom wants me to be,’ I admitted. ‘Or how she wants me to be. I’m a big disappointment.’”

“I’m starting to think it isn’t going to matter how I feel or what I’m good at. I’m not going to be able to be myself and do the things I enjoy except in secret.”

“I wanted to ask her what she meant by normal because I had a feeling normal was important to her by the way she said it. And for that reason I didn’t ask because I was afraid we might disagree about normal and I didn’t want to disagree with her about anything.”

My Writing Life

blue room 2nd copy
Last night, getting into bed, I felt what I often feel at the end of my day, that something is missing.  That something, which I mention in Her Widow (my next book), is having a chat with Catherine about my/our day.  I glanced at the picture of her on my bedside table and reached for my journal to write to her what I would say if she were beside me in bed.  I didn’t get far before my eyes began to sting.  The struggle to live without her at my side continues.  I accept that it is never-ending in ways and it doesn’t always bring tears to my eyes, but it is always there, thrashing about in my belly and it brought me to thoughts of the Jews in the camps.  How horribly they must have suffered the loss of parent, child, spouse, sibling.  I think the terrible conditions they lived under and threats and starvation might not have amounted to as much pain as the separation from family members.  The holocaust hit me last night deeper than it ever has before, personally, and I think that is the point of suffering, to put us in touch with people (humanity) we don’t even know, who might not even walk the planet now, who we only read about and imagine.  We are one, after all, and perhaps need suffering to wake to that.  Perhaps empathy and compassion cannot be felt by those who for one reason or another haven’t suffered or been in touch with their suffering.
I think I need to get back to my professional writing if I have so much to say on a misty morning.  I am wrestling with myself over what I should allow myself to write in a blog or even to friends, and what I should keep to myself.  Instinctively, I reach for the pen, or the computer when feelings are pulling on me, but maybe it is not of importance to anyone and perhaps it is even self-indulgent and self-important to write personal thoughts and feelings.  Maybe I should read a book or watch a movie and distract myself.

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 5

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 5:

“They [boys] are more interested in breasts than basketball or baseball and when they talk to a girl they don’t look her in the eyes.”

“Kate used to get pleasure out of saying I walked like a boy until I started to treat it as a compliment. It annoys her when I say, ‘Thank you’.”

“It was one of those moments when you know if you speak, and it’s the wrong thing it could ruin an important moment.”

Notes on my Writing Life


After fifteen years not writing, I sat down to write my autobiography.  When I read the first draft, over 500 pages, only12 pages appealed to me. Those pages grew to become When I First Knew.  Just for fun, as I was writing the story, I started drawing with pencil some of the scenes.  I have never studied art, but then I never studied writing either and that didn’t stop me from having a go.  I didn’t intend to use the drawings for anything, but well after editing the final draft of the book, it occurred to me that together they might make a book cover.


Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 4

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 4:

“I wouldn’t like to be the only one alive on earth, but I do like pretending at times that I am. There is so much to explore in the natural world that I think it would take me a while to miss people.”

“I wrapped a wool scarf around my head and most of my face and walked down the middle of each road where I could throw the papers to the front doors of houses on both sides of the street. People still have their Christmas lights up and it felt magical parading down a street with lights lit on both sides of me, like I was entering a fairyland. I didn‘t see another person on foot or in a car and the only sounds in the stillness were my rubber boots scuffing along on the dry, frozen pavement and the crinkle of my ski pants as one pant leg brushed against the other.”

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 3

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 3:

“I looked as fine as I had ever looked in my life. The jacket suited me, I thought, and it was okay that no one else would ever see me at my finest. My private joy would be enough.”

“Before bed at night we strip off our clothes and take a bath in the lake with a bar of soap. This means we get to skinny dip for a while, which is the best feeling ever. The water touches every part of me and I feel slippery and slick as a fish.”

“I go out riding at dusk just to see the lights coming on in houses and the smoke billowing out of chimneys. All that makes me feel really alive and lucky enough to find the Dirkens of Elm Street and play professional football one day. I don’t talk about any of this because I know people would laugh at me. Or worse they could stop me from trying. Which is why it’s better not to tell people your dreams.”

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 2:

“Mom says I’m getting all my sickness over with while I’m young, but I’m sure she only says this so I won’t complain. Mom doesn’t like complainers even when they get sick.”

“I don’t like dresses, though the one lying on my bed was a beautiful blue organdy with a wide sash that tied in a bow in the back. I felt beautiful in the dress, but I felt like I was someone else, not me. I was playing a part and it made everyone happy, and for a while that made me happy.”

“No one understands why I like to go up to the cold attic to read. They don’t understand that I go up there to think about things I can’t think about when I am downstairs with the family. It feels dangerous to have certain thoughts in a room full of people.”

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 1

When I First Knew by Joan Alden

Quotes and Excerpts from the Book – Part 1:

“Kate and I are as different as mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. She would rather wear dresses than blue jeans and she has four different purses. For one thing, I don’t like dresses because they don’t have pockets in them and you have to carry a purse…You can’t use both hands if you are carrying a purse around.”

“Mom says I get my feelings hurt too easily, but that’s because she didn’t have a brother and sister and doesn’t know how mean they can be. She says no one would be mean to me if I didn’t do something first, but people can turn mean if something bad happened to them just before you walked into the room.”