The personal and the universal: is Marisa me?

This is a page from my writer’s notebook back before the story for What Can’t Wait even existed, back when I was just doing exploratory writing to find my way into the characters. 

People often ask me, “how much of your life is in What Can’t Wait?” Usually I end up talking about how many of the stories came from my students and why it’s dedicated to them. But stumbling back across this page–what I imagined as Marisa’s longings–makes me realize that there is plenty of me in Marisa.

Of course, there’s probably plenty of you in her, too. Because what she wants is pretty universal, no? I think this is why readers from walks of life quite different from Marisa’s can still relate to her. What she wants–when you peel back all the layers of local experience, family, culture, and circumstance–is what most of us want.


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