Learning From Little Women

This weekend, my poor husband’s been sick. Friday night, bored—and slightly bummed we weren’t out on a date—I broke my new TV rule, sat on the couch, ate yogurt, and watched Little Women while the rest of the Petersheim household slept.

I have two brothers and no sisters, but something about that story gets me every time (and I’ve watched it probably once a year since I was eight years old).

Each of the four March sisters reminds me of myself in her struggle to transcend the character flaws that weigh her down.

You’ve got Meg, who cares too much what others think about her at Sally Moffett’s coming out party.

Then there’s Beth, who prefers her own company to the company of crowds. (This might not seem like me, since I am an extrovert, but sometimes I have to go on a solitary nature walk or get pretty cranky.)

Amy, sadly enough, has many of my characteristics, too. She is spoiled and self-centered. Marmee says that, even during the Civil War, her youngest is more concerned about reshaping her dear little nose than in refashioning her character.


Oh, and of course there’s Jo. Watching Josephine March carry her blue writing portfolio inscribed with her initials “JM” down the bustling streets of New York City, I had to remember back when my initials were “JM” as well (Jolina Miller).

I watched Jo in her drab boarding room, scribbling away about concealed daggers and gore, and winced in understanding.

I too shunned what I knew and thought writing about my Plain heritage was beneath me. But after I received feedback on my first manuscript similar to what Professor Friedrich Bhaer gives to Jo, I had to choose if I was going to give it all up or try writing again.

Friedrich: You must write from life, from the depths of your soul!

And later . . .

Friedrich: There is nothing in this of the woman I am privileged to know.

Jo: Friedrich, this is what I write. My apologies if it fails to live up to your high standards.

Friedrich: Jo, there is more to you than this. If you have the courage to write it.

I chose to write again—really, there was no other choice. And thus, The Outcast was born.

That doesn’t mean the writing process (or life process) is always easy, and sometimes I find that the character flaws I had thought I had transcended descend again:

I care too much what others think of me.

I get too involved in daily life and don’t step outside my comfort zone.

I become frustrated and petty about details that shouldn’t matter.

Writing insecurities creep in, making me throw my velvet author cap and howl (I don’t actually have a writing cap, but admire Jo’s–hint, hint).

Thankfully, I have Professor Bhaer in the form of my patient husband, who lets me drape myself over the laptop, groan about plot/life frustrations, and then take a sip of tea and begin clacking the keys again. No worse for the wear, and rather energized by the fit.

Oh, bother. I probably should work on that drama flaw, too. . . .

And so I cling to the hope provided by Professor Bhaer when Jo laments to him her failings and he says — with a wry smile — “I think we are all rather hopelessly flawed.”

What “feel good” movies do you enjoy watching?

Here are a few more of my favorites:

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Emma
  • Singin’ In The Rain
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Meet Me In St. Louis
  • Ever After

Also, I would like your feedback about this blog. What topics would you like for me to address? I mainly delve into marriage, parenting, and writing. Is there anything else you would like to learn (how to catch an Amish man for a husband; how to make shoo-fly pie from scratch?), or one area you would like to hear more about?

Thank you!



  1. Amy L Todd says:

    Well Jolina, I would like to learn how to catch an Amish Husband!! Sounds like a great blog idea lol!! I love your blog! As always, you provide a little bit of sunshine in a crazy world!

    • That’s so sweet of you to say, girl. And I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a good looking Mennonite boy in suspenders looking for his Snow White! Xxoo

  2. Anne of Green Gables! You’ve Got Mail! However, most of yours are pretty awesome too.

    • I completely forgot about You’ve Got Mail. Definitely one of my favorites, Sarah! Hubby and I watched it two days before I gave birth, so it has a special place in my heart. Love Sleepless in Seattle, too. Meg + Tom = a great combo!

  3. LOVE this post. Jo has a place in my heart as well. So many parts of her life seemed to be like mine, wanting to write, looking after siblings, earning money for the house…
    Sleepless in Seattle is a real favorite of mine since I was widowed with small boys and fell in love with a widower who also had a son.

    Thanks for the fun memories this morning.

  4. I absolutely LOVE Little Women! I’ll watch it over and over. Another feel-good movie that I never tire of is When Harry Met Sally. It’s definitely in my top 5.

    I love your blog as-is, of course, but I admit I especially love getting those peeks into your publishing journey as a first-time author!

    • I love anything Meg Ryan, Natalia! And I will definitely be adding some more behind the scenes in the publishing realm in the future. Thanks for your sweet input!

  5. I love Little Women too! I haven’t seen it in years, but am going to add it to my Netflix queue forthwith! I lived for years in Concord, Massachusetts where the novel is set and so the locations of the movie are particularly dear to me.

    As for feel good movies, I also love You’ve Got Mail – that’s one that I’ll watch anytime I come across it on cable. And then there’s Dirty Dancing. Something about that movie still gets me every time. :)

  6. Your blog is perfect, Jolina. It’s always a joy to read, even when you make me cry.

    I’ve seen P & P so many times I can’t even begin to count ‘em. Jane Eyre is another good one!

  7. I don’t know if it’s so much a feel-good movie as a “writer feel good movie,” but I love Finding Forrester. And I really needed your post today as I tackle some unexpected and wide-ranging edits! Shoo-fly pie, huh?

    • Unexpected and wide-ranging edits!? That sounds delightful, girl! So excited for you. I love Finding Forrester, too. I think it’s a feel good movie, in its own way. I always think of Forrester when he hits the keys and tells the kid to block everything else out (it’s much more poetic than that).

  8. If it helps . . . I particularly loved THIS post, though I love many. I think I especially appreciate the “living simple” concept from you. That might be an area you play with more and expand.

    LOVED that scene in Little Women. I think many of us writers can relate to this issue of playing it too safe. It plagues all of my writing, really, for all the reasons you mentioned.

  9. Oh Jolina, Little Women is my absolute favorite. For me, it’s special because I’m the oldest of four sisters. I relate to all the silly games and stories the sisters made up, as my sisters and I did the same. I remember my “marmie” showing us a very early version of Little Women when I was a kid. Then of course I devoured the book and love this version of the movie. I always found myself relating to Meg as the oldest, but admired Jo so much. I still cannot watch the movie without crying. In fact, I’m shedding tears as I write this now. It’s a timeless story that I hope Sophie will love as much as I do (even though she won’t have little women by her side).

  10. Meet me in st louis is a favorite. I still get excited when ester dances ariund the christmasvtree w her grandfather who trades out w the man she love!!! Little women is also a fav

    • Hi, Robin! I love Meet Me in St. Louis! The scene with the grandfather is priceless; makes me teary-eyed and sentimental! Thank you for visiting!

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