Fancy & Emily

“Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.”

Reba McEntire

I was introduced to Anne of Green Gables at summer camp, at naptime, by Jennifer, the girl from San Angelo in the bunk below me. She loaned me Anne with an E, and I was instantly
captivated. I eventually read the whole series, but never anything else by L.M. Montgomery.

Until now. Until Emily. Who has me a little freaked out.

Emily with her flashes and her feelings and her poetry. I feel too seen. I thought I was special, but nope, I’m like her.

And yet I can’t pull my reading eyes away. Montgomery is clearly writing a hero’s journey, and a poet’s hero journey, no less.

While pondering the Emily-ness of it all, Reba McEntire popped up on my playlist, belting out
“Fancy,” the story of another girl who is a survivor. Fancy has no time for faeries — she’s gotta
make a living the only way a poor young woman can. Like Emily, Fancy has a lot riding on her
shoulders as she ventures forth into orphanhood.

And while Emily is learning the ways of writing rather than the ways of prostitution, she is also
attempting to fearlessly meet a dying parent’s charge. Fancy’s mother tells her, “Just be nice to
the gentlemen, Fancy, they’ll be nice to you.” Emily’s father admonishes Emily saying, “And
life has something for you—I feel it. Go forward to meet it fearlessly, dear.” Both girls fulfill a
parent’s wishes on their own. And both need someone to believe in them.

For Fancy, her mother’s charge is all she needs. But Emily needs Father Cassidy.

Father Cassidy is Irish, and when Emily visits him to see if he can help her preserve the bush
Lofty John is set on chopping down, the priest immediately sees her for who she is: an elf and a
writer. Maybe epics, maybe novels, surely poetry. Even if her current poems aren’t all that great.

“Of course, it was trash. Father Cassidy knew that well enough. All the same, for a child like this—and rhyme and rhythm were flawless—and there was one line—just one
line—‘the light of faintly golden stars’—for the sake of that line Father Cassidy suddenly said,

‘Keep on—keep writing poetry.’”

I stopped reading right there and put the book down. This is what Emily needed to hear. It’s what I needed to hear and did hear from my second-grade teacher: Keep writing.

This scene also reminded me of a midlife conversation I had with an Irish priest — not about
poetry, but about what would eventually become my journey into Catholicism. Father Enda said, “I don’t know if God is calling you to become Catholic. I don’t know if you’re being called to this parish of St. Mary’s. Just keep on seeking.”

Keep on.

This year I’m paying more attention to my poetry and also seeking whether there is a place for
my more elfish writing. It’s only February. I don’t yet know the answer. But I know this:

Keep on.

Megan Willome is a writer, editor, and author of The Joy of Poetry and Rainbow Crow, a children’s poetry book. Her day is incomplete without poetry, tea, and a walk in the dark. More writing links at her website and at Poetry for Life.