Writing, for me, is like breathing air. I always wrote little stories and poems as a child.

We had lots of books in our home. My mom was a college professor, so during the summers

she'd bring home boxes of books (literally) for us to read and have our fill.

So in junior high and high school I read numerous books—especially in the summertime--as I wrote in

my diaries. This, not surprisingly, turned out to be extremely beneficial for me as a writer. For that way,

I practiced and fine-tuned my writing. Then, when I was about 19 years old, I wrote my first 'novel'.

I got as far as ten or so typed pages. The problem, I discovered, was that I did not know the direction of

the story. The ‘novel’ opened with a young girl visiting an elderly woman. The old lady reflected my

drawing of an old woman--with lots of dialogue between the crone and the girl.

I also had a grand theme. But after ten or so pages, where was the story going? I had no idea.


A decade later, instead of a diary, I kept a journal. (Girls write diaries; women keep journals.)

By writing my stories and poems and daily existence, I was doing as Virginia Woolf,

Anais Nin, and Doris Lessing had done. I wrote down story ideas, novel ideas, synopses,

chapters, essays, poems, and parts-of-novels.

Now I think what a remarkable child and teen I was--to be writing so consistently with no

visible reward (except that I wrote great, impressive essays for my classes, papers and

book reports). But at the time, writing was the norm for me. My air. It was my

clandestine life.


After I wrote my first novel, Porridge & Cucu: My Childhood, I began thinking of a larger

more ambitious story.

At the time I'd just finished reading Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook and, trying to emulate her,

I had in mind a mixture of stories and folklore and family history. I also wanted to include Panamanian

history, as Isabel Allende—a writer I had read and admired--had embodied the history of Chile in some

of her novels.

At the same time, I wanted to tell the story of a woman betrayed by her first love. I knew infidelity was a

main theme, but I wanted her to survive and get stronger. Her name was Eulalia.

I had innumerable notes--written haphazardly when ideas came to me, and so I created a ten-page synopsis.

I divided the synopsis into chapters. I tweaked the outline with a few changes. Then I began. I took a long time

writing Chapter 1--since I felt I had to cram so much into it. Theme. Foreshadowing the plot. Main characters.

Also I wanted to use gorgeous language. So I went over the first page countless times, and the entire chapter at

least a dozen times (probably more), tinkering with each word. That phase took about six weeks or more—

after which I decided to split the chapter I'd been working on into two chapters.

I also decided to go forward.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 basically flowed effortlessly: I was astonished that the characters took over their own fate.

I had done some research into Panamanian and US history—while writing the outline and synopsis, and

beforehand. But, since I love doing research, I had to stop myself and just begin writing (and do the

research intermittently, as needed).

In a sense, I’d been preparing to write The Honeyeater all of my life.


Surprisingly, I never felt overwhelmed as I wrote The Honeyeater. Instead, I felt

empowered. I was, I felt, 'in the zone'. Certain sections--to this day--make me misty-eyed.

Part of the reason could be that I was crying as I wrote them.

So The Honeyeater is very heartfelt. I loved writing it. I also love reading The Honeyeater.

And hope other readers will agree.

--Yolanda A. Reid

Listen to the audio version of this essay:


Yolanda A. Reid is the author of The Honeyeater, a contemporary women’s novel, and of

Porridge & Cucu: My Childhood, a YA novel. To read a synopsis of The Honeyeater, visit

This essay first appeared at .


Copyright © 2013 by Y. A. Reid