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