Sometimes you have to lie ... (Lauren Bjorkman)

Our tiny room at the bow of our sailboat had very limited bookshelf space. When I was eight or nine, I read most of the books on that shelf many times. Some books I read more than others.

One in particular got an insane number of readings—Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

Harriet has cool things on her belt. Harriet is nosy. Harriet makes funny observations about people. I liked all those things about her. You have to observe people to understand the world, and that justifies two of my favorite activities: People-watching and eavesdropping.

The adults Harriet spies on are weird. Their weirdness corresponded well with my own experience with adults:

But, for me, the best part of the story was Harriet’s observations about her friends. 

We all filter our thoughts to some degree to get along in the world. We play nice so others will want to play with us. But should one do with all the inappropriate thoughts in your head? Write them down, of course.

Inappropriate thoughts made me become a writer.

When Harriet’s friends find her notebook, all hell breaks loose. That moment, and all that follows  fascinates me to this day.

Harriet says, "Sometimes you have to lie… But to yourself you must tell the truth."

The truth you tell yourself will not be the truth of someone else. Or the truth you tell yourself at a different time.

When I write, the truth is an ever-shifting target. I never get bored.


  1. "Truth is an ever-shifting target." Amen.

    1. I thought someone of your sophistication would agree.

  2. When I saw the title of your post, I knew exactly where it came from. I almost wrote about Harriet the Spy myself this month!

  3. I loved Harriet the Spy. It's a cool book to reread as an adult too. Much more subversive than I realized.


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