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  • Writer's pictureLinda Borromeo

Hat Box Dreams: 4 Ways "Anne of Green Gables" Can Help You Achieve Your Creative Goals

Anne of Green Gables Prince Edward Island

On an early spring day, Lucy Maud Montgomery felt a chill when she opened the door to the clothes room. Although the frost had started to lift, the unfinished room in the attic made her shiver.

Vintage hatbox

She stepped inside, seeing the usual cast-offs her thrifty grandmother could not bring herself to discard. Her gaze fell on a hatbox among the jumbled items. She reached out, and then her hand paused. Raw discouragement filled her again as she remembered the rejections.

Resolutely, she lifted the lid and drew out a dog-eared stack of papers. Her eyes were drawn to the opening pages again. She'd typed her manuscript on an elderly, second-hand typewriter. All the capital letters dotting the pages were blurry and the 'w' key didn't print at all.

Ignoring the flaws, she began reading. The old thrill came back. This was her first book, and the story interested her. She read it through to the end.

Lifting her eyes, she wondered if perhaps her story might still interest others as well. She made up her mind to give her book another chance. Daringly, Maud decided to stop sending the manuscript to publishers in her native Canada. Instead, she sent it off on a new journey to a publisher in the United States.

What happened next introduced one of the world's most beloved literary character. Anne Shirley has touched the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers throughout the years.

As Maud found out, dreams are fragile things. Beginnings seem full of promise, and yet unexpected challenges may be one of the first things encountered when starting out.

Here are four things you can do to keep on track, inspired by the much-loved classic, Anne of Green Gables:


Dusting off the manuscript, L. M. Montgomery might have wondered if she should revise her opening sentence. It contained a staggering amount of words and failed to even mention the main character. As she prepared the typewritten pages to put in the mail, she decided to believe in her original creativity.

The opening sentence of Anne of Green Gables weighs in at a remarkable 148 words. L.M. Montgomery slings out commas and semicolons like a master artist flinging paint on a canvas. She has crafted a beginning that is lyrically descriptive, gives us a first glimpse of her characters' personalities, and also provides a taste of the sly humor she is known for in her stories.

Let L.M. Montgomery's extravagant creativity encourage you to follow your own path as you work toward your goal.

Anne of Green Gables


At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Lynde is sitting by her kitchen window with her usual knitting. She watches as her neighbor, Matthew Cuthbert, drives along the main road in a buggy pulled by a sorrel mare. Mrs. Lynde can't work out where he might be going, and she prides herself on finding out everything that occurs on Prince Edward Island. Her curiosity rises to a fever pitch.

Mrs. Lynde has the honor of ushering in one of the most cherished stories of all time. She is one of those amazing people who can finish all her work and still have time to watch out her window for any interesting activity. Mrs. Lynde could try the patience of a saint, but she has a tender heart underneath all her bluster. I learned something important from her when I recently reread Anne of Green Gables.

Used in the right way, curiosity leads to a new outlook and perspective. It brings excitement and the joy of learning to each day. It can bring a treasure-trove of ideas to draw on when the path to a dream becomes difficult.


Lake Louise
A picture I took on a ramble in the Pacific Northwest.

L.M. Montgomery is famous for her descriptions of natural beauty. Read any of her books or her journals, and it is easy to discover that she found inspiration from the world of her birthplace, Prince Edward Island. Even when she had to leave behind her beloved Island, she drew on her memories and visits to create a rich world in her stories. At the beginning of Anne of Green Gables, she writes:

...the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade...

You can also draw on the beauty of the world around you to build richness in your life and in all the things you create.


Matthew Cuthbert had a feeling of expectation. The mysterious trip Mrs. Lynde wondered so much about must have filled him with anticipation. He would no longer have to shoulder all the outside work on the farm as he grew older. In his shy heart, perhaps he even looked forward to sharing quiet companionship while raking hay or doing the spring planting. His sister, Marilla, had promised to give the boy they adopted a good upbringing and education.

When circumstances threw a surprise his way, he saw much more quickly than his sister how the unexpected could bring joy.

Sometimes obstacles are just that--an unpleasant block to our dreams. However, surprises can also direct us to an unexpected path that is better than what we first planned.

For Maud Montgomery, the unexpected turn in the road became a blessing. The publisher who received her dog-eared manuscript accepted it immediately. The L.C. Page Company of Boston published Anne of Green Gables in June, 1908. Maud wrote in her journal:

L. M. Montgomery

Today has been, as Anne herself would say "an epoch in my life". My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence -- my first book! Not a great book at all -- but mine, mine, mine, -- something to which I had given birth -- something which, but for me, would never have existed...*

First Edition Cover

This is the first edition cover L.M. Montgomery held in her hands and wrote about in her journal.

May we all dust off our "hat box dreams" and work to see them become real this year.

Discover more:

If you could wish yourself into any children's book, which one would you choose? Click the picture below to find a countdown of the 5 most wonderful places in children's literature for reading a treasured book:

*Main Reference:

Additional References:


This is my own "hat box dream" that came true after many years. Mystery Shores is the first story in the Islands of Mystery series. I am now working on the sequel, Mystery Fair, scheduled to be published in Autumn 2024.


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