I had so much fun today talking about all things Millie on Iowa Public Radio. Check it out!
I had so much fun today talking about all things Millie on Iowa Public Radio. Check it out!
Don’t you love reading a book that leaves you hanging at the end of a chapter? You can’t help but read on to the next chapter, and before you know it, you’ve read the entire book. Mystery writers are famous for finishing with cliffhangers.
While writing my biography of Millie Benson, I learned that another term for this practice was called a “holding point.” This is a more accurate reflection of my memories of nearly holding my breath in anticipation of whatever was going to happen next in the Nancy Drew Mystery Story I was reading at the time.
Recently I met an up-and-coming mystery writer at one of my book signings. Her name is Abby, and she is pictured here with her sister Madeline. Abby shared that the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were her favorite books. She was thrilled to be buying my biography of the original ghostwriter of the series, and getting it personally signed. Abby, if you’re reading this, I was just as thrilled.
Abby sent me a note after our meeting, asking permission to use the character names of Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson in a new mystery series she was creating. It almost broke my heart to tell her that I did not have the right to do so. Just as my book reflects all the massive permissions I had to obtain for images and text, so too would she. Simon & Schuster holds the keys to the Nancy Drew kingdom.
That was okay, Abby responded. She had a different character’s name in mind anyways.
I love that.
Life is full of holding points. We don’t know where it will take us, but we can’t wait to find out. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work out the way we hoped for. But that’s okay. We come up with a new ending to our chapters. We hold our breath, turn the page, and carry on.
Thanks Abby for the inspiration.
“At my very core I’m just a Mom who wanted to lead by example and show my two children what it means to live, to truly live…”
What you didn’t see of this interview on WTVG for the incredible and humbling honor of receiving a YWCA Milestones award was what I said prior.
When asked what it meant to me to be recognized in the Education category, I replied that I was very humbled.
For although I’m not by title an educator (and have the utmost respect for those who are, including my daughter Kyle!), I feel as though I’ve been able to teach others through all that I am blessed to do. In my role as Claire’s Day Founder, Maumee City Councilwoman, and children’s book author, I’ve been able to share my wisdom.
The wisdom that came from reading books by bereaved parents, by listening to my peers on Council, becoming involved in the world of children’s literature, and learning what it takes to get published.
Most of all, the lessons I learned from all of you along the way.
Thank you for your guidance, your knowledge, your support.
You’ve helped me truly live.
I’ve said in the past that I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. Seriously.
For me, it’s more a case of blocking the time to write.
You know what they say though. Never say never.
I’ve found myself the last few weeks luxuriating in the presence of my two children being home on break. They’ve offered a great excuse not to sit at my computer and work on my manuscript.
Reality sunk in this morning when I realized my deadline is just over a month. And I’ve got four more chapters to write. Yikes.
Yet, what did I do today? I began a project that is long overdue. I started to make progress toward moving my home office into a bigger room.
Yep, the “little room where big things happen” (according to a fourth grader during a school visit), is just about to get bigger. Way bigger.
I write, plot, dream and chair dance in what was a sewing closet when we moved in 22 years ago. It measures 9’ x 6. My new creative space is 12 x 13, or so.
It was the guest room, and before that, Claire’s room for just six months before she left us.
It is my hope that this larger room with its purple energy and spirit will lend itself to even bigger things happening.
Even better yet, I’ll not be restricted to dancing in my chair.
Get ready room, here I come.
If I were a singer, I’d love to have these ladies as my backup crew.
But I’m not.
However, as a children’s book author, I couldn’t come up with a better group to have my back than children’s librarians.
And these ladies are no exception.
I had the opportunity to meet with Mary Lou, Rhonda and Diana last week prior to my presentation at their Brook Park Library.
Over excellent Italian food from a local restaurant, we talked about our shared experiences as book lovers.
We spoke of early childhood memories of riding bikes to the bookmobile, and hoping, with all fingers crossed, that another Nancy Drew Mystery Story was on the shelves.
We chatted about our experiences of sharing our love for reading with our children, and our similar rules for library visits. Each child was allowed to borrow as many books as they could carry.
We talked about what books sat on our night stands, and which ones we couldn’t put down.
These ladies then took these connecting points and shared them with the room packed with Nancy Drew and Millie Benson fans waiting to hear my lecture.
The librarians brought me to tears with their kind words. And made me laugh with their flashlight and magnifying glass props.
For the next hour I shared all that I had discovered about Millie.
The audience ranged from middle school girls and boys, to older fans. One woman had driven 100 miles to hear my presentation, two others were always at the library and just curious.
I had a blast, and based on the applause, enthusiastic response and book sales after, I think the audience did too.
I left the library feeling like I had connected with readers of all ages. I had touched their lives, just as they had touched mine.
I sang all the way home.
And thought about my backup crew.
“Read, read, read. That’s all I can say.”
Nancy Drew offered this incredible advice in the first Nancy Drew Mystery Story, written by Carolyn Keene.
I wished I’d written that. I’m sure that for years the real Carolyn Keene, Mildred “Millie” Augustine Wirt Benson, wished readers knew that she had.
The Secret of the Old Clock was not only the first Nancy Drew Mystery, it was the first Millie wrote for Edward Stratemeyer.
Millie was the original Carolyn Keene.
And Edward was the genius behind such series as The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, and yes, Nancy Drew.
Edward created the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which served as a “book packager”, a connection between ghostwriters he would hire and publishers.
Millie wrote 23 of the first 30 of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. And then she went on to write a total of 135 books for children, often up to 13 books a year. And, while she was doing so, she was tending to her bed-ridden husband and her young daughter.
Then Millie became a reporter, working for the Toledo Times and The (Toledo) Blade for a combined 58 years.
As if that wasn’t enough, Millie obtained her private pilot’s license at the age of 62. She didn’t stop there. She applied for NASA’s Journalist in Space Program when she was in her eighties.
Millie once stated that a character she created, Penny Parker, was more Nancy Drew than Nancy Drew was.
I might suggest Millie Benson was more Nancy Drew than either of the fictional characters.
It was a fascinating journey researching and writing Millie’s biography.
Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist is available now at your favorite bookstore.
In the immortal words of Millie, “Read, read, read. That’s all I can say.”
I’m cheating here. For this week’s blog entry I’m sharing one written about me.
Thanks to Megan Smith for sharing my story with members of the Association for Library Service to Children.
If you are anything like me, you struggle to balance all of the requirements of the various roles you play.
I’m a list person. I think I have to be as a result of my dual Gemini personality. I’m fun, flighty and creative on one hand, and all business on the other. Throw in a little ADD and the lists make perfect sense.
Here’s today’s version:
Walk Luna. She’s my seven month old lab. I’ve learned that without a walk in the morning, nothing else on the list gets done.
Mow grass. Doing so is actually creative time for me. I make different patterns when I mow and come up with story ideas. This blog resulted from today’s yard work.
Call Yellow Springs Historical Society/Library/Chamber of Commerce. These are all in anticipation of my research trip to this great little town for my next book.
Call about the community garden. Check. I’m in and look forward to helping!
Respond emails. Isn’t it amazing how time consuming this can be?
Set up more school visits. I’m so looking forward to sharing my latest book, a middle-grade biography of Millie Benson with students.
Update website. I tried. I failed. Another email to send.
Work on YA manuscript. This line item has been way too low on the list. Word Count is at 20,000. I need 40K more. I’ll get there.
I’m so blessed that I’m finally achieving something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: write full-time.
As you can see, writing children’s books especially nonfiction, requires more than just writing. It involves research and being resourceful. It involves doing whatever you can as an author to promote the book, from setting up school and library visits, to book signings.
Yet, without writing every day, none of the rest would follow.
With that, I’m back to my manuscript.
I hope you find balance in all you do!
Picture taken at Mcaffee’s Knob, Roanoke, VA, after a 4.4 mile hike!
I’m stoked. I’m going to see my favorite musical artist in concert.
Idina Menzel. Tomorrow night. With friends.
I almost peed my pants just now even thinking about it.
I’ve been listening to her radio station all morning while writing, researching and cleaning.
Idina’s songs serve as the soundtrack of my life these last fifteen years. “For Good”, “Defying Gravity” and more recently, “Learning to Live Without” speak to my heart and my experiences.
I listen to music all the time while working, and am not ashamed to admit that I even dance by myself when inspired. Like just now when “Valerie” from the Glee Soundtrack came on. I dare you to try and sit still while listening to this rendition.
My office is way too small to contain all the energy that song generates, so I slid out onto the deck, my excited six-month old lab following me in excitement.
Caught up in my enthusiasm, Luna joined me, barking and running circles trying to catch her tail. Doggie dancing.
After the song finished, I sat with her for a moment on the deck, being mindful of the beautiful day.
As I rested, I saw three little white moths dancing together over our patio, which is flanked by a water garden and my vegetable garden.
The three swayed together for a bit, then one broke away and flitted over the tomato plants, off on its own. The other two floated over the water, then off and way up high into the woods behind our home.
Of course, it made me think of my three children, one dancing up in heaven for fifteen years, the other two creating their own paths here on earth.
I’m grateful for all three of them encouraging me to remember to laugh, sing, and get my groove on whenever I feel like it.
I hope that life provides you with moments where you defy gravity and get up and dance.
You can bet I will be tomorrow night.
My editor sent me a note yesterday, sharing that my latest book, a middle-grade biography of Millie Benson, was mentioned in an article in Publisher’s Weekly.
Get out of here.
That’s like my golf game garnering recognition in Golf Digest. I can only hope.
The piece was titled, “Is Children’s Nonfiction Having Its Moment?”
I hope it isn’t just a moment. I have many more real stories to share with children. Stories about amazing people who are inspiring. And stories about significant events in our history that need to be told in such a way that children get excited about them.
Hi-story. Maybe that is how we need to pronounce the word.
After all, that is what our past is all about, isn’t it?
I’m so blessed to have yet another opportunity to slip into the shoes of being a published author. I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty comfortable feeling. I could get used to this.
I’m proof that one can accomplish their dreams at any point in life.
You’ve just got to try.
So, go on and try.
Meanwhile, I’m going to keep writing. And working on my golf game.
Who knows what might happen?
Check out the full PW article here: