Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
91 YEARS OF NANCY DREW
HOW DO YOU NANCY DREW?
As we pass the 91st Anniversary of Nancy Drew, I often wonder how we're all celebrating the milestones that keep coming. Are we collectively celebrating or are we individually doing our own Nancy thing in our own Nancy way as we Sleuths often do. What do you do to celebrate Nancy Drew? What do you know about the series and how it began and those who created it? Are you interested in the history or are you more into the collecting aspect? What level of a collector are you and how do you collect? These are some questions that intrigue me as I meet new collectors and interact with many of you online.
It's often said, that if we don't learn from history we'll be doomed to repeat it. But what of Nancy Drew's intricate history over the years? What is the history there, lessons to be learned, things one should know about? What's that mysterious Stratemeyer Syndicate and who was Edward Stratemeyer?
If you think about the mystery behind Stratemeyer, his businesslike demeanor, his ability to create and put out a lot of stories through ghostwriters employed by his Stratemeyer Syndicate, even with what we know, he still has an air of mystery about him. One can picture Stratemeyer commuting to NYC to his office, stories running through his head, characters all around him in the lively streets of New York. His days at work spent churning out story ideas capturing the latest adventures in the world and capitalizing on popular themes and farming out manuscripts to publishers around such beloved characters as the Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Nancy Drew. After whipping up adventures with the stroke of a pen, off he went back to New Jersey to his storybook home and family, most unassuming in his manner and what he did and all those amazing ideas on his mind. His was certainly a storybook life. I think he's quite fascinating. To many, he's a mystery of sorts. One which you can get a sense of by picking away at the puzzle pieces throughout the Syndicate's business files at the New York Public Library. Letters, plots, manuscripts, and news clippings all tell part of the tale there.
What about his untimely death nearly two weeks after Nancy Drew debuted
in May 1930? The fate of the Syndicate in the hands of his daughters, Harriet and
Edna. It was a cliffhanger that Stratemeyer might never have imagined. One
that would engage the publishing world for over 50 more years until the
Syndicate closed its doors and sold to Simon & Schuster in 1984.
And what of the ghostwriters who have churned out over 600 Nancy Drew books since 1930? Most have vanished into the literary netherworld, without a trace. Some more infamous, we know about today. Including the original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, who I'm writing a biography about.
There have been so many real life characters involved in creating Nancy Drew and in ensuring her enduring appeal over the many generations of loyal fans. It's a very fascinating history and it's a very important history to study and not sweep under the annals of history rug.
There are websites dedicated to Nancy Drew, like mine at nancydrewsleuth.com and other similar series and Stratemeyer. Numerous essays, articles and books have been published over the years that touch on various aspects of this literary history. Many were published before the Stratemeyer Syndicate records were available for research and those records have cleared up a lot of mysteries and some misconceptions in print over the years like some of the more slanted versions of facts put out by the Syndicate in later years in an effort to keep some of its history a mystery. Who wants to think Carolyn Keene is a "dour-looking naval captain," after all, ghostwriter Walter Karig once joked. Nancy's history though, is full of some of Nancy's best mysteries waiting to be fully solved and revealed. There's missing pieces of the puzzle, real life ghosts, real life Nancy Drews, conspiracies, legal threats to "stay off the case or else," even court room drama. Nancy's journey over the last 91 years has included some real cliffhanger moments just like in a Nancy Drew mystery. Some you've read about, some you've no clue about, but that will soon change.
gist of this history, who the creators behind Nancy Drew were, and
highlights of her history along the past 91 years are subjects I focus
on in a nice overview in Nancy Drew History & Collecting Zoom talks
I've been giving - mostly for libraries - about Nancy Drew for fans who
want to learn a little more about their favorite sleuth. Growing up with
these wonderful mysteries we solved along with Nancy Drew, for some of
us, we're intrigued about the real life mysteries behind America's
favorite teenage sleuth. I like to keep that history alive and give fans
something more to think about and perhaps intrigue them enough to go
sleuth a bit and learn even more. Donating my Nancy Drew collection to
the Toledo Public Library is another way to enhance everyone's knowledge
of the history behind Nancy Drew but also to showcase another aspect of
my Zoom talks - Collecting Nancy Drew 101. With over 600 books to
collect since 1930, many of which went through numerous formats, cover
art changes, some with text changes, plus various types of editions from
library to book club to foreign editions, there's a lot to learn and I
like to give a nice overview of it all. Visiting my collection in Toledo
is a great way to visually see it all and be inspired about what you
can sleuth for out there to add to your collections. In addition to
beloved books, there's a whole other category of Nancy Drew collectibles
and paper ephemera one can collect. One can view the many hundreds of
known items at my Nancy Drew Pinterest in various collectible board categories.
However you celebrate Nancy Drew's anniversary today and whatever your connection is to this intrepid heroine, take a moment today to reflect on what you love about this character and these books. How did a fictional sleuth like Nancy Drew inspire so many of us in all walks of life even all the way on up to our lady justices on the US Supreme Court? Read a Nancy Drew book. Stop by your favorite local book haunt and sleuth for something fun to add to your collections. Join us at our Facebook group "Nancy Drew Book Fans" and meet other fans. Ultimately, it's the fans and their loyalty and love of this character and her timeless history that will keep Nancy Drew alive for generations to come.
Monday, September 07, 2020
The world is a much less richer place today, with the loss of someone beloved in our community, former Univ. of Iowa Journalism Professor, Carolyn Stewart Dyer. I am so sad to share this news. But I want to say a few things about Carolyn, who was friend and mentor in my journey to write and write about Mildred "Millie" Wirt Benson. I first became aware of Carolyn and the amazing Nancy Drew Conference that took place in Iowa City, IA back in the late 1990s. I had missed out on the 1993 conference, but I was so happy to hear about it and get Carolyn and Nancy Romalov's book, Rediscovering Nancy Drew, so I could read all about it. And I enjoyed the book and hearing all the memories from other fans who had attended.
For those of you new to the never ending series and celebration that is Nancy Drew, it was discovered back several years before the conference, that one of their famous alumni had written Nancy Drew books when staff were going through alumni files. Years before, Millie had corresponded with the university about her writing, they had been putting together a list of all her books and acquiring them for their collection. And not only was she famous for that small aspect of her life, she was also the first person to graduate with a Masters in Journalism in 1927, so they wanted to recognize her and out of that grew the idea to host a conference. It's all chronicled in Rediscovering Nancy Drew, and I recommend it highly to everyone who hasn't read it. And if you have read it, pick it up again and refresh, because it was this conference that really put Millie on the nationwide radar as having been the first Carolyn Keene. She wasn't the only one recognized there, it was all about Nancy Drew and her history and Simon & Schuster even had one of the modern "Carolyn Keenes" there for a day to talk about ghosting the series. Many aspects of Nancy Drew from fan based to academic were all touched on.
At the time, it became such a phenomenon that I don't think anyone at first in the planning, even Carolyn, realized what it would snowball into. Over 500 attended from all over, the news media covered it from far and wide and even ABC recognized Millie as their person of the week. It was overwhelming to all, but in a good way, for so many women and men had so many stories to tell about how Nancy Drew had influenced them and made their lives better. So many fans, collectors and enthusiasts came together thanks to Carolyn and Nancy and all those who worked hard to make the conference a success. We were all better for it and it's such a legacy for Carolyn, among a lifelong career in journalism, teaching and writing that Carolyn will always be remembered for.
After meeting Millie in person in 2001 when she was in her 90s still working at the Toledo Blade on a weekly column, it was inspiring. Our online discussion group, Nancy Drew Sleuths, decided that each year we'd get together and we wanted to go to Iowa the next year to see Millie's childhood home and research at the Iowa Women's Archive where Millie had donated a lot of her papers. We also wanted to meet Carolyn and Nancy and they were both so gracious to host us along with Kären Mason, curator of the archive. We held a small event at the university and several of us gave presentations, Nancy and Carolyn included. We enjoyed hearing their memories of the event and how it all came to be. It was wonderful to meet them both.
Soon after, Millie passed away and I was asked to write an OP-Ed about Millie. Carolyn stepped in to help me with it and give me advice. I always appreciated that. Over the years on numerous visits to research in Iowa and future convention events we held there, she and her partner Wendy were always there for me and always encouraging. Dinners and catching up were something I always looked forward to. Traveling around with her to Ladora and surrounding areas to research was always an adventure. It has meant a lot to me over the years. I feel such a loss today as does everyone who got to know Carolyn.
So I say let's all celebrate Carolyn's life and her
contributions to Nancy Drew by Rediscovering Nancy Drew today in some aspect of
your day! Pick up a favorite book, read Rediscovering
Nancy Drew, or reflect on what Nancy Drew means to you. I think that would
mean a lot to Carolyn.
Friday, July 10, 2020
Saturday, May 02, 2020
Yes and No. It's a tale of TWO - yes TWO t-shirts!