I don’t remember the first time I heard of Nellie Bly. I may have been around the same age as my character Kit in The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan, or I may have been a couple of years younger.
I’m pretty sure I discovered her in the biography section of my school library, a place a spent an inordinate amount of time reading books about a wide range of women – all of whom seemed like women who did things I might want to do when I grew up or had characteristics I wanted to grow in myself. I spent a lot of time with Amelia Earhart (bold), Carol Burnett (savvy and funny), Rosa Parks (brave) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who at some point decided her own regular life was worth turning into a story). I’m guessing somewhere in there I read about Nellie Bly, and her spunk, determination, and down-right gutsy nature stuck with me.
I didn’t consciously or purposely put Nellie Bly in my novel. She just showed up – right at the perfect time – and gave my character the exact thing she needed to complete her story arc. Writing – when it’s working – is often part magic. Sometimes things come to you in a flash of insight and luck, and sometimes your subconscious hands you the key you didn’t even know you needed. Either way, it’s a sort of alchemy – time travel coupled with story structure sprinkled with fairy dust from the muse. And it’s awesome. 🙂
I’m working on a new book now, so my thoughts are scattered in a thousand directions and far away from the early 1900’s and news rooms. Maybe that’s why coming across this Brain Pickings article about Nellie Bly felt a little like running into an old friend. It took me back – to writing The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan and to that younger version of me reading book after book about interesting and inspirational women.
The article is fun, plus it contains an animated documentary. Check it out. Maybe she’ll become one of your inspirations too.
“As the most famous woman journalist of her day, as an early woman industrialist, as a humanitarian… Bly kept the same formula for success: Determine Right. Decide Fast. Apply Energy. Act with Conviction. Fight to the Finish. Accept the Consequences. Move on.”