Nancy Drew was my heroine as a little girl. I loved reading about the “Titian-haired” teenage detective and following along on her adventures with her cousins and friends Bess and George, and her boyfriend Ned.
For every birthday, Christmas, and any other occasion when receiving a gift was appropriate, my twin sister and I would always get Nancy Drew books from our parents and our godparents. They started at the beginning of the series and worked their way along, usually getting each of us two at a time. They’d make sure not to buy us the same ones so we could share.
This was long before the days of seatback DVD players, IPods, IPads and everything else; so, my sister and I had Nancy Drew as our car ride companion. Her adventures got me from the Chicago suburbs to a small town in downstate IL where we’d go visit our grandmother and family on my mother’s side. And, from that same suburban home to family on my dad’s side, who were in all parts of the city. Anytime I was in the car, a Nancy Drew was in my hands.
I couldn’t get enough of her. Nancy had all the qualities I wanted in myself. She was independent. She was smart. She was fearless. She was adventurous. She drove a convertible!
In the space of a couple hundred pages, she’d survive near death experiences using just her intelligence. She didn’t carry weapons. I don’t think she ever took a self-defense class. She was just a badass girl who would save the day. Every. Single. Time.
Nancy inspired my love of reading, and of writing. My first attempts at fiction, handwritten on note pads in my grandmother’s kitchen, were filled with heroines who looked and acted a lot like Nancy. I never tried to publish one of them, though they’re still in a box somewhere.
Nancy was a wealthy only child, as far from me socioeconomically and culturally as you could get. My background? Solidly middle-class Italian-Scottish-Irish family, youngest of five kids by four minutes.
But when I picked up The Secret of the Old Clock or The Message in the Hollow Oak, I became Nancy. I was behind the wheel of that convertible, strawberry blond hair flying in the breeze with my sidekicks Bess and George there beside me. I was the one following clues and solving mysteries.
Nancy showed me what it was like to dissolve into the world of a book, finding myself living the characters, feeling their emotions, experiencing their experiences. She introduced me to the magic of the written word, something that has remained a powerful influence in my life.
I’ve read that Nancy Drew was a favorite of some of my real life heroines, too, like Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Women who understand the value and power of words.
Like most people who love to write, I also love to read. I’ve expanded beyond Nancy Drew now, but I still love a good mystery, a biography, a memoir or a comedian’s take on the world. If I’m not reading? I’m writing.
Diaries and journals. Blog posts. Legal briefs. Brochures. Fiction. Nonfiction. Doesn’t matter. I love to write. She may not be the only reason for my love of reading and writing, but I give her most of the credit anyway. Thanks Nancy!