Creative Writing degrees are worth something for sure, but, I’ve always been of the school of thought that writers, like artists, are just sort of born with it. If you’ve got it, you’ve just got it and no amount of instruction, degrees, classes, and practice will make you one if you aren’t. The wrath of English teachers and creative writing MFA’s everywhere may rain upon me but I’m serious! If you don’t have the gift of storytelling, no one can really teach you. You can improve for sure, but excel? Perhaps not. Beverly Cleary I think would agree. She often said in private interviews that she didn’t really study other children’s books, she just wrote from her own experiences. When children would write to her for tips about writing their own tales she would say that when the time came when they should write, if they indeed should, they would find their own way of writing and would “not need tips to guide them.” Beverly Cleary actually struggled in her first few years of school to learn to read. Even though she struggled, she was obsessed with reading and ended up getting a degree in Library Science from the University of Washington, Seattle. She didn’t write her first book until she was in her thirties, but she would become one of the most award-winning children’s book authors ever with her tales about the adventures of Ramona Quimby.
If Beverly Cleary pinned, I think her boards would be quite inspirational for the self-taught and the self-motivated. If you’re good at something, no lack of opportunity or educational experience can really stop you. Beverly Cleary just read, and read, and read, and then she wrote…very well might I interject…and we still can’t get enough of her.
Happy new week everyone! Mondays really can’t help being a drag, but it’s now officially Autumn and October is just a week away so that’s something to celebrate!
Have you seen the new(ish) Channing Tatum movie Side Effects? I won’t give anything away but I was intrigued–and not just by him because he isn’t in the movie all that long, and that’s all I’m gonna say about it–but when I was reading up about Nellie Bly, heralded as the world’s first (female) investigative journalist, and her primary investigative success “Ten Days in a Madhouse,” I was even more intrigued by this real-life version of that flick **the movie is a little slow but watch it! It’s got some serious twists you won’t see coming**. I stumbled across her by chance ironically right after watching Side Effects and I wondered how I’d gone so long without hearing about this pretty spectacular lady.
In 1885, Nellie Bly read a Pittsburgh newspaper article entitled “What Girls are Good For.” The article denounced female aspirations and education, and 21 year old Elizabeth Cochran wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch denouncing him for publishing such views on women. The editor was so impressed by Elizabeth’s writing voice that he eventually offered her a full-time job writing under the pen name “Nellie Bly.” Readers of the “Dispatch” weren’t as impressed as the editor was though, and Nellie ended up getting the typically “female” topics of gardening, fashion, and gossip to avoid public backlash about a female reporter reporting on topics she couldn’t possibly know anything about. Disgusted by the inane topics she was forced to write about, Nellie turned in her resignation, and, a few years later, landed a position writing for the “New York World.” Because of some investigative work she had done in Mexico between writing for the “Dispatch” and the “World,” Bly was tasked to go “undercover” into a madhouse for women. Nellie feigned insanity, convincing doctors that she should be put into the asylum on Blackwell’s Island in order to investigate the living conditions for “patients” of the hospital. What she discovered was horrifying: While the doctors and nurses ate and lived like royalty, the patients were fed off flour soaked in water, kept tied up like animals, and treated like hardened prisoners. She spent ten days in the asylum and then was rescued by agents from the “World.” Her articles written about the atrocities committed at the hospital resulted in public outcry and new laws mandating better treatment and more money allocated for women at similar institutions.
Her ideas for her articles were fascinating, bold, fearless, and completely unique. In the late 1800’s she proposed that she could travel around the world faster than Jules Verne’s main character in Around the World in Eighty Days. The “World” sponsored her trip and even started a reader guessing game as to what day she would return back to the States in order to keep interest in Bly’s voyage. Bly landed back on American soil just seventy-two days after starting her voyage. The woman was incredible, and not just because it was the 1800’s, but because she had incredible passion for her writing and for writing about things that truly mattered. She was creative, cutting edge, intelligent, and couldn’t be intimidated. If Nellie Bly pinned I’d be all over her boards because who knew what the next thing Bly would do?
I certainly must,’ said she. ‘This sensation of listlessness, weariness, stupidity, this disinclination to sit down and employ myself, this feeling of everything’s being dull and insipid about the house! I must be in love; I should be the oddest creature in the world if I were not.