Eventually numbering over 500 books, this wildly popular Young Adult American Mystery Series, complete with its eponymous female fictional character sleuth, was originally created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer as a female counterpart to his earlier “Hardy Boys” series. Suffice it to say that Nancy Drew has since become a cultural icon!
Over the decades, no less than thirteen ghostwriters created the stories, most all writing under the pen name of Carolyn Keene. Years later, in a court case involving authorship brought to bear by another party, it was revealed that the original “Nancy Drew” author was a lady named Millie Benson. She had written twenty-three of the first thirty books.
What is more, as a ghostwriter, she had only been paid $125 per book. When asked if she was upset about the seeming unfairness of such a setup, given that the publisher had reaped so much financial reward and she so little by comparison, Benson, who died in 2002, is reported to have humbly replied: "Nope. It was simply my contribution to the children of America."
And what a contribution it was! The character of Nancy Drew has been cited as a formative influence by a number of prominent American women, including Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Sonia Sotomayor, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush.
When Ms. Benson was further asked why, if not for fame or fortune, she was still writing well into her nineties, she replied: "Writing is a way of life for me. It's like getting up and having breakfast."
For my part, I find it remarkable that, in the world in which we live, a person can devote nearly six decades of her life to a given occupation with little or no return other than her desire to be a blessing to others, especially children. Not just remarkable, but refreshing!
It certainly goes against the grain of everything we are taught about making our mark in this world. Just as it does about making as much money as we possibly can! Rather, what Millie Benson’s life reveals is that using one’s God-given talent to be a blessing to others is rewarding in and of itself.
In short, Ms. Benson chose to live the way she wrote her stories. She used each to reveal hidden secrets. And life’s big secret as revealed in her own life is this: using one’s God-given talent to honor Him by being a blessing to others is the greatest reward we can experience in this world!
The truth is that when we eventually come to the end of life’s trail, as we all assuredly will one day, we will likely find it far more satisfying to know that the use we have made of our time and talent in this world has led to the motivation and inspiration of others rather than to our own aggrandizement and enrichment.
Perhaps this is just what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he told the Christians at ancient Rome to honor others above self (Romans 12:10). For we are never more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than when we deny ourselves for the benefit of others! And now that you know the secret of life, make certain your own, like a well-written Nancy Drew mystery, ends well!
COMPILED FROM A NUMBER OF SOURCES:
John Seewer, "Nancy Drew Author Keeps Going at 96," The Daily Telegram (1-05-02).