Learn to live life as it comes

When I grew up, “I’m reading” was an acceptable excuse when my mother called me to help make supper. And it was always true. I was always reading.
That’s why I didn’t know how to cook when I got married.
I voraciously read the books in our country school library. I read the little red classics that my father stashed away in an upstairs closet. I read the books in Aunt Naomi’s library when we visited.
And yet with all that reading, somehow I missed the Nancy Drew stories completely. That’s why I wasn’t familiar with the name Carolyn Keene until last week.
Keene was the author of the first Nancy Drew books. Unlike other juvenile heroines of the 1930s, Nancy was a brave, adventurous young woman—a role model at a time when women were expected to be homemakers.
Although she was beautiful and rich, Nancy had a talent for auto mechanics as well as horseback riding. The daughter of a successful attorney, she drove around in her own blue roadster and solved crimes.
And for half-a-century, Carolyn Keene was credited with beginning this popular series.
Then in 1980, when Mildred Benson was ordered to testify in a court case involving Nancy Drew’s publisher, the truth came out. There was no Carolyn Keene.
The real writer was an Iowa girl named Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson who wrote under the fictitious name of Carolyn Keene. The daughter of a doctor, young Mildred “always wanted to be a writer from the time I could walk”
As a grade school student, she wrote children’s stories and won her first writing award at age 14. By the time she left her hometown to enter university, she had sold more than 100 stories.
Benson, who died last week at the age of 96, was the author of 26 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books and, as such, she formed the character.
As a ghost writer, Benson signed away all rights and agreed not to publicly reveal her identity. And she was paid only $125 a book.
She received no profit from the 200 million Nancy Drew books that have been published in 17 languages or from the Nancy Drew board games, movies, and television shows. And for 50 years, no one even knew her name.
She could have become bitter. But instead, Benson said, “I like to live life as it comes. It’s a waste of time to dwell on the past. Look at the present. Look ahead. I think that’s what’s kept me alive.”
Benson wrote more than 130 books and hundreds of short stories. She earned a pilot’s licence at age 59 and frequently travelled to Mexico and Central America to pursue her interest in Mayan culture.
She was a reporter and a columnist in Toledo for 58 years. Last Tuesday, she had just finished her column—“Millie Benson’s Notebook”—when she became sick and was taken to the hospital.
Benson died that same day and news media around the world mourned her death.
What a vibrant, successful life Benson enjoyed because she daily chose to “live life as it comes” and refused to give in to bitterness over the past.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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