I was at the Left Coast Crime conference in Sacramento over the weekend. I got to hang out with Allison, which was a blast, and I meant to get a picture of us for MurderSheWrites, but I forgot – all I got was this one from a panel she was on with Barry Broad. She was eloquent, by the way!
As for me, I was lucky enough to serve on a panel call “Start ‘Em Young” about books for young adults. I was in quite distinguished company: among the other authors were Bonnie Hearn Hill, Penny Warner, and Linda Joy Singleton. Between us we have dozens of middle grade and young adult books published (I was the slacker, with only my third coming out this fall) and our moderator, Marlyn Beebe, is a librarian with lots of experience with teens and kids.
Marlyn asked us about our early reading experiences (I am guessing that’s a librarian’s standard “get to know you” question, like the CEO types in my old neighborhood who would always start conversations by asking each other what they do for a living….frankly I think Marlyn’s is the much more interesting question!). To a one, the panelists listed Nancy Drew. Now, this has happened several times before at panels I’ve attended – Nancy Drew fans are thick on the ground wherever adult mystery readers convene. So many women in their 40s, 50s, 60s…and many of those younger than that…literally devoured the series as soon as they discovered it.
(I’m no exception. I would wait eagerly for the latest Nancy to be returned to our library so I could check it out – this was back when you had to check the card catalog, no computer searching – and if there were no new volumes I’d read an old one for the 2nd…or 3rd…or 4th time. I couldn’t get enough!)
Penny Warner is such a fan that she wrote a companion book called The Official Nancy Drew Handbook. It’s adorable! I bought it for my daughter when it came out, but this weekend I was thinking that it would make a great favor for a tween’s birthday party. And in fact, on her site, Penny has lots of ideas for a “girl sleuthing party!” (I was actually thinking it would be fun for us grown-up girls…perhaps with a pitcher of grown-up beverages. But I digress.)
An audience comment prompted Marlyn to talk about a dark time when the series was banned from several public libraries because it was considered badly-written trash. You should have heard the horrified gasps. I’m always struck by the idea that a book or series that reaches millions of people, that entertains and encourages and motivates them (I’ve met many women in law enforcement, not to mention a few mystery authors, who credit the series for their career choices) could be somehow considered unworthy or lesser. A pox on those who would judge…
Anyway, this discussion couldn’t have come at a more relevant time for me. I’m finishing the edits on my book that will be out next January. Titled GARDEN OF STONES, it tells the story of a Japanese-American 13-year-old girl who is sent to an internment camp. She and her mother are able to take only what they can carry, and Lucy takes a Nancy Drew book, even though she’s read it many times already, even though she secretly wonders if she is too old to still be enjoying them. Nancy is a comforting presence in a terrible time in Lucy’s life – much as she was in mine, during all those awkward growing-up years. The book Lucy takes is THE MYSTERY OF LILAC INN, one of my favorites.
How about you? Any Nancy Drew fans out there? What was your favorite book? I’ll send an Amazon $15 gift certificate to a random commenter – perhaps to get the next generation started on the series!