Mysteries revealed!

I had a blast participating in a discussion as the Toledo Lucas County Public Library celebrates the 90th anniversary of the release of the first Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

Tune in to discover the secret behind the first ghostwriter for the series! (Hint: I wrote a biography about her, found here:

Ode to Nancy Drew and Millie Benson…90 years later

We are destined to be forgotten within three generations, so the experts say. Our oral histories, our stories will no longer be told and will be lost over time, according to Aaron Holt of the National Archives and Records Administration.

So, all the more fascinating it is that a young, independent, and brave fictional female character remains as relevant 90 years after she dashed off in her little roadster to solve the first of many mysteries.

Yep, Nancy Drew is alive and well all these years later, and still ranks as one of the top fictional female sleuths in surveys.

But who wrote the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories?

The answer is much like one of the mysteries, filled with plot twists and turns.

Most young readers grew up believing that Carolyn Keene wrote the mysteries.

There was no Carolyn Keene.

Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym that was created by Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer created the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, and hired ghostwriters to flesh out the characters and the outlines he provided.

There is only one woman who could rightfully proclaim that she was the original ghostwriter.

Her name was Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson, known simply as Millie Benson later in life.

Toledo Times photo of Mildred Wirt, at her desk surrounded by her works on August 10, 1949. (Nancy Drew). BLADE ARCHIVE FILE PHOTO/

Millie began writing for Edward Stratemeyer in 1926, right on the heels of becoming the first person to receive a Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism. Stratemeyer appreciated her work on Ruth Fielding and Her Great Scenario, which he had hired Millie to write. In October of 1929, Stratemeyer sent Millie the outline for a new series, featuring a young female sleuth. The first book in the series was titled The Secret of the Old Clock.

Stratemeyer’s response to Millie’s work was typical of how an editor would respond to a new writer, offering both what he liked, and what he didn’t care for. He wrote, “I thought the first half of the story was a bit slow and that the characters were not sufficiently introduced.” He also offered, “but as soon as Nancy gets to New Moon Lake the story picks up very well indeed and the last eight chapters are particularly strong.”

The biggest issue though, was the vision that Stratemeyer had of the main character. “He didn’t think that I created the character of Nancy in the way that he anticipated,” Millie said.

The publisher however was more than enthused with Millie’s presentation of the character, the strong, smart, independent, and irreverent Nancy Drew. And so it was that Millie’s version of Nancy Drew remained, and continues to inspire young readers still, 90 years later.

Millie went on to write 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Millie wrote over one hundred novels for children, most under short deadlines. And, Millie wrote many of them while nursing her first husband, Asa Wirt, who suffered a series of strokes, and caring for their young daughter, Peggy.

Millie’s story reads much like a Nancy Drew Mystery Story, fraught with challenges, conflict, loss, and shady characters trying to undermine her efforts. Millie was as plucky as her character, independent to a fault, and strong in her convictions.

Here is hoping that Millie’s light will shine just as long as Nancy Drew’s does.

To purchase your copy of Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Ghostwriter and Journalist, click here:

For further information, visit

Why Do We Do the Things We Do?

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we respond to situations or events in our lives the way that we do? How is it that the smallest things can make us angry as heck, but the really big issues don’t even phase us? Or why does something we do not have any control over bring out our controlling tendencies?

Human behavior is a fascinating topic. It’s even more fascinating when one examines why teenagers do what they do. And even better yet when one gets to research and write about why teens do what they do for teens.

I got that chance when Nomad Press, an educational publisher, chose me to explore and share this topic through their Inquire and Investigate series for young adults.
Here’s how it happened and what I learned through the process.

Andi Diehn, the editor extraordinaire of Nomad, reached out to me to contribute to their series on cool career avenues for girls. Man, I wish I could have written one of those books, as I’m all about girl power. Unfortunately, the deadline for that work directly conflicted with that of another of my books, so I had to turn down the offer. But I told Andi to keep me in mind for other opportunities. In the interim, Andi came to know a bit about my personal journey.

When Andi called to offer the chance to write Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing, she suggested that she thought I would be perfect based on my experiences. Andi thought that my positive choices through what most consider the worst tragedy, the death of a child, served as a great foundation to draw upon in researching and writing the book.

I’m grateful for the vote of confidence.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve often wondered how it is possible that I made the choices I did then, and now. How is it that I managed to literally pick myself up from off the floor on that horrible day and chose to not only survive but to truly live? What physical, emotional and genetic factors came into play? How did my environment and upbringing factor into my choices? (And for this I must thank my five siblings for helping to shape my survivalist nature!)

If you wonder the same, why you do the things you do, Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing breaks down the science behind our choices. Whether you are a teen, or parent one, my book offers insights into why this is such an amazing time in emotional and physical development, lending to choices.

So what did I learn through the process?

I learned that we as human beings all carry our experiences, our triumphs and our tragedies with us every day. We make decisions and judgements based on the influence of how we were raised, our current environment, and our support system, or lack thereof.

I learned that we as human beings have the capacity to either bury ourselves in our grief and sorrows, or to apply our energies in positive ways to experience post-traumatic growth.

I learned that for such a complicated topic it is great to have experts to lean on, such as Dr. Patrick McCormick, Neurosurgeon, Toledo, Rae Yenderusiak, LPCC-S, Toledo, Dr. Katie McLaughlin, Clinical Psychologist and Professor at Harvard University, and Dr. Nancy Segal, Psychologist and Director of the Twin Studies Center.

And, I learned that if you always have wondered about something, read about it.

Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive, and Sing

Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing releases on August 15, 2020. To pre-order a copy, visit


It was an honor and pleasure to be interviewed by Debbie Gonzalez for her podcast. Debbie inspired me through her inciting questions about love, loss, and celebrating life. More so, she suggests that I was chosen for my path, an incredible thought. Here’s to all who have guided and supported me on my journey. You were chosen as well.

Check out her debcast here: