Nellie Bly not only was one of the nation’s most famous 19th Century writers but also an adventurer extraordinaire. I’ve long been fascinated with the story of her career, writing for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World in the years Pulitzer was establishing his own reputation as a champion of the First Amendment and aspiring young writers.
Toward that end he not only gave Nellie Bly her chance, but also funded many of the adventures that led to some of the day’s most widely read stories, including her “Around The World in 72 Days” trip that pitted her against Jules Verne’s “Around The World in 80 Days” fictional character Phileas Fogg.
The World’s readers hung on her every dispatch as she circumnavigated the globe – a solo young woman eclipsing Fogg’s achievement. Few know that en route she took a side trip to Amiens, France, to meet the writer who inspired her effort. Her comment on that encounter inspires my own writing.
Bly wrote: “When I met Jules Verne and asked to see his writing desk, I had expected to see a hand-carved desk filled with trinkets, but I only saw a plain, flat-topped one. It was in a small room, modest and bare, with a single latticed window. It made me realize that it isn’t the place that you write that matters; it’s what you produce that matters.”