Authors, Book History, Journalism, podcast

Around the World with Nellie Bly

Hello Book Nerds!

It’s a mash-up episode this time around! After reading 80 Days Around the World, I was reminded of Nellie Bly’s race around the world in 1889.

Who was Nellie Bly? How did she change the writing world for women? And was Jules Verne’s novel nothing more than a product placement ad? Find out in Episode (Lucky Number) 13.

Behind the Scenes

After reading 80 Days Around the World for the first time recently, I had planned on doing a whole episode on the book. But as I was reading it (or listening to it since I got the audiobook from the library), I kept thinking about another book I’d read a few years ago titled Eighty Days. It recounted the true life competition of two women racing around the world as part of a newspaper stunt.

One of those women was Nellie Bly, and I thought it would be perfect to combine an 80 Days Around the World episode with Nellie’s tenacious efforts to make her name in journalism. Stick with me here. This will all come together, I promise. Or at least, I hope.

Enjoy the episode!!!

As usual, clicking the image below will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen right in your browser, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. And remember, all these listening options are completely free!!

 

Listening links…

Links mentioned in this episode…

*Note: The book link above is an affiliate link. It costs you nothing extra, but I earn a teeny tiny commission on your purchase to help with the costs of running this podcast. Thanks for your support :))

The (Rough) Transcript

(Want photos with your text? With each episode my newsletter subscribers get images plus other bonus features to help them get more out fo the show. Sign up today at https://www.subscribepage.com/bookowlpodcast)

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

So it’s episode 13 and this time we’re talking about a pioneering woman named Nellie Bly. If you’ve never heard of her, you’re probably not alone…although I think there’s a movie being made about her exploits. Anyway, she was quite the go getter in the writing world…and around the world. 

But before we start. I screwed up! In Episode 12, while I was rambling on about Agatha Christie, I missed a beat and said something like, “In 1914, World War II broke out.” Yeah, that would be World War I going on in 1914. Oops. And thanks to David Anderson for catching that flub…and teasing me about it. But I’ll let him get away with that because he’s my husband…but the next time he makes a mistake…yeah. I did add the correction to the show notes for that episode. I just hope no historians start trolling me.

Also, thank you to everyone who enjoyed the Agatha Christie episode. Special thanks to LaVelle Stumpf (aka “my mom”) and Tierney of TierneyCreates.com for leaving comments about how much you enjoyed the episode.

Alright, so Nellie Bly. Who is she and what does she have to do with Jules Verne? Well Nellie was a journalist and while she didn’t invent the notion of investigative journalism, she was one of the first ladies who showed women could be just as hard-hitting as male reporters. Now, if you’re scratching you head wondering how this relates to books, we have to take a couple steps back to the publication of Jules Verne’s story 80 Days Around the World.

Now, I had planned on doing a whole episode on 80 Days Around the World because I just read the book for the first time and I loved it. But as I was reading it (or listening to it since I got the audiobook from the library), I kept thinking about another book I’d read a few years ago titled Eighty Days. It recounted the true life competition of two women racing around the world as part of a newspaper stunt.

One of those women was Nellie Bly, and I thought it would be perfect to combine an 80 Days Around the World episode with her tenacious efforts to make her name in journalism. Stick with me here. This will all come together, I promise. Or at least, I hope.

So if you’ve never read it, 80 Days Around the World tells the tale of Phileas Fogg and his servant Passepartout going around the world in under 80 days. They do this to win a £20,000 bet Phileas has made at his club in London, and poor Passepartout is really put through his paces the entire way through the tale. And to me he is the main character of the story, although Phileas Fogg seems to get all the credit.

As many stories were done back then, the book was published in serial form with the first installment coming out on the 2nd of October 1872 and people watched the pair journey through the Suez Canal, across India (where they stop to rescue a princess), on to Singapore, San Francisco, New York, Ireland, then back to London. The final installment came out on the 21st of December…the same day as the fictional Phileas’s is set to return to London.

And you might know Jules Verne for his science-based stories like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and science and technology does play a key part in the novel because he makes use of recent developments such as the Transcontinental Railroad in the US, the linking of the Indian railways, and the opening of the Suez Canal. 

People were hooked on this story. So much so that they thought it might be real. They even placed bets on whether or not Phileas would make it in time. No word on how many won or lost those bets. And in sort of a modern twist, there is speculation that the book is basically a huge product placement ad because Verne gets very specific in naming certain trains and ships and their amenities. Hey, whatever you can do to make a buck, right.

So now let’s get back to Nellie Bly. She was born in Pittsburgh in 1864, as Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She started in on her higher education, but had to drop out after only one term because he didn’t have enough money for tuition. 

And you kind of have to admire how Elizabeth gets her first writing gig. Basically she gets angry and sends off a letter…that’s what people did back in the day before there were Twitter rants. See in 1880, she had come across an article titled “What Are Girls Good For?” which pretty much came straight out and said girls were good for nothing but keeping house and making babies.

I know, right?

So Elizabeth zips off her letter to the jerk face newspaper under the name Nellie Bly, the pseudonym she would end up writing under for the rest of her career. The editor of the newspaper ends up being so impressed with this Nellie’s eloquence and reasoning, he puts out an ad asking her to reveal herself. Eventually, she did and took a commission from him to write an article which ended up being about how divorce laws were set up to ruin a woman’s life. Mr. Editor is once again impressed and takes her on as a full time writer.

And Nellie jumps in with both feet investigating the harsh lives of factory girls. Trouble was the owners of those factories didn’t like their poor and downright dangerous working conditions exposed. They complained to the newspaper, and Nellie ended up being demoted to writing articles on fashion and gardening.

Big surprise. She didn’t like this work. 

So at this point she decides to take matters into her own hands and declares she’s going to write something no one has ever seen before. Now, keep in mind, she’s only 21 at this point, but she’s decided she’s going to be a real journalist, and sets out on the road to be a foreign correspondent reporting from Mexico. 

She gets to know the Mexican people, and ends up writing a fairly well received book about their lives. And she also joins in on a few protests against the Mexican government. This doesn’t go over well, because dictators don’t like protestors. She gets threatened with arrest, she hightails, it and when she gets back to Pittsburgh, she writes some pretty damning reports about the tyrannical Mexican government.

And despite all this, when she returns, the newspaper puts her back on the fashion and gardening articles.

Sheesh, what’s a girl got to do?

Move to New York, that’s what. In 1887, she leaves Pittsburgh, she’s completely broke, and she ends up talking her way into a job with the paper New York World. And it’s here she really gets committed to her work. Literally. 

Because it’s with the aim of revealing the horrible conditions within mental asylums she purposely gets herself committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum.

In the asylum, as expected, she discovers the utter brutality, cruelty, neglect, and just nasty living conditions. And she makes it through ten days before the New York World gets her released. She ends up writing not just an article exposing the horrors, but an entire book which stirred up such a sensation it ended up bringing reform to the asylum system.

All of which means, Nellie had just proved for the first time what girls were good for and that women were skilled enough to be true reporters, not just writers of fluff pieces or baby makers.

Now don’t worry, I haven’t gone fully off track because we’re now up to 1888 when Nellie’s reporting career meets up with 80 Days Around the World? 

So, in 1888, Nellie’s looking for an idea and suggests testing out whether Verne’s tale can actually be done. The editor sits on the idea, then in November 1889, he decides, “Yeah, that’s a a great idea.” So, with two days notice, she’s told to get packed and get her butt around the world in 80 days or less.

So, Nellie grabs nothing more than a small satchel, picture something like an old timey doctor’s bag, to hold a few toiletries and her underwear. She brings nothing to wear other than the dress she had on and her coat, and the only other item she brings is a couple hundred dollars that she’s tucked into a punch she wears around her neck. I mean, talk about traveling light!

Meanwhile over at Cosmo, yes, THE Cosmo, they’ve gotten wind of this scheme and send Elizabeth Bisland off on the same day, but in the opposite direction as Nellie (Nellie goes east as Phileas Fogg and Passepartout did in the story). 

And Bisland — and believe me, she’s fooling no one — tells everyone she’s just doing it for a personal adventure, and she’s not in any way competing with Nellie. I picture this statement being delivered with plenty of knowing eye winks. 

Nellie does follow Verne’s route as closely as possible and she even meets June Verne on the way. Although unlike Phileas and Passepartout, she does not rescue an Indian princess…such an underachiever, right? 

Anyway, while Nellie’s away, just like people did with 80 Days Around the World, the New York World organizes a betting scheme. Whoever guesses the exact minute Nellie will arrive will win a free trip to Europe. 

As she’s traveling, people are able to keep up with adventures and progress, because she’s sending cables and telegraphs at each stop to report her progress, as well as longer dispatches that are by sent mail which end up taking weeks to get to the paper. 

And she’s making really good time until she hits bad weather making the crossing to San Francisco. This puts her two days behind and risks Bisland catching up. Well Pulitzer, who I haven’t mentioned yet, but he owns the New York World is not about to risk losing this race, and so he hires a private train to whisk Nelli from the West Coast to New York where she arrives at 3:51 pm on the 25 of January 1890…72 days after taking off. At the time, that was a world record for going around the world.

No word on if anyone won that free trip to Europe, but Bisland wouldn’t arrive back to New York for four more days. 

And this newspaper stunt wasn’t the only time people have taken Verne’s book as some sort of challenge. Plenty of people have done the whirlwind tour and continue to do it today. 

For example, in 1903, James Willis Sayre of Seattle made an around the world trip in only 54 days using nothing but public transportation. In 1928, which would have been Verne’s 100th birthday, a Dutch newspaper sponsored 15-year-old Palle Huld to go around the world by train and ship. He made it in 44 days, but again, did not rescue an Indian princess. Lame. And in 1988, Michael Palin of Monty Python fame, did the an around the world journey for a television program using only ground and sea transport, no airplanes, which I’m sure Greta Thunberg would love. And he made the trip in 79 days and 7 hours, which just strikes me as being a bit theatrical.

Anyway, back to Nellie. She continues to write until, at 31, she marries the 73-year-old Robert Seaman. He owns an ironworks company that makes steel bottles for milk and for boilers and Nellie helps him run the company. But nine years after they marry he dies and Nellie fully takes over operations. 

Nellie after all her investigations into working peoples’ lives, runs the company under the idea that workers should be treated well, including being provided health benefits and safe working conditions. Revolutionary! She also, for what it’s worth, invented a new type of milk can and a stackable type of garbage can.

So, it seems like Nellie is a wonder woman. She can do anything. Well, maybe not. She ends being crap at financial matters and ends up losing the entire company. Oops.

But luckily there’s a war on…and yes, that would be World War I. I am not getting that wrong this time! She ends up reporting on the Eastern Front of Europe and becomes one of the very first journalists, and certainly the first woman, to report from there. When she returned home, Nellie reported on Woman’s suffrage and other social issues. Unfortunately, in 1922, Nellie contracts pneumonia and doesn’t survive, but her story does live on and her work did pave the way for other female journalists.

So that is your two for one episode. Nellie Bly and 80 Days Around the World. If this has you curious about Nellie’s journey, get your hands on a copy of Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman. It’s a great read and really delves into an amazing adventure story, and a pretty incredible lady.

Writing Update – I’ve just finished the second book of my Cassie Black trilogy. Again. I know, I know, I said this was done a few weeks ago, but that draft was mainly filling in some giant plot holes and basically rewriting a huge chunk of the book. This draft was to see how those new additions fit into the scheme of things and of course some of them didn’t, so I had to rearrange a few events, trickle in a few more hints and teasers to set things up for the grand finale, and to hone some of the overall language and settings. But, I think this one is really close to done and I’ve sent it off to my eagle-eyed beta readers to see what they think.

As for the podcast, there’s not much other than if you’re on my newsletter you should have gotten your Book Owl Coloring Pages in the email for Episode 12. And any new sign ups will automatically get those coloring pages, because I’m sure we could all use a way to take our minds off things lately.

Alright everyone, that is it for The Book Owl Podcast! Thanks so much for listening, if you enjoyed this, tell a friend or leave a review, and I will hoot at you next time!

The book owl podcast is a production of daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod. Audio processing by Auphonic.com

 

Book History, Journalism, podcast

Fake News – The 1835 Version

Hello Book Nerds!

Fake news is nothing new, but it used to be a lot more fun. In this episode of the podcast, we  launch ourselves into some out of this world reporting from 1835 when The New York Sun published six articles that captured the world’s overactive imagination.

It’s a story that combines Edgar Allan Poe, the astronomer John Herschel, tailless beavers, and even Batman, and I know you’re going to love it.

Behind the Scenes

I had never heard of the Great Moon Hoax until about a month ago when I was looking over a book about steampunk culture (for research for a possible future writing project). A little side story in the book told about a hoax article Edgar Allan Poe had written back in the 1840s.

Since I’d recently read something about a bit of journalism flimflam that took place in Oregon in the late 1800s/early 1900s this got me curious about other news hoaxes. And that brought me to find the Great Moon Hoax.

To say I enjoyed this story is a complete understatement. Talk about laughing out loud. After the serious tone of the last episode, it was just what I needed. Of all the episodes so far (and I know there’s only six), this was my absolute favorite to research, write, and record.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy listening!!

One more note, subscribers to The Book Owl Podcast Newsletter get a bonus treat with every episode…and this time it’s images from the Great Moon Hoax articles! You don’t want to miss these or any future goodies, so do be sure to sign up today.

Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. If you’d like to read along, a rough transcript is a bit lower down.

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

The Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

It’s episode six and this time we’re stepping away from books and wandering into the wild world of journalism and newspapers. Now, if you’ve dared to look at any social media over the past few years, you’ll have seen a certain person shouting about Fake News. Whether or not you want to believe those tirades, fake news is real. Or at least it was back in August 1835 when the country, and even the world was swept up in some truly out of this world fake news. Hold on to your spaceships because as I promised last time, this is going to be a fun episode.

But first, I just want to say if you’re enjoying this podcast you can show your support by doing nothing other than the shopping you normally do. See, the folks over at Amazon have said to The Book Owl, “If you send customers our way, we’ll give you a tiny commission.” And the Book Owl said, “Hooty-licious!” 

How it works is that for any item you buy on Amazon, I’ll get a tiny percentage to help with the costs of keeping the show running. It’s costs you nothing extra and it’s super simple. All you have to do is, the next time you think you need something from Amazon, rather than going directly to Amazon, go instead to the book owl podcast dot com slash support and head to Amazon using the link on that page and then I get my commission. This only applies to my U.S. listeners, but that page has other super affordable ways to help keep the show running.

Okay, are you ready for some fake news? Then let’s get in the way back machine and head to New York, 1835.

It’s the 25th of August and as people open up their copies of the New York Sun they’re greeted with the first of six articles about a major scientific discovery. It could revolutionize their understanding of the world, it could mean we’re not alone in the universe, or it could just mean people are really, really gullible.

So these articles became known as the Great Moon Hoax and were supposed to have been written by Dr. Andrew Grant to report on a study published in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Now, scientific journals aren’t anything you would normally pick up to read. Because laypeople couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of scientific jargon, Grant decided to write a series of articles explaining in easy to read language an amazing discovery. 

Grant, who I’ll just tell you now was a complete fabrication, was a colleague of Sir John Herschel and these articles reported on Herschel’s recent work.

Now John Herschel was a real person and he really was an astronomer among many other things. In Grant’s story, Herschel had gone to South Africa in 1834 to set up a huge telescope at a new observatory. The first article was primarily about this telescope and the set up. But the next few articles were all about what Herschel observed using this telescope.

And what did Herschel observe? Wonders upon wonders! I mean the very fact that Herschel didn’t have heart failure from the excitement should have been a clue this was a hoax. I mean the moon was amazing! First there was the landscape. A white pockmarked surface? Hell no! Sure the moon had its craters, but it also featured amethyst crystal outcroppings, flowing rivers, lush tropical vegetation, and beaches. 

What? Tell me more! Sorry, you need to buy the next paper to learn that these landscapes were nothing compared to Herschel’s other findings.

And people did. Basically, the New York Sun was running the click bait scam of the day. The paper’s sales prior to these articles had been slumping, but as people became eager to learn more about this unprecedented discovery, sales dare I say, skyrocketed.

But that’s not to say people didn’t get their money’s worth. Because the next article revealed…are you ready for this…

There was life on the moon. And you’re going to want to really pay attention here because this is good. So we start off a bit tame with some bison, then move up to unicorns (because why not), but there were also two-legged tail-less beavers (I’m not sure how these are beavers at this point, but…), and human like beings with bat wings. Yes, the moon, not Gotham City, was the original home of Batman. 

Unfortunately the moon missed out on a huge franchise opportunity by naming them man bats. Grant reported Herschel had, and I quote, “scientifically denominated them as Vespertillo homo, or man bat and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures.” 

Okay so as I said, Grant was a pseudonym, and it’s believed that  the actual author of the articles was a man named Richard Adams Locke, who honestly didn’t think people were gullible enough to believe this stuff. But as we know, people believe what they want to believe. And you couldn’t argue with the sales The Sun was seeing. So, Locke wisely kept mum about the hoax.

 The story wasn’t just being picked up in New York. It spread throughout the U.S. And across the pond to Italy, Germany, and the UK. Even a big ol’ smarty pants like Ralph Waldo Emerson was taken in. As were some scientists from Yale who, as scientists are wont to do, were eager to see the source material for Grant’s articles. 

So they traveled to New York to see first hand the study in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Trouble was, that scientific journal had ceased publication in 1833. But as I said, Locke and the Sun wanted to keep things under wraps to keep sales coming in, so they ended up shuffling these Yale guys from the printing office to another office back to the printing office until the guys couldn’t stay any longer. They returned to Yale none the wiser.

Eventually however, people began to question the articles’ veracity. And this doubt started with the very first article that one where they were talking about Herschel’s telescope set up. This was supposedly a telescope with a diameter of 24 feet and weighed 7 tons, or 6700 kilograms. This massive thing according to the article had been transported from England to South Africa, and this was the early 1800s, they had enough trouble just transporting basic cargo let alone a giant delicate piece of scientific equipment. 

The skeptics finally got their way and a month after the first article came out, The Sun revealed that all the articles were indeed just a bit of satire. In fact, Locke, remember he’s the guy who had written the articles, had a specific target he was poking fun at. 

See, astronomy was capturing people’s imagination…maybe a bit too much. In 1824 a German professor of astronomy…a professor mind you, published a paper with the lengthy title of “Discovery of Many Distinct traces of lunar inhabitants, especially one of their colossal buildings.” In the paper he reports seeing roads and cities on the moon. I think the professor was dipping into the beer stein a few too many times during the day. 

But it was papers like these that had people convinced life really did exist on the moon and this led up to speculations by Reverend Thomas Dick who asserted without any room for doubt that that moon had 4.2 billion inhabitants. Now keep in mind that Earth at that time had only around 1 billion people living on it. Locke couldn’t resist poking fun at such an idea. And poke he did.

So what was the end result of this? Did people cry foul at the Sun, did they demand the paper be shut down, did they cancel their subscriptions? Nope. They had a good laugh at themselves and The Sun’s sales stayed fairly steady.

And the hoax wasn’t just a one and done thing. Over the next few months you could buy yourself Moon Hoax Merchandise including wall paper and snuff boxes. From the time of the big reveal and throughout the rest of 19th century anything deceptive was called Moon Hoax-y. 

But what about Herschel? Was his career ruined by this hoax? Did people claim he was less credible as a scientist? Nope again. In fact, at first he was amused by the articles and kind of enjoyed the silliness of them. But as the years went on he got a little annoyed because people kept asking him about the life he’d discovered on the moon. 

The only person who seems to have been really bothered by the hoax was Edgar Allan Poe. See Locke had been his editor, and a few months prior to the hoax, Poe had written a short story about life on the moon, with some similarities to the Great Moon Hoax articles. A story Locke had edited. The story had been published in another paper but was never popular. I think Poe was mainly upset that Locke’s version of the story got more attention than his own. But a few years later, the Sun published another series of hoax articles written by Poe about a hot air ballon ride over the Atlantic. Unfortunately for Poe, these articles just didn’t grab the world like the Great Moon Hoax.

So that’s it for the moon hoax. All I can say is that the fake news of 1835 was way more entertaining than the supposed fake news of today. 

For those of you who get The Book Owl Podcast newsletter I’m going to include a few wonderful images of those moon inhabitants as part of your bonus goodies. If you aren’t already part of the flock, be sure to sign up at the book owl podcast dot com slash contact. 

If you’d like to keep listening I’ve got a quick personal update as well as a Book Owl update coming up, but if you’re done, I just want to thank you for putting me in your ears. And if you like what you’ve heard, it’d be wonderful if you told just one other person about the show.

Okay, update time.

As the Book Owl Podcast. We’ve made a new nest over on YouTube! That’s right. There’s not really video, it’s just a show graphic, but if you click play you’ll get the full podcast episode right through your computer speakers. If you’re a fan of YouTube, I’ll have the link to the channel in the show notes, or you can just search for the book owl podcast the next time you’re popping into YouTube Land. 

As for my personal update, during the month of June I’m taking a break from my Cassie Black contemporary fantasy trilogy. Starting July , I’ll be editing and rewriting like mad, so I wanted to give my brain some time off from it. In the meantime though I’ve been drafting a stand alone novel that combines fantasy with a tiny bit of sci-fi. I’m more than half way through…which means I’ve climbed the highest hill and now should have smooth sailing from here on out. Or so I hope.

Alright everyone, that is it for The Book Owl, Thanks so much for listening and I will hoot at you next time!

The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

Book History, podcast, Quirky Books

A Girl Named Anne Gets a Diary

Hello Book Nerds,

Seventy-eight years ago, a girl had her 13th birthday. And on that birthday she was given a book. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

And it’s the story of how her diary turned into a book that would resonate and inspire hope in people across the world that I’m covering in this latest episode of The Book Owl Podcast.

Behind the Scenes

So when I was digging into a podcast topic for The Book Owl Podcast a couple weeks ago, I discovered that Anne Frank had been given her infamous diary on 12 June, which matched up well with my next release date of 11 June.

At the time, I was only thinking of how well Anne’s life in the attic could provide some perspective into everyone whining about Stay Home orders.

At the time, a man named George Floyd was still alive.

At the time, protesters against hatred and racism weren’t raising their voices across the country.

By the time I’d finished recording and editing, well…you know….

I really hadn’t intended the podcast episode to be a reflection on where hatred leads, but it’s hard not to tell the story of a young girl who died for no other reason than hatred and cruelty spurred on by the people in power without thinking about what’s going on today.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this more somber and timely episode. Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options.

Be Kind and Be Safe!!

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Rough Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And while I usually try to keep things light and fun on this show, today we’re going to get a little somber with a story of a very special, very inspiring book written by a young girl who had great hopes for her future.

Now, because this is a more serious show, I’m not going to sully it with any sponsorship stuff. But I do want to say thanks to everyone who has been listening to the show! I love delving into these stories about books and libraries and stuff and it’s really humbling that you’re listening to them. 

And I want to give a ginormous amount of thank yous to Helen Crawford who mentioned the show on her blog a couple weeks ago. Helen, well, Helen makes monsters and I’m going to put a link in the show notes because you have to check her creations out. Each one of her hand knit Beasties – of which I have three – is unique, made of high-quality materials, and the amount of work and detail she puts into each one blows my mind. So do check out her site, but be warned…once you invite a Beastie into your life, things will never be the same!

Also I know a few of you over on Twitter have been sharing the podcast with others and that’s really brought a big grin to my face as have the very unexpected comments about my speaking voice. I’m going to be honest I HATE my voice and that really held me back from starting a podcast. So these compliments hav felt really weird and really unexpected and have really given me a huge boost in this endeavor. Anyway, as ever, if you like the show, I’d love it if you told just one other person about it. 

Alright enough babbling. It’s time to put a somber expression on The Book Owl’s beak. 

So, I’m releasing this episode on 11 June, but it’s actually in honor of a certain book that was given on 12 June 1942 to a girl on her 13th birthday. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later, but her words of hope still touch readers today.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

So Anne Frank was Jewish and she was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. This is right around the period when Germany was reeling from their defeat in World War I, their economy had tanked, and the Nazi’s were rising to power under the leadership of a rabble rousing, racist rogue named Adolf Hitler. So, basically Anne was born in both a really bad time and a really bad place to be Jewish. 

Because they didn’t like the vibe in Germany and because the German economy was doing so poorly, Anne’s parents, Otto and Edith, decide to move to Amsterdam. Good plan, Amsterdam’s a great city. Unfortunately, Hitler’s army shows up there in 1940 and starts throwing its weight around, including severe restrictions on Jews.

Then in early 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot gets a letter telling her she’s been recruited for work at a special camp. Yeah, just like a phishing spam email today, Otto and Edith weren’t buying this ruse. Trouble is they can’t leave the Netherlands due to those restrictions I just mentioned. 

So, Otto, again seeing what’s about to happen, begins remodeling the attic of his business on Prinsengracht. And one June day his daughter Anne picks out a journal which she is given as her birthday gift. About a month later, Otto’s family – which were himself, Edith, Margot, and Anne – and four other people enter the small attic that would be their their home for the next two years.

And during this time, Anne Frank writes in her journal. And boy does she write. She ends up filling most of the diary, then continues on filling up notebooks given to her by Margot.

At first Anne writes her diary to a range of imaginary friends, but by September she starts writing to one person who she names Kitty. Well, apparently Kitty was the cat’s meow because it’s not long after that Anne is writing solely to Kitty and dreaming of hanging out with her in Switzerland, which was neutral at the time, where they would go skating, star in a film, and probably giggle a lot over boys. 

So anyone who has been a teenage girl knows you have thoughts and feelings that you just HAVE to get out or you’ll burst. And of course you can’t tell anyone those feelings. I mean THEY wouldn’t understand, so you commit them to paper. Anne was no different and this seems to be the primary reason she started her diary. 

But we don’t really remember Anne as being full of teenage angst. We mainly remember her account of her daily life in the attic. So, what inspired this secondary work? Well, On 28 March 1944, keep in mind this is nearly two years since they entered the attic, the Dutch minister asked his people to keep a record of what was happening to them so they would be able to document what had happened during the German occupation. Anne got word of this request and set to work poring over her journals and rewriting portions of it into a new text that would be called The Secret Annex. 

During this rewrite she did plenty of self-editing and since she was the ripe old age of fifteen, gave a critical eye to that 13 year old Anne had written. She worked in missed details and left out a few details that had made it into her diary such as her crush on Peter and some very teenage comments about her mom such as, ‘my mother is in most things an example to me, but then an example of precisely how I shouldn’t do things.’ Ooh, snap.

I’m not sure exactly when Anne completed her rewrite, but in August 1944, Anne, her family, the four others in the attic, and the people who helped them were arrested during a Nazi raid of the premises.

Anne and 100s of others were crammed into train cars for the three-day journey to Auschwitz. And I know it doesn’t get all that hot in the Netherlands, but this was August and that’s a lot of bodies crammed together. It was likely incredibly hot and miserable as well as terrifying because by this point they knew exactly what happened to Jews who entered Auschwitz. 

Of the 100s of people on that train, 350 were immediately sent to the gas chamber. 

Anne and her family were strong and healthy enough not put be to death, and were instead selected for labor. Her dad went to the mens’ camp, she and her mom and sister went to the women’s camp. Sadly, even mom and daughters wouldn’t be allowed to stay together. Edith was kept at Auschwitz while Margot and Anne were sent off to Bergen Belsen in October 1944. Edith would die at Auschwitz only weeks before the camp was liberated.

At Bergen-Belsen, the cold, wet, cramped conditions of winter, and the severe lack of food left the girls susceptible to disease. The both died of typhus in February 1945. 

Of the eight people in the attic, Otto would be the only one to survive. When the camp was liberated, he weighed only 52 kilo, 114 pounds, and could barely walk.

But wait, remember those helpers who wee also arrested at the same time as the Franks? Well, they eventually were freed and two of them, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuil found Anne’s diaries. Miep held onto them hoping that one day she would be able to give them back to Anne. Instead, she gave them to Otto.

As you can imagine, Otto was torn. He wanted to read Anne’s words to bring his daughter back to life in some way, but it was also painfully hard for him to read those words. It took a while, but he did eventually read the diaries and couldn’t believe how strong her writing was. He’s quoted as saying

 ‘The Anne that appeared before me was very different from the daughter I had lost. I had had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings.’

Like any proud papa, Otto showed his daughter’s work to a few family members who ended up showing a few friends who then encouraged Otto to compile them into a formal book and publish them because these were important words that needed to be read by others.

In 1947, The Secret Annex was published. Anne would have been eighteen. Upon its publication Otto said, ‘How proud Anne would have been if she had lived to see this.” Because Apparently in March 1944, she had written “Imagine how interesting it would be if I published a novel about the Secret Annex.”

Imagine.  Because of hatred, Anne’s life ends painfully early, but because of a few brave people she was able to live long enough to tell an amazing story that would impact thousands upon thousands of lives for years to come. 

And so while this episode is about Anne Frank and her diary, I also think it’s important to remember the people who helped her and her family. I mean these people stuck their necks out to help knowing full well that they risked being arrested and sent to the concentration camps for doing so. 

So while Anne Frank’s name is famous, it’s important to remember those who did their best to keep her and her family alive. They include…

Mies Gies  Her husband Jan Gies  Victor Kugler

Johannes Kleiman  Johan Voskuijl   And his mom Bep Voskuijl

Yeah, I don’t know where to go from here. Stop hating, stop giving voice to people who spread hate and incite violence, and do your best to be tolerant and compassionate. 

As Anne said…

“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.”

Thanks for so much for listening and I promise more fun and giggles with the next episode. Since this is a longer episode than normal I’ll skip the personal update. However, I do want to say that I’d love to hear from you. If you have a favorite book or book-related topic you’d love me to explore, don’t be shy about suggesting it for a future show. The best way to get in touch is at thebookowlpodcast.com/contact.

And as ever, If you like what you’ve heard, please do subscribe to the show, and if you want to get more out of every episode, be sure to join the flock by signing up for the book owl podcast newsletter. All the links you need are in the show notes. The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

Book History, podcast

Are Bookmakers in League with the Devil?

Hey Book Nerds,

If you love reading as much as I do, you’ve probably pondered just what you’d give to keep the books coming.

Now, while selling my immortal soul for the latest bit of fiction might be going too far,  back in the day to make a book, printers did need to get in league with the devil. A printer’s devil, to be exact.

So what in the world is a printer’s devil and where did their demonic name came from?

I’d never heard of them either until one day when I was flipping through a book on the history of Portland (for future novel-writing research) and came across a picture of this little boy, maybe eight years old, working at a print shop. The caption said he was a printer’s devil and I just had to find out more about what this kid was doing and where that intriguing name came from.

The result? Well, there was no one clear answer to the name question, but I did come across several legends and lore surrounding these little fellows. You can hear the tales in this week’s episode.

Note: clicking on the image below takes you to the Book Owl’s Podfellow page where you can listen to the episode and read the transcript. If you’d like to download the episode or subscribe to the show, simply use the links just under the image.

***

Sponsored by

BOOK OWL SPECIAL: 25% Off Select Books You Need to Read (Ends May 3)