The Northville Review
an online literary journal
An Open Letter

Ethel Rohan

Nancy Drew, Sleuth
XXX Oak Street
River Heights, Iowa

July 14, 2009

Dear Authors:

I imagine that I am at least familiar to all of you, and beloved by some. I’m in urgent need of your help.

Despite popular opinion, my existence is insufferable. It’s not just that I’ve been at the mercy of several ghost writers down through the decades, all working under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene” — the term ghost writer makes me shudder. It’s also that in every one of their books I’ve been dredged up out of the same stale, and stereotypical pile of ashes. I want to break out of the cardboard mannequin that is me. I urge you to re-imagine and reinvent me!

There, my white glove is thrown down. Do your best.

Only, I don’t possess white gloves. I can’t abide everything genteel and virginal they symbolize. Indeed, I rattle my cage at the thought. If I were sprung free of my book covers — and they are as oppressive as any jail — I’d dye my hair titian, wear green contact lenses, gain fifteen pounds, dress like Victoria Beckham, and think like Condoleezza Rice. I’d go out into the world to find a home, career I love, and my very own Darcy. Those are things worth sleuthing for.

I’m tired of solving mysteries that don’t matter. What about the bigger questions? Is my father having sex with Hannah Gruen? If not, has he ever thought about having sex with her, or anybody else? Has Hannah Gruen ever thought about doing my dad? [Hold this space, Hannah Gruen has her own treatise coming out next week.] What about me? I don’t want to be prolific. But I do want to be a sexual being with the excitement of the hunt, the thrill of the catch, and the rewards of a meaningful relationship. My beloved friends want the same: George with another girl, and Bess with a Barack Obama lookalike. Can’t you give us that much?

There’s more I need to know. Who was my mother? What were her hopes and dreams? Why was she killed off and taken away from me? Why do bad things happen to good people? How is it that I maintain an active social, volunteer, and sleuthing schedule unhindered by strife or suffering, as well as participate in athletics and the arts, but never screw-up, run late, have a melt-down, get a speeding ticket, nor have to acquire job skills and work for a living? How do my father and I manage to remain affluent and unaffected by the Great Depression, world wars, segregation, terrorism, classism, sexism, racism, disease, religion, politics, and the destruction of our planet? That’s not just bad writing, that’s criminal.

I’m supposed to be a heroine, an icon to children and young adults everywhere. Can’t some writer offer readers and me something more than Pollyannaism and the affront that we can’t handle the truth? Give me a paying career, hybrid convertible, carpool schedule, advocacy work, compulsion to shop local and organic, obsession with recycling and composting, a love of art and literature and all things in nature. Make me and my life flawed, messy, complicated, and chaotic. Give me the unavoidable pain and strife and anxiety and fear that is reality. But let me also have joy, pleasure, peace, playfulness, love, harmony, family, friends, long walks on the beach, a belief in a higher power, and lots and lots of orgasms.

Thus far, my dog, Togo, the ability to serve others, and the Scottish blood on my mother’s side are about the best things any writer has done for me. Please. Help me.

Yours sincerely,
Nancy Drew

About the author

Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. She has a will of steel that chains her to her writing desk. Whenever she does break away the sun hurts her eyes. She's grateful to have published widely, in elimae, PANK, Wigleaf, kill author, Monkeybicycle, (So New) Necessary Fiction, and many others. Her blog is