Take a minute and google the words “Amelia Earhart.”
Go ahead, I’ll wait. In fact, I’ll Google right along with you.
Results may vary depending on the device you’re using and the search history Google already has stored on you in its magic algorithms. Here are the first few results from my search:
- Amelia Earhart mystery continues with claims of her grave (Fox News - 5 Hours Ago)
- Researchers think they know where Amelia Earhart died — days after a photo suggested she lived (Washington Post - 1 day ago)
- Amelia Earhart's lost evidence might include info from Kentuckians (USA Today - 56 minutes ago)
56 minutes. Amelia Earhart disappeared 80 years ago, yet USA today published an article about her less than an hour ago.
It’s not just newspapers and books. There’s currently an Amelia Earhart project gaining support in LEGO Ideas. If it reaches 10,000 supporters, it will become an official LEGO set, produced, boxed, and sold in stores. It’s more than halfway there.
I’m not sure I can fully explain the phenomenon that Amelia Earhart has become - mostly because I’m caught up in it myself.
I was driving home from work on a Friday afternoon, when I got the idea for Miss E. - a young girl in the 60s meets Amelia Earhart. A simple idea, but it gave me goosebumps. I turned the car radio off so I could focus on the idea and the exciting possibilities that went with it. I would take months to let that idea work in my imagination and turn into a story. There were questions to answer. How does she find her? What happens after she meets her? How is it that she’s still alive? And most important - where’s the plane?
As a former middle school teacher, it made perfect sense for me to write a young adult novel. And there was never any doubt in my mind that a book about Amelia Earhart would capture the interest and imagination of young readers. They all know who she is. They all know her story. They are all intrigued by the mystery.
When I visit a school, I do my best to to share parts of my book that introduce the character of Miss E. without giving away who she really is. There’s always someone who walks slowly up to the front of the room while the rest of the students are leaving. Someone who lingers, waiting while other students ask me questions like how long it takes to write a book or who drew the cover. Then they say quietly when they think no one else is close enough to hear, “I think I know who she is.” I put my hand to my ear so they can whisper just to me, and when I smile and nod, they jump with excitement, smile back, and bounce from the room with curious classmates trailing after.
One of the unexpected benefits of writing a novel that includes Amelia Earhart as a fictional seventy-year-old, was the research I did before I started writing. Had I not been researching for a book, I probably wouldn’t have dedicated the time needed to read and reread the books Earhart wrote about her life along with numerous biographies. But I’m glad I did.
Before I started reading, I thought I knew the most important thing there was to know about Amelia Earhart - she tried to fly around the world, but she didn’t quite make it. I couldn't have been more wrong, and I realized it with the turn of only a few pages. Her accomplishments in the years she lived before her disappearance outnumber those of many others who grace our history books. Competitive flying, aviation firsts, an advocate for female pilots and women’s rights, visiting faculty member at Purdue University, lecturer, visitor to the White House, friend of the First Lady . The list is long.
But what I learned goes far beyond her accomplishments. In reading her books I discovered the person that Amelia was. Somehow both shy and charismatic, independent, persistent, courageous, cool under pressure, and all with a unique and somewhat silly sense of humor. She is our American princess, dressed sometimes in a formal gown, but not so formal that it keeps her from laughing out loud, hair sometimes elegantly styled, but only until the winds aloft blow it into tousled curls.
And it’s that person who holds our interest, even after eighty years. We might be pulled in by the mystery, we might be intrigued by an old photo presented as new evidence or an expedition to a tiny Pacific island. But what continues to inspire us, is not the disappearance, but the life that Amelia Earhart lived before she left Oakland Airport on her world flight. I can only hope a small sliver of that comes through in the character I created.