May 5

Birthdays: Karl Marx (1818), Nellie Bly (1864), Leo Lionni (1910), Catherynne M. Valente (1979), Kaye Gibbons (1960), Scott Westerfeld (1963), Soren Kierkegaard (1813)

Tip: Disconnect from the internet when you’re working. No looking more than once an hour, less is better

Thought for the day: “Sometimes tossing out vast quantities of words is better than letting a whole book bleed slowly to death. Don’t give up, just start over.” – Scott Westerfeld

Jumpstart: What is one thing from your character’s life that would completely embarrass him/her in the eyes of his/her friends and/or family? What was it? Why is it an embarrassment? Does s/he keep it a secret? Who else knows?


In 1888 Nellie Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne into fact. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days’ notice, she boarded a ship and began her journey.

She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money in a bag tied around her neck.

The New York “Cosmopolitan” sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat the time of both Phileas Fogg and Bly. Bisland would travel the opposite way around the world, starting on the same day as Bly took off. Bly, however, did not learn of Bisland’s journey until reaching Hong Kong. She dismissed the cheap competition. “I would not race,” she said. “If someone else wants to do the trip in less time, that is their concern.”

To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of a free trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip. Thanks to the new telegraph, she was able to send short reports of her journey to the paper rather than waiting weeks for letters to go through.

During her travels around the world, Bly went through England, France, Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Bly traveled using steamships and the existing railroad systems, which caused occasional setbacks, particularly on the Asian leg of her race. 

As a result of rough weather on her Pacific crossing, she arrived in San Francisco on January 21, two days behind schedule. However, the newspaper owner Pulitzer hired a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 pm.

Just over seventy-two days after her departure from Hoboken, Bly was back in New York. She had circumnavigated the globe, traveling alone for almost the entire journey. Bisland was, at the time, still crossing the Atlantic, only to arrive in New York four and a half days later.

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