Go, Nellie, Go!

“I always have a comfortable feeling that nothing is impossible if one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction.”  ~Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly
Colombo, Ceylon
November 1889

“Well, I guess the time will pass quickly seeing beauty like this.” Nellie breathed in deeply and filled her nostrils with the warm, moist ocean air. The clouds skipped and danced across the gray horizon, where water and sky seemed to meet and merge.

“You be waiting for the Oriental?” asked the porter. His crisply-starched white jacket remained unmoved while he pointed out to the sea.

Hmmm. Where, indeed, Nellie wondered to herself. “Yes, I’ll be sailing for China when the Oriental comes in.”

“Will you stay with us, Miss?” the porter asked.

“No, I just came to see the view today. Thank you, sir,” said Nellie.

I wanted to do this “quick” write when I read the nonfiction prompt two days ago at the Teachers Write blog at Kate Messner.com.  The author who designed the quick write was Nancy Castaldo, author of The Story of Seeds. It wasn’t a quick write for me, though, but I found some fascinating reading about Nellie Bly. (You can see a list below.)

I like this sweet thought from Nellie’s own words in Around the World in 72 Days when she came upon a crow eating the early morning snack left for her:

I was not then used to having toast and tea before arising, as is the custom in Ceylon, so I let the crow satisfy his appetite and leisurely take his departure without a protest. I arose earlier than was my habit, because I had a desire to see what there might be to see while I had the opportunity.

After a cool, refreshing bath, I dressed hastily and went down below. I found almost all of my friends up, some having already started out to enjoy the early morning. I regretted my generosity to the crow when I learned that breakfast was never served until nine o’clock, and as everybody endeavored to have the benefit of the cool, sweet morning, toast and tea was very sustaining.

Because of that image, I wanted to write a scene about Nellie between 6-9 a.m. using this that I wrote:

“I wish I would have chased that bird away this morning and eaten my tea and toast myself. I’m famished,” Nellie said, under her breath. “Anyway, I hope the crow enjoyed it.”

Instead, I found myself becoming a bit distracted trying to figure out the different hotels mentioned.

The first thing I read was Rosemary Brown’s account of her trip around the world in the footsteps of Nellie. She said, describing the Mount Lavinia Hotel:

It is a “castle-like building glistening in the sunlight … on a green eminence overlooking the sea.”

Then Rosemary went on to describe her experience at the Lavinia:

With its grace, gardens, history and fountains, the Mount Lavinia transports you back to the most lavish of Victorian times. I adored it and so did Nellie.

I kept reading because I didn’t know for sure that Nellie adored this particular hotel–that’s about all she said about it. There were three hotels Nellie writes about and Rosemary later visited in Colombo. Besides Mount Lavinia, there is also the Grand Oriental and Galle Face Hotels. It seems she stayed at the Grand Oriental for the five days she was in Colombo. Thus, my scene got off-track because she was at the castle-like hotel overlooking the sea, Mount Lavinia, but that’s not where she let the crow eat her toast, and I realized she wouldn’t have gone to visit before breakfast.

Hmmm…I’m afraid I would get too distracted with the facts if I was going to write narrative nonfiction!

Just an aside, I found it curious that 125 years after Nellie’s trip, Rosemary was not able to find records of Nellie’s visits at any of the Colombo hotels. I guess Nellie Bly’s trip around the world wasn’t as big a deal in Ceylon as it was for us.


  1. Grand Oriental Hotel – Colombo, Sri Lanka
  2. Galle Face Hotel
  3. Mount Lavinia Hotel Wikipedia
  4. Around the World in 72 Days by Nellie Bly
  5. Nellie Bly in the Sky by Rosemary J. Brown