When I was growing up, I wanted to be one of three things—a girl detective like Nancy Drew, a hot-shot reporter like Lois Lane, or a secret spy like James Bond. When I reached high school, I realized these glamorous careers might be a little out of my reach, especially when I learned that detectives had to look at dead bodies, reporters might get shot at, and spies wouldn’t have time for scrapbooking.
But my career counselor encouraged me to take shorthand so I’d be a marketable secretary, study biology to go into nursing, or practice balancing hot coffee on a small tray while on a skateboard and become a stewardess. Back then there was no talk of girls becoming CEOs or doctors or pilots. Those were jobs for guys.
When I flunked shorthand, didn’t like biology, and got airsick just looking at an airplane, I decided to be a teacher. I liked the idea of short days, long summer vacations, and writing on the chalkboard. I also loved writing on paper, and became a writer, which helped me accomplish some of my early goals. I’m a columnist instead of an investigative reporter (safer), a detective restoring justice (fictional), and finally—a spy.
In my fifth Code Busters Club book, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB: HUNT FOR THE MISSING SPY, I went to the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, the source of all things spyish. When I arrived, I was subjected to a rigorous debriefing by the ticket taker, then got to enter the depths of spydom with my spy notebook and cellphone camera, ready to capture those telling details that make spying sound so exciting.
I took the name code name POTUS, an acronym for President of the United States (it sounded cool), filled out a dossier with fake background information (I was a Russian double agent named Natasha), and a cover (my reason for spying on random people.) Next I learned the George Washington Code (created by George during the Revolutionary War) in case I was attacked by the British (or British tourists.)
Finally, I headed for the Spy Store, my favorite place in the world. There were so many spy gadgets I wanted to buy—a lipstick camera, an overcoats with secret pocket, a pair of shoes with hidden weapons, a lapel microphone, even an Enigma machine. I learned about dead drops—secret places where spies exchange information—surveillance techniques—where spies spy on each other—and how to tap out SOS (SAVE OUR SHOES) with my feet in case I’m ever tied up, bound and gagged and left for dead, but still wearing stiletto heels.
Fake mustaches? No one will ever recognize me. Edible paper? A must for writing my grocery list. Invisible ink pen? Perfect for penning bad words that no one can read. Empty can of Spam? Clever place to hide my top-secret recipes.
Yep, writing offers me the best of all worlds. I can be whatever I want—and never have to change out of my pajamas. Even the spy motto fits the writing life: “A spy must live a life of lies.” Of course, now that I’ve told you all this, I’ll have to kill you.