Dear Mata Hari, Happy Book Birthday!

Margaretha Zelle, Gerta, Lady Macleod, Mata Hari,

So many names and travels and tales surround you— so much that researching you was a joy and a journey! You are a like a great myth, with invented origins and subsequent, various interpretations.

Therefore, it makes sense there are also multiple books about you, from the one invented as your autobiography to the Paul Coelho book, to my favorite, Femme Fatale, by Pat Shipman.

Yet, today is our book birthday, May 1. This is Beltane, the halfway point between Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Magically, this is the publication date of the interactive book I wrote using your wild, rule-breaking life to inspire scenes and choices. Just like your life full of travel and risk-taking, there is now a mid-grade book in which the reader has multiple stories and choices. I wanted to give you the vibrant lives you lived (like a cat!), while also give you back the childhood that you did not exactly have. In fact, I made us 27 endings. I wrote all these silly and sad and spiritual endings, yet I refused to write the ending that was your actual death by execution. Your death by misogyny.

Did I tell you that when I was writing the book, and trying to figure out how to fill in the stories, I went to your hometown Leeuwarden in the northern Netherlands? Yes, I went to the place that you outgrew. I walked in your shoes. When I arrived, it was the last day of an exhibit about you at the Fries Museum—a modern building in the city center that did an outstanding job of putting the intricacies of your life on display: your wedding photo, your letters, a poetry scrapbook, photos, official documents from your trial, replications of your memory books that collected your press, as well as projections of an actress dancing as you that flowed on hanging fabric.

I stayed in the hotel that was your old post office. I wandered the canals and brick roads, the same ones you drove your goat-drawn carriage over. I found the Waag—a trading post from the 1600s— and was sure to put that spot in the book. I told people about you and asked about you. I found your childhood home and dad’s hat shop on Kelder street—part of it was burned in a fire. The apartment was for rent and I thought about moving in… I absolutely loved Leeuwarden! There was even a language festival taking place in the park when I strolled over on my last day. I didn’t want to leave. I really felt you with me. Bid me to return there.