Nancy began writing in December 2009 as a way of “reconnecting the wires,” helping to restore memory and cognitive function following twenty years of chronic Lyme disease. Her therapy immediately became a passion, and she joined both a local writers’ group and an online work-shopping community. She also works as a clinical massage therapist, helping to rehab injuries in both horses and humans. In her spare time she hikes, raises chickens, and plays with her two horses, Lucy and Louise.
Nancy was born in California, grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and now lives with her husband, Jim, in southern New Hampshire. Her story, “Lime Green and Not Deep,” was recently accepted for publication by A Cup of Comfort® books, and her novel-in-progress, Finding Sara, has been selected as a finalist in the 'Strongest Start Four Competition' on the Next Big Writer website. Current projects include a number of short stories, a novel about a young woman who hears voices in her head, and daily writing practice, experimenting with a wide range of genres and voices.
Take a look at Nancy’s winning story here, then c’mon back and join us for our chat with her.
WOW: Thanks for taking time out for us today, Nancy! Congratulations on your winning entry. How are you feeling about it all?
Nancy: It feels great. Not a very literary answer, but there you have it.
WOW: (laughs) Not a problem with your answer, I love it! Let’s talk about your entry. Your piece, ‘Note’, is a great example of writing short and tight, with plenty of sensory details. I shared in your character’s myriad emotions as I was taken back to a few recitals of my own. What inspired you to come up with your story?
Nancy: I come from a very musical family, and this was inspired by my niece, Rebekah. She's a talented kid, and she works hard. But the thing that really gets me is her courage. I remember when she tried out for some big fancy chorus in Boston - the youngest applicant - and she just plain blew them away. So, that was my starting point. The rest came to me as I wrote and edited and tried to add a bit of tension and back story.
WOW: How thrilling about your niece’s accomplishment! Have to tell you, I was kind of disappointed to reach the end of your story, I really got caught up in it! Marvelous job!
Now, you’ve mentioned admiration of your niece’s courage, but you’ve displayed some yourself. Your bio states how writing has helped your healing in the aftermath of a chronic disease. Can you tell us some more about that?
Nancy: I have chronic Lyme disease. It went undiagnosed for seventeen years, and for much of that time I was not able to read and retain more than a few sentences. The pain was horrific, the fatigue debilitating. I had hallucinations, and vivid nightmares in which I died, over and over again. I heard moths fluttering in my ears, felt constant rage, and experienced lost time. I'd get in my car and end up lord knows where with no memory of driving there and no idea how to get home.
But the worst part was the loss of self. I couldn't complete a thought, and when I opened my mouth, I was never sure what might come out – ‘word salad’, I think they call it. After five years of treatment, my mind started to clear, and I began to write as a way of "hooking the wires back up." That was last December, and I've been writing ever since.
WOW: How horrible having to endure such a situation for so long, but thankfully you eventually received treatment! You haven’t even been writing for a full year yet and your progress has been amazing! I'm loving your spirit!
Turning to your writing habits, another thing you touched on in your bio is your exploration of a variety of genres and voices through daily writing practice. How has these exercises improved your skills? What genres are your favorites?
Nancy: Well, when I started, I didn't have my own voice, so I copied the style and structure of others. It turns out I'm a pretty good chameleon and this has helped me to develop multi-faceted characters - to climb into their heads and think their thoughts. That's been a useful, although occasionally disturbing, skill.
My favorite genres these days are humor, and, surprisingly, horror. I'm not excited about zombies and vampires, but I do like creepy. I enjoy putting a bit of fear and dread into my readers, while simultaneously keeping them firmly rooted in this world. Real life is scary enough - who needs monsters?
WOW: (chuckles) I have to agree with you on that, Nancy, more than a few times life’s given me a few gray hairs! I’ve heard of some writers copying the style and structure of other writers for the reasons you’ve stated. Sounds like a useful practice to adopt.
More congratulations are due for having your story, “Lime Green and Not Deep” accepted for publication by A Cup of Comfort. And your novel-in-progress, Finding Sara, is a finalist in The Next Big Writer’s Strongest Start Four Competition. Quite an honor for both! In case our readers might not be familiar with The Next Big Writer or The Strongest Start Competition, can you fill us in on them?
Nancy: The Next Big Writer is an online work-shopping community where writers can post their work and receive comments and criticism from other writers. 'The Strongest Start is a writing competition for unfinished books and novels - only the first three chapters will be judged. The contest motivates writers to produce three outstanding opening chapters that will just plain force the reader to turn the page. The rest of the novel need not be completed, but those first three chapters have to reach out and suck you in.
WOW: Great, thanks for letting us know about these writing opportunities. For more information, you can find the links to The Next Big Writer here and The Strongest Start here. Wrapping things up, what’s one last thing you’d like to leave our readers with?
Nancy: Write fearlessly! Submit bravely!
Heck - I'd only been writing a couple months when I started submitting stories. There is no shame in rejection, but there is regret in missed opportunity. My Lyme experience taught me that, as long as you can still hear your inner voice, no matter how faint, you still have the potential for rebirth. Send your words into the world. If you touch one person, you have done something worthy, and in some small way, you live on in them.
WOW: I think that we sometimes get bogged down by the rejection, we miss the opportunities. Thanks for the reminder to keep listening to our inner voice and send our words out into the world. Wise words! Nancy, it was a real delight chatting with you, thank you for an engaging time! All the best in your writing endeavors!
Nancy: Thank you for this opportunity!
Interview by Jill Earl