I thought this may be of interest to some of the MTA community. I was recently a guest on Living the Writing Life podcast. We discussed the role of mindfulness in artistic creation and the connection between art and nature. May something I’ve shared resonate. Thank you to Nancy of Living the Writing Life Podcast! – Camilla
Today we travel to Ohio, USA to chat with Nancy Christie about how being a gardener, Enid Blyton, pretend adventures in the woods, sleep walking and sleep talking, a hawk, a basement office, and a lost penguin are a part of Nancy’s current and past life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an Ohio-based author, short story writer, a someday-if-I’m-lucky novelist, speaker, professional freelance writer (since that’s how I pay my bills) blogger, gardener, used-to-be runner (now I mostly walk), baker (one of my novels-in-progress coincidentally led me to find my Hungarian grandmother’s cookbook—written in Hungarian!), reader (mostly for pleasure and usually picked from my overstocked bookshelves), former pet owner (alas, no more four-footed friends in the house) and writer—oops, I mentioned that already but it’s worth getting in there a second time.
I spend just about all my time writing: seven days a week, anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day.
When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.
And apparently, I am fond of run-on sentences. (Also exclamation points and em-dashes, but I have tried to avoid both in this interview—with limited success!)
In which genre do you write?
My short stories are literary fiction. My novels (should they ever make it to the bookstore shelves) are women’s fiction, more lighthearted but not romances. And sometimes I write personal essays, too. But mostly short stories. I just gravitate to them.
How many published books do you have?
Five books at last count: The latest is Peripheral Visions and Other Stories. The others include Traveling left of Center and Other Stories, Rut-Busting Book for Authors, Rut-Busting Book for Writers, and the one that started it all: The Gifts of Change. https://www.nancychristie.com/books/
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’d love to say there was this lightbulb moment when I said “I know—I’ll be a writer!” but the truth is that it just happened. While I was always a reader— as a child, my favorite author was Enid Blyton—I certainly never considered being an author!
I think what really started it all was simply because, ‘way back when (in other words, in the late fifties and early sixties), children didn’t watch much television but were instead encouraged to “go outside and play.” And for me and my best friend Danny, that involved a lot of “let’s pretend” type of adventures out in the woods. From there, it was a natural progression to do “let’s pretend” on paper and write stories about imaginary characters.
I wrote my first story (actually, I made it look like a book) in second grade, and it went from there. But I didn’t have my first real book published until I was 40, in 2004.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I talk in my sleep. And sometimes walk in my sleep. And often have dreams that are so real that when I wake up, I think the events I dreamed about actually occurred. One of dreams was the inspiration for my short story, “Misconnections” in Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories. I suppose that makes it a writing quirk since dreams often figure in my writing. Or inspire my writing.
What would you choose as your spirit animal and why?
A hawk but I don’t know why. However, when I see one, it does something for me—it’s like a message being sent to me. On more than one occasion, a hawk has come and perched outside my window and looked at me as if it wants me to know something. I don’t know what. Very strange indeed.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
My ideal writing space (not to be confused with my real office) would be in a room with a fireplace, French doors leading out to a large porch overlooking the sea (or a lake or a river or stream). And a coffee maker within reach. And a comfy rocker.
I have a real writing office but it’s in the basement so no view. And no fireplace. Or rocker. And the coffeemaker is upstairs. But on the other hand, it keeps me focused.
Your ideal writing space sounds amazing!!
What are you currently reading?
I have felt a need to go back to a book that is always on my nightstand: The Writer on Her Work, Vol 1. The pandemic, the feeling that time is short, that writing is what matters… I read the essays and feel part of the writing community—a very junior member compared to those in the book but a member nonetheless. And somehow it helps and keeps me going.
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
That it will happen. I never thought when I was growing up that writing was something I could do professionally. It was more a case of doing it “in-between”: in between parenting and working and whatever else I had to do. And I was so afraid I would run out of time and never be a “real writer.” I wish I could go back and hug that person I was and say “Don’t worry. It will happen.”
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
“I need directions. My navigation device stopped working but I didn’t realize I was lost until somebody handed me this sombrero so the top of my head wouldn’t get sunburned. It’s a nice one,“ he says, taking it off to look at it critically, “but what I really need is a ticket back to Antarctica. All this blubber is great for cold weather but not so much fun to carry around here where it’s hot. In the meantime, mind if I cool off in your bath tub?”
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.
Peripheral Visions and Other Stories (available online and in bookstores nationwide) is, at its core, a book about hope and resilience, about following your own path, about not giving up. In that way, it’s the polar opposite of my first collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, which is about people who can’t or won’t take charge of their lives and so end up traveling left of center down the highway of life. And that, as we know, can lead to disastrous consequences.
It was great to have you on MTA, Nancy. I really enjoyed your sense of humor. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
Blurb for Peripheral Visions and Other Stories:
What do you do when the hand that life deals you isn’t the one you wanted? In “Peripheral Visions and Other Stories,” the characters choose to play the best game they can with the cards they’ve received. For some, it’s making the most of the circumstances in which they find themselves, even if it’s not the life they planned. For others, it’s following an unconventional path—not the easiest course or the one that others would take, but the one that’s right for them. From humorous to serious, the twenty stories in this collection explore the range of human emotions—from fear, grief and regret to courage and acceptance—underpinned by the hope that life will get better if they can just hold on and stay strong.
Peripheral Visions and Other Stories won second place in the Florida Writers Association 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition.