For long-time readers of The Charlotte Observer, Nancy Stancill’s name might seem familiar, for she worked as an award-winning investigative reporter and editor for the Charlotte paper for fifteen years, beginning in 1993 and ending in 2009. Although she retired from her career as a journalist, she has never stopped writing. In 2013, she published the first of two mystery novels set in Texas, where she lived before moving to Charlotte. This month, her publisher, Black Rose Writing, is releasing her memoir. Titled Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World, this fast-paced memoir explores how Nancy’s status as a six-foot tall woman has impacted her journalistic career, her relationships, and her sense of self. For more information about Tall and Nancy’s other books, please click on the following link: http://www.nancystancill.com/
One might assume that the process of writing a memoir would be a solitary endeavor, but not for Nancy. While writing Tall, she found support from former colleagues who worked with her at The Charlotte Observer, various writing teachers and mentors, and fellow writers she has met in classes and workshops. Nancy sees herself as a member of a community of writers. I recently contacted Nancy and asked her how this community of writers contributed to the writing of her memoir. Here is what she sent to me:
My biggest help in getting Tall done was a weekly class I took several times called “Under Construction.” The class is offered by Maureen Ryan Griffin each fall and spring with a few sessions in the summer. Maureen is a longtime prize-winning writing teacher who is also a gifted poet and writer. The classes usually consist of 6-8 advanced writers who are working on long-term projects. What Maureen’s class did for me was to give me deadlines. I knew that once a week I had to present a new or revised chapter to the class. My fellow classmates would offer valuable, gentle feedback. That was enormously helpful.
Since I’m a former Charlotte Observer investigative reporter and assigning editor, I use my former colleagues to get good feedback as well. I normally meet with two writers every week where we do parallel writing. That means essentially that we sit at a table and work on our own projects, stopping to talk occasionally.
I also have several excellent mentors. Poet Dannye Romine Powell has been an invaluable help on my two published novels set in Texas as well as my memoir. She has read all of them and given generous feedback. Another wonderful source has been former Observer copy editor Steve Johnston. Steve copyedited Tall and also takes care of my website. I don’t know what I would do without him.
There is plenty of help available to writers in Charlotte. I took a poetry class offered last spring by Charlotte Lit. Dannye Powell was teaching it. Charlotte Lit is also a great source for daylong seminars and for long-term programs for writers looking to start or finish novels or memoirs. The writers’ organization offers high-quality programs and will send out notices to members. Membership is low-cost and well worth it.
Tall tells the story of my life, but many people played a role in the writing of my memoir.
With the publication of Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World, Nancy joins several other Charlotte writers who have recently published memoirs. This group includes Judy Goldman, the author of Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap; Patrice Gopo, the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way; Molly Grantham, the author of The Juggle Is Real: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom; and Tommy Tomlinson, the author of The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America. Like these other Charlotte memoirists, Nancy shares a personal story, but in the process, she and her fellow memoirists contribute to the varied narratives that make up Storied Charlotte.