“Nancy Owen Nelson writes with sensitivity and wit about the ways in which the family she grew up in was both burdened and enriched by life ‘on the move.'”
– Judith Hillman Paterson, author of Sweet Mystery: A Memoir of Remembering (Farrar-Strauss Giroux, 1997, University of Alabama Press, 2001)
“Nancy has the unique ability to synthesize her intellectual, academic bent with a creative but honest assessment of her life.”
– Kate Robinson, Starstone Lit. Services
“One highly respected agent once told me that the words ‘literary criticism’ were the death knell for creative writing. I begged to differ then, and I beg to differ today. It was my reading, analysis, and teaching of creative literature which led me to my own expression of life issues in memoir.”
– Nancy Owen Nelson
I was born at Madigan Hospital, Fort Lewis, Washington, where my career Army father was stationed. I and my family, including two much older sisters, travelled throughout the United States, changing locations every two to three years. I would only much later in my life realize the impact of this life on my personality and psyche.
After my father’s retirement from his thirty years of military service, we settled in North Alabama, the home of both parents. From the beginning, my identity as a military child set me apart from the students in my classes, most of whom had lived in our town for their entire lives.
During my years in college, graduate school, and college teaching, I came to realize that I wanted to move beyond critical analysis to creative nonfiction. My editing of Private Voices, Public Lives: Women Speak on the Literary Life was a life-changer for me, making me aware of the power of the personal voice in rendering human truth. I have been unable to return to strict literary criticism since.
One highly respected agent once told me at a conference that the words “literary criticism” were the death knell for creative writing. I begged to differ, and I beg to differ today. It was my reading, analysis, and teaching of creative literature which led me to my own expression of life issues.
Since beginning my journey in personal narrative, I have come to realize the impacts of my early upbringing and of living in Washington State, Kentucky, Indiana, Alaska, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, and finally Alabama. This life style has set a rhythm for me. This rhythm is the source of my creative energy as I write and explore.