I met Nancy at a Writer’s Conference in Tampa Florida, and was impressed with her entrepreneurial career prior to writing her first children’s book. She’s working on a new young adult novel – welcome to MY genre, Nancy!
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up. Where you live now. Education. Work Experience. Share some things about yourself.
I was born in Lewiston, Maine, a mill town with a population of about 36,000, although it is the second largest city in Maine. My claim to fame is that I grew up a couple of towns away from Stephen King and was born in the same hospital as Patrick Dempsey!
I graduated from Monmouth Academy and worked as an administrative assistant for 12 years before starting my first business, a print shop. I sold the printing business in 1993, then invented a product called the Pie Saver, which are foil rings that prevent pies from burning (based on my previous frustration of cutting strips of foil, only to have them fall off!) We made them in Lewiston for ten years and were in most of the Wal-Mart distribution centers. It was an exciting time, with many highs and lows – similar to Chutes and Ladders! One time I was on QVC and had to do a live demonstration on a table outdoors, next to the ocean. The wind kicked up and was blowing the foil rings all over the place. I had only 3 minutes to do the spot, (it was very nerve-wracking) but we sold out anyway.
I sold that business in 2006 and went on to create a new food called Pizzania, a hybrid of pizza and lasagna. Kids and teenagers loved it, and I felt it would be a perfect new frozen food item in supermarkets. We had some success getting it into Sysco and other distributors, however, producing small batches and delivery from Maine was cost-prohibitive and required too much capital to sustain a frozen food business.
And now I have published four children’s books, geared toward ages 3 – 10 (K – 3rd grade). My background is a bit uncommon for an author, but being an entrepreneur has given me the opportunity to wear many different hats along the way.
My husband and I (married 42 years) are now snowbirds, living in Florida during the winter months and spending summers at our camp on Tacoma Lakes in Maine. We have two children, a son and his family in Maine and a daughter and her children in Orlando, so feel blessed we spend equal time with each family, and especially the grandchildren!
What inspired you to write this book. What is the story behind this story?
I have always believed in healthy eating, especially amongst children. I’ll admit I cringe when I see a family with kids in the grocery store and their cart is piled high with junk food. I believe in the 80/20 rule, both for adults and kids — if you eat right 80% of the time you can still indulge in something sweet, or whatever treat you enjoy. For instance, I live a healthy lifestyle, but don’t take my daily ice cream away!
I started writing for my grandchildren and came up with a carrot named Chompy who gets super-power eyesight from drinking Chompy Juice, made from carrots. The kids love the exciting adventures of Chompy and his Munchy Bunch pals, especially the evil Candybar. The books also have a subtle nutritional message (carrots give super eyesight; Candybar loses a tooth from eating jelly beans, etc.). I sometimes bring a food group wheel to schools, which is very popular with the kids. They spin the dial and place the food they select into the proper food group.
I am also currently writing my first YA novel, a romance mystery based on a summer camp in Maine in 1972.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle.
Marketing! I am a natural introvert, so networking is a struggle for me. I am most comfortable in my office writing, rather than going to meetings or attending social functions. I know I am not unique to this challenge, as many writers are introverted. But I keep working at it!
What has been your biggest “aha” moment and success.
I would have to say when one of the schools made Chompy Juice for all of the kids, and they were pretending their eyes were bugging out. They were so excited about the stories and telling me how much they loved them. It was fun.
What author do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence in you and your writing.
For fiction, I like mysteries by James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham; I also love biographies such as John McCain’s “Faith of my Fathers” or Christopher Reeves’ “Nothing is Impossible,” – I find peoples’ stories fascinating!
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals.
Almost every day! I created my own reward system — if I have time to watch a favorite TV show, then I have time to write; in other words I can’t watch the show until I have written a certain number of words each day. I also think about the characters and story of my YA novel, even when I’m not writing.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I love nature and anything outdoors — fishing, camping, swimming. I go on every roller coaster with my grandson, even went sky diving for my 50th birthday! Also enjoy baking, reading and anything with the grandkids.
Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors. Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I started my writing journey two years ago and took very helpful on-line courses through “Writestorybooksforchildren.com” — They occasionally offer deeply discounted rates, so I took advantage of those rates at the time. I also find a book called “The Emotion Thesaurus” invaluable — it’s becoming dog-eared so we know it’s getting used. I also got my first book illustrated very inexpensively through a site called Fiverr.com — they offer all kinds of services starting at only $5.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org