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12 X 12 Featured Author June 2016 – Nancy Churnin

12 x 12 Featured Author June 2016 – Nancy Churnin

Nancy ChurninWhat a joy and an honor to bring you another featured author from within our own 12 x 12 community – Nancy Churnin. Her picture book biography, The William Hoy Story, has released to fantastic critical reviews and even appeared as a recommendation in People magazine! We are so proud of her and grateful that she’s given her time to tell us a bit about her process writing this biography (and her writing process in general).

Nancy is offering a signed copy of The William Hoy Story to one lucky 12 x 12 member. So, get started on those June drafts today!

Please welcome Nancy!

1. What book do you wish you had written?

The one I am working on! It is wonderful to finish a book so that you can move on and work on the next. I never look at a book that has been written and wish I had written it. Instead, if the book is wonderful (and particularly if it’s wonderful), I am grateful because I think: That’s been done and done well, so I don’t need to do that. Life is short and one can’t do or write everything. The existence of a wonderful book is an absolute good that frees me to turn my attention to the stories that I feel need to be in the world. The absence of the story that needs to be in the world is a responsibility and I push forward doing my best to bring it into the world in the best possible way I can, striving always to increase its chance to survive and thrive in children’s hearts and minds.

2. Who would you like to write your biography?

I would be honored by anyone who wants to do that! All that I ask is that the person who takes on such a task tries to know and feel my heart and understand why I do what I do.

3. Tell us about your research process. i.e. How many sources? Did you get permission from your subject or his estate? How much did you have to leave out of the story? What kind of original research did you do? The William Hoy Story

The William Hoy Story sprang out of my email correspondence with Steve Sandy, a Deaf man who has made it his mission to spread William’s story and get him inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the first Deaf baseball player. The more Steve shared about William’s character and how he taught umpires and teammates signs so he could play the game he loved, I felt it could be an inspirational story for children. I also hoped that if the children got inspired they would help with this worthy cause. I asked Steve if he would help me with the research. Steve is a friend of the Hoy family and he supplied me with family photos and newspaper articles dating back from the 19th century. He also made himself available to answer every question and I had a lot of questions! One of the toughest parts of the writing journey was finding the focus of the story — the signs — and dropping all the great biographical details that slowed down that focus.

4. How did you choose the subject of your picture book biography?

After learning what William Hoy meant to Steve Sandy and the larger Deaf community, I felt compelled to bring the story of this great Deaf hero to both Deaf and hearing children. For children not to know his story felt like a wrong that had to be righted. I had to do it. Now I am engaging kids who love the story to write letters and draw pictures about why he should be in the Hall of Fame. I have been invited to present the book at the Hall of Fame on an Author Visit July 6 and I will hand deliver all those letters and drawings to the Hall of Fame when I’m there.

5. Did your story change from concept to final draft? Meaning, did you have an idea about how to tell the story initially and then have it evolve after you’d done more research?

The story changed so much! I began overwriting, getting bogged down with details, thinking I had to tell his story from birth to death. As a longtime journalist, I started out at a distance, not writing with the immediacy needed to bring children into the emotions of the story. For me, it was not that I needed more research. I needed to put the research aside and start listening to my heart to help me feel what William felt and share his journey from the inside out.

6. How did you decide what to focus on – slice of life or birth to death?

Birth to death was too dispassionate — I saved that for the back matter. Slice of life didn’t quite cut it either as there wasn’t one isolated moment that told his whole story. What I focused on was William’s journey and how the very thing that made him different — being Deaf — would turn out to be his strength. He didn’t overcome his difference, he used it to make the game better for everyone. I started out the story with his mother giving him Deaf applause when he practiced as a boy. As he sits on a baseball bench, upset after having been struck out by a pitcher taking advantage of him not hearing the umpire’s calls, he remembers his mother’s applause and it gives him the idea for the signals. At the end, his greatest triumph, the one that reminds him of his beginnings, involves the signals again.The William Hoy Story Book

7. How did you handle back matter and who decided what to put in? You, your editor, etc.?

The back matter was a relief and a pleasure to do. I had to cut out so much to keep my story focused and tight, with sentences that would make the children want to keep turning the pages. In the back matter, I could include so many biographical details I had left out, including how William lost his hearing (from meningitis at age three), how he was referred to as Dummy (I didn’t want that in the main text because it would be too much for the younger kids to process) and his life after baseball, including his marriage and children and how he lived 99 years from Abraham Lincoln to John F. Kennedy and how he is in several Halls of Fame including the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. The challenge there was to keep that focused and tight. I couldn’t put EVERYTHING in there either!

8. Did you have to deal with any conflicting information on the person’s life? If so, how did you handle it?

The most fascinating problem I had to resolve were different baseball statistics about his career from different sources. What I learned was that the reason the statistics were different is because some calculations were made on his performance in the two leagues we have today: the national league and the American league. But William was one of the few baseball players that played in FOUR leagues. Yes, there were originally four leagues and he played in all of them in a Major League career that spanned 14 years. I solved that problem by dropping numbers in favor of words that resonated more with the kids — the fact that he lead the league one year in stolen bases and that he was called the king of centerfield.

9. How did you put the emotional arc in while still keeping it 100% nonfiction?

I channeled the story as I felt it. When I worried that I had taken liberties, I ran the book by the two people I trusted most, Steve Sandy, who knows everything about William Hoy and Texas Rangers Hall of Fame announcer and all around good guy Eric Nadel who had written about William Hoy in a book for adults. When they both gave me the seal of approval, that gave me confidence.

10. How did you create kid appeal in the writing?

I started with William as a boy, practicing his throws, trying to hit an X he’d scratched on the barn wall. I wanted the kids to identify with the child William and feel that longing to play that continued as he grew to be a man.

11. What are your top tips for folks who want to write PB bios?

Write the story you feel will make a difference in the world. Tell the story that will inspire kids to believe in themselves or have courage or to reach out and lend a helping hand to someone who seems different and whose difference might be the very thing the world needs.

12. Any other words of wisdom?

Join a writing community! After my first solo efforts with The William Hoy Story flopped in the slush pile, I considered giving up. At some point, after initial form rejections, I realized that even though I was a professional journalist, I did not know what I needed to know to write a successful children’s book. Somehow, online I discovered 12 x 12 and it changed everything. I found a place where I could ask questions, where I could get tips and techniques, where I found out about online writing classes like those offered by Kristen Fulton, Mira Reisberg, Susanna Hill and challenges like Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo and Miranda Paul’s Rate Your Story. Through 12 x 12, I was able to query one agent each month. After six months of learning, learning, learning and drinking in support and encouragement, I had a breakthrough about how to revise The William Hoy Story. I sent it to the agent of the month that July. Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary responded that same day, saying she wanted to represent the book! Another round of rejections, this time personalized and regretful, and another major revision after yet another breakthrough, and Wendy McClure of Albert Whitman & Company accepted it just a day or so after receiving it. And here we are. So find your tribe, keep the faith, encourage others and don’t give up. Remember, you serve the story and your journey to bring it to children is your quest. For some that quest will be longer and more difficult than it will be for others, but you will get there if you are strong and faithful to your subject and don’t give up.

Nancy Churnin is a native New Yorker and a lover of baseball who is happy to call Dallas her home. Go Rangers! She’s the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University School of Journalism. She lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry. Between shows and deadlines, they’re raising four sweet boys and two crazy cats.

This Post Has 270 Comments
  1. Great post, Nancy Churnin! The story of William Hoy sounds inspiring. Your words of wisdom are welcome advice for all of us writers. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Darshana. It is a wonderful responsibility to dig a person’s life out of the shadows and bring it into the light for children. I wish you all luck and look forward to reading your book!

  2. Great post, Nancy! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I really connected with your statement, “I needed to put the research aside and start listening to my heart to help me feel what William felt and share his journey from the inside out.”

    1. Thanks, Sharon. Letting my heart lead was the toughest and scariest but most rewarding part for me. The longer I work on these stories, the more deeply I believe that feeling rather than thinking the story is the most important difference between a story that sits on the page and one that comes to life.

  3. Congratulations, Nancy, on your debut picture book. I love how you kept digging to figure out the focus of this story: that the thing that made William different, being deaf, was what turned out to be his strength. Children are and will be so inspired by this. You’ve also given NF writers great direction about putting the cool facts in the back matter even though it’s hard to edit them out of the story sometimes.

    1. Lori, It was so hard for me to let go of some of the wonderful anecdotes I collected! At my recent school visits, I got to share them and the kids enjoyed hearing about stories that didn’t make it in the book. Now I feel I slipped them in — between the pages!

    1. Thank you, Sharon. That means so much to me! That’s the dream that what we do makes a positive difference in the world. That’s what inspired me to start the book and keep going.

  4. I wrote this down, ‘You serve the story’. Great advice, Nancy. And also number 11, tell the story that makes a difference in the world. I’ll keep these as reminders when I lose my way with a PB bio. And huge congratulations, it looks such a wonderful book.

  5. Thank you, Nancy, for your inspiring post and for sharing the your picture book journey with us. I was particularly interested because I, too, write PB biographies. I look forward to reading your book!

    1. Thank you, Sherri. Hope you enjoy it! Some people have shorter journeys, some people have longer ones. Mine took quite a while, but every step was worth it. You take the number of steps you need to take to get you where you need to go!

  6. Thank you for a very inspiring interview . I love how you want to put an important story into the world.

    1. Ana, yes. I just want kids to know about William Hoy. And when I go to classrooms or share at bookstores and the kids tell me how inspired they are…that is EVERYTHING.

  7. I loved reading your answer to questions #1 — what a great perspective to have! Thanks for you insight on writing a NF picture book. I have an idea that may become NF (or maybe creative NF — not sure yet!), so this gave me some tips to consider. Congrats on your book — I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you, Heather, I hope you like it! Keep going with your idea. Remember that you have books to write that only you can write in only the way you can write them.

  8. Good luck on July 6, Nancy. I hope you have loads of letters and they make a big impression. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Congrats on having it published and for winning over Karen Grencik with it. I admire her.

    1. Thanks, Carol. I just received the most fantastic packet of letters today from students at Arlington Classic Academy. I’m going to start typing them up and posting them for everyone to enjoy and I will bring them all to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Karen is wonderful. I am very lucky and happy to have her on my side. She has been a tireless and kind advocate, an amazing combination!

  9. Nancy, you know I love your book–it’s beautifully done and moving–and it’s so helpful to read how you were able to revise it to strike that perfect balance of child appeal and info. I also love the way you’ve handled these questions–so thoughtfully and with such encouragement for fellow writers. Thanks for bringing William Hoy’s story to children.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. It has been my pleasure and privilege to share William’s story. I am so grateful to Steve Sandy for entrusting me with it and for all the wonderful teachers, mentors and friends who have helped me with craft and encouragement along the way. If my words help others, I am so happy to hear that. Thank you, too, for your kind words. Once the book is done it makes all the difference having friends who believe in it and help share it!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story with us – and William Hoy’s with the world. Congratulations on your success.

    1. Thank you so much Stephanie. There were many stretches of doubt on the journey, but looking back it has been a joyful one. I wish you joyful journeys with your work, too.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I recently wrote a PB biography, and it was interesting to read about your process.

    1. Anita, good luck with your PB biography. I hope I get to read it someday! Children love reading true stories about people’s lives. I am glad if anything I have written has been helpful.

    1. Thank you, Diane. I am very grateful to have the help of Karen and Wendy. None of us can do this kind of work alone. It truly takes a village and I am so appreciative of mine, including the wonderful 12 X 12 community!

  12. Thanks this was very helpful especially the paring down of all the information you had and tightening
    things up in the story. And the revisions were worth it in the end. I will be looking for the story.

    1. Thanks, Sheri. And remember, all that great stuff you leave out you can share in your school presentations. I’ve been sharing the anecdotes that didn’t make the book with kids and they have loved hearing those stories!

    1. Thanks, Johnell! Are you a member of Kristen Fulton’s WOW group on Facebook? Kristen is devoted to non-fiction. She has been a great help to me, too, on my non-fiction journey. I thank her in the acknowledgments of the book!

  13. Thank for this. I understand that U.S sign language is different to Australian Sign Language (Auslan). We use both hands but you use a cued form next to the mouth. Is that correct? I lived in a deaf house for a year and was taught by one of my most pedantic housemates! It’s meant I’ve never forgotten how to sign and to this day will sign to myself if I want to talk to myself. I also sometimes dream in sign.

    1. That’s fascinating Sue! I don’t know much about Australian Sign Language. I love that you know how to sign and even dream in sign. That’s amazing! Somehow, there may be a story in that for you…about a child who signs and dreams in signs? Just thinking…

  14. Thank you Nancy for some wonderful advice. I often get bogged down in detail as I write much that is true and non fiction. I have been writing about a pit pony in Wales ( where I am now on holiday) as my father cared for one or more as a boy back in 1904-8.It is so important, as you say, to get to “the immediacy needed to bring children into the emotions of the story.” That does require distancing oneself from all the research as I found more too. there is now a sanctuary in S. Wales for pit ponies who suffered for years underground.
    Anyway, Nancy, your book made me realize that I need to bring out the plight of the pony in a personal way.It almost seems too much for a PB but maybe I should cut it again to bear bones at the heart of the story. Thank you so much.

    1. Jane, I wish you the best of luck with your story. If it makes you feel better I have lost count of how many times I rewrote this story before I got it to where it needed to be! I do feel that my breakthroughs came when I put the notes aside and tried to feel Hoy’s journey from the inside. That’s when it began to flow. To bring the pony to life for kids you have to feel what the pony is feeling Then you can convey those feelings to the children. I hope that makes some sense! I hope you have a good critique group. Mine was incredibly helpful to me in letting me know when I was (and wasn’t) on the right path.

  15. Congratulations on your book, Nancy, and thank you for sharing your personal journey. It’s inspiring for us.

    1. Thanks, MD. I am so grateful to all of those who shared their journey with me. I’m glad if I can pay it forward. I have no doubt you’ll be doing that, too, before you know it!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story with us Nancy. It is very inspiring. I especially LOVE your response to the first question. We DO have a responsibility to the stories we tell and we should be grateful when it’s been done well for it is a gift to all readers. Wise words indeed!

    1. Karla, it’s true in books and true in life! No one can do all the wonderful things that need doing just as no one can write all the wonderful books that need to be written. I’m glad there’s someone else out there who can do a triple somersault, especially as I’m afraid of heights! Meanwhile I keep writing the stories only I can write just as I encourage you to keep sharing your vision in your unique voice.

    1. Chris, I am so happy to be at this point of my journey when I can give back a little. I am so grateful to all the people who were so generous to me with their stories and advice when I did not know how well this journey would end. You will be there, too!

  17. Wow – Nancy … I loved reading your interview. Your heart and soul came through loud and clear. I’m going to request your book from the library right now. My son just started Little League and I’m sure he’d be fascinated by this great baseball hero. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks so much, Jen! If your son is so inspired, I would love to get his review — and if he supports Hoy for the Hall, I would love his letter to the National Baseball Hall of Fame! I am going to bring all the letters to the Hall with me on July 6.

    1. Kristi, I am so excited about the WOW retreat. I am looking forward to meeting you in person and seeing all the other amazing people I only know online as well as those I haven’t met at all yet. All that plus a week just to focus on children’s books — what bliss!

  18. Thank you, Nancy, for the inspiration to keep going. I have your book and it is one of my “go to” books. Congratulations! Cheering you on to get William inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    1. Thank you so much, Charlotte! I was at a signing today and I was so happy to see the kids’ excitement about the story. I brought paper and markers and collected lots of new letters. Excited to report the pile is growing. Thanks for your good wishes!

  19. I really enjoyed your book, Nancy. I read it to my five kids and they all enjoyed it, ages 5-14! You did a wonderful job of engaging all ages! Loved learning more about your journey.

    1. Thank you so much, Kirstine! Picturing you sharing this with your kids brings me so much joy! If any of them are inclined, I would love their reviews or letters on Hoy’s behalf to take to the Hall! Wishing you all good things on your journey, too.

  20. This was a great interview, Nancy – I loved learning more about the journey this story took – and I’m so impressed with your efforts to stay with it through so many revisions and ah-ha! moments! COngratualtions, and thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thank you, Katey! One of the most important things I learned from this journey and from William Hoy himself is that if you don’t give up the journey continues through every rejection, every setback. Continuing your journey is your best chance of getting where you need to go.

    1. Thanks, Jilanne. It was truly a labor of love and one I couldn’t have done alone. I am so grateful to all my terrific teachers, mentors, friends, to Steve Sandy for all he taught me about Hoy and the Deaf community and to baseball great Eric Nadel who helped me make sure I had the baseball details correct. Such a pleasure to share this with you and the great 12 X 12 community.

  21. Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful story and your encouragement to not give up. I’m going through a discouraging time right now, and posts like yours are vital reminders to keep on keepin’ on. I look forward to reading The William Hoy Story. Thanks, again.

    1. Jill, DO NOT GIVE UP. I had so many rejections in the beginning I did get discouraged more than once. And that’s where Hoy helped me. I kept thinking he had so many opportunities to give up. In fact many people probably thought he was crazy trying to be a baseball player when he was so small, trying to succeed in a hearing world when he was Deaf. And then I thought if he didn’t give up, how could I give up? And then I realized this wasn’t about me anyway, it was about serving William Hoy. He deserved to be known and remembered. If I wasn’t doing a good enough job telling the story then I would keep working on it just like he kept practicing until he could hit what he wanted to hit, catch what he wanted to catch. Jill, think about the story you want to tell. If you truly believe in the story, you won’t let anything stop you until you get it where it needs to be. Just keep going and you will get there.

  22. I just happen to have your book in a new stack from the library. It’s beautifully written. Thanks for sharing how you handled all the information. I’m glad you get to share some in the back matter and even more during school visits. I love it when a picture book inspires readers to want to learn even more.

    1. Thank you, Mary! There were moments in the journey where I agonized about things I thought I couldn’t bear to cut! It’s been so lovely to share those anecdotes with kids as special extras during my readings and visits. While picture books are short and have to be more concise than other books, I have no doubt that writers of longer books have to also do a lot of tossing and pruning and stashing away for another story if they want to make their stories sing.

  23. Great story of triumph — yours and William’s. Love your recommendation to “tell the story that will inspire kids.” Thanks Nancy.

    1. Thanks, Val! I truly identified with William on this journey. He helped me persevere! Best of luck with telling your stories. Kids (and all of us) benefit from inspiration!

  24. All your answers were meaningful to me – research, focus, emotional arc, rejection journey – because I want to write an inspirational, nonfiction picture book. I have a person I want to write about, but my focus keeps changing and the family may not be open to talking with me. I love, love, love your tenacity, spirit and drive. Your interview was one of the most valuable author articles I’ve read in weeks, no months. You inspire me, Nancy.

    1. Thank you, Melanie. I wish you all the luck in the world in pursuing your story. It took me a long time to find my focus — the signals — although now it seems so obvious, looking back! Things always seem simpler looking back. You will get there, Melanie. Just don’t give up!

  25. Your passion and persistence shines through and is an inspiration to keep working. I love your answer to the first question: we can’t do everything, a well-written book frees you to move on to the next project, and we all have a responsibility to do that. Thank you for this inspirational interview.

    1. Thank you, Lily! That’s the secret to what makes this writing community so wonderful. We’re not in competition with each other. We support each other. Each success is everyone’s success.

  26. This was wonderful, thanks so much for all your answers, Nancy! I can’t wait to read your book. A few years back, I did a little personal drawing project to draw every member of (my favorite team) the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame, and in doing so I got to read about and draw Hoy (you can see it here: An incredible player who led an incredible life, for sure.

    I also, in the course of that project, came across another old timey ballplayer with what I thought was a fascinating story with PB potential, so I really appreciate all the in-depth answers about your research process, developing a nonfiction arc, etc. This is a re-readable interview, for sure.

    1. Elizabeth, I love your drawing! Do I have permission to share it with my friend Steve Sandy, who was my primary source for this book, and members of the Hoy Committee? There is a Hoy newsletter out now (it’s free and would be happy to get you on the email list for it) and I bet they would LOVE to reprint your drawing and words about Hoy! So glad you found the interview helpful. Look forward to YOUR baseball story!

  27. Congrats on William’s story! Wish it was out when I was teaching and had hearing impaired children in my classroom. Your admonitions to not give up were timely. Thanks for your heartfelt words.

    1. Thank you, Karen! It is my hope and dream that it will inspire kids who are Deaf and hard of hearing and build a bridge between them and hearing kids, too. The admonitions to not give up come from the heart — there were many times in the journey I was tempted to give up, but I couldn’t give up because Hoy didn’t give up and also I felt I owed it to him. I hope he will inspire you to persevere in your journeys, too.

  28. What inspiring journeys, both yours and William’s! Thank you so much for not giving up – and for encouraging us to write on, too.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. Not giving up is the key to everything. As long as you stay on the journey, there is no failure, there are just challenges to overcome along the way.

  29. So many good things here! I share your outlook on wonderful books in the world, they are truly and absolutely good. I also agree that back matter is a relief. It gives an author room to breath and not be confined to regurgitating facts. I can’t wait to read the book!

    1. Thanks so much, Jaclyn! I hope you enjoy it. It was a labor of love. And it was truly liberating to know I had the back matter for all that extra “stuff” I originally wanted to smash into my text like an overstuffed suitcase! I wish you much joy in your book journey, too.

    1. Lauren, you are so right! I learned so much about William, about writing and about myself. I am so grateful to William and everyone who helped me and shared this journey with me.

  30. “The absence of the story that needs to be in the world is a responsibility…”

    You had me hooked from the beginning with your philosophy. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey.

    1. Thank you, Marg. It has been so amazing to go to schools and libraries and be thanked by kids and adults alike for introducing them to this great person they’d never heard of before. It is my dream to keep bringing great subjects and readers together, to build friendships and bridges between people across time and space.

  31. That was a wonderful story of your journey in writing your book. Gives me inspiration of not giving up, but keep going, believing in the story, which is on your heart.

    I want to know, how long was your process from idea to publishing?

    Thank you. I plan to purchase this book for my grandson.

    1. Dear Diane, I have lost track of how long it took me from idea to publication the way I have forgotten the pain of childbirth but I can tell you this: YEARS!!! the first few years I was going blindly on my own like someone wandering in the desert without a compass. The pace escalated once I found 12X12 and started taking classes and joining critique groups. I do so hope your grandson likes William Hoy and I would be thrilled to answer any questions he may have about him!

  32. Thank you so much for telling us about your journey. It gives us hope! Best wishes for the continuation of your journey. 🙂

  33. Thanks Nancy for introducing me to a new sports hero 🙂 I’ll have to add his story to my classroom library for next year!!

    1. Erik, I am so honored and thrilled at the idea of your students meeting William Hoy through my book. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to enhance their experience by answering questions or sharing additional stories not in the book! I am also collecting and posting letters and drawings from kids about why they think he should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and would love to have your kids participate if they are so inspired!

    1. Thank you, Wendy! I am so excited about my trip to the Hall of Fame. I can’t believe it is coming up so quickly now! I am so grateful to Karen, for taking William to her heart on first read. With such an unstoppable champion at my side, losing heart or hope was not an option!

  34. There are two inspirational stories here! I can’t wait to read William’s story and also follow along with your journey. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Ashley, thank you so much for your support and kind words about William and me! I am so excited to share that as I get ready to bring William’s book to the Hall of Fame, I received wonderful news that my next book will become a reality perhaps as soon as next fall! I am not at leave to say more yet, but look forward to sharing details with my 12X12 friends as soon as it is officially announced!

  35. Thank you for sharing both inspiring journeys with us – William Hoy’s and YOURS! Dare I say…you’ve hit this one out of the park? 😉 Congratulations! Hugs, Jodi 🙂

    1. Thank you, dear Jodi. All I can say it took A LOT of batting practice before I got my “hit” but it was worth every minute. And here’s another amazing thing. When you look back through the prism of your published book you see every little disappointment, frustration and fear in a different way. You see they were not stones blocking your way but stones on your path helping you to walk where you needed to go to make this the story it was meant to be all along.

  36. Thank you Nancy, for sharing your story. Hearing you learnt a lot of your craft and had your breakthroughs through 12 X 12 really is inspiring. It sounds like a wonderful book. Congratulations.

  37. Thank you Nancy for the inspiring blog. Glad to see another North Texas resident achieve their dream:) The writing community here is great. I have learned so much from 12×12, and made some great friends.

  38. Thanks for finding such an inspiring story to tell. I appreciate your tips and wisdom as I want to write picture book biographies. I have a story to tell and I need to find my angle and persevere like you did. Success with your book.

  39. I love this line: “Remember, you serve the story and your journey to bring it to children is your quest.”

    Thank you for sharing your quest with us, Nancy!

  40. Nancy, I apologize for not commenting earlier but I loved your post about your manuscript’s journey. For those of us that do want to write non-fiction or historical fiction and truly love research you gave us ways to channel that research into back matter or side bars and just tell the story in the book. Thank you for your insightful post.

  41. Thank you for sharing your work, process, and encouragement–both in your interview and in response to the community right here in the comments!

  42. Fabulous interview! I start out at a distance a lot too, and have to revise and revise to get to the heart of a child. It was interesting reading about your process and I can’t wait to read the book!

  43. Thank you Nancy for sharing your story, and so eloquently! I’m going to post your closing sentences at my desk for inspiration. I look forward to reading your book. I can already feel the heart that went into it 🙂


  44. Such a fantastic person and story for a non-fiction PB! Looks like a wonderful book. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  45. I am also coming from a journalism background so I found your post very interesting. I think you will inspire both deaf and hearing children and adults. Congrats on your book!

  46. Great post Nancy! Thank you for sharing your writing process. I can’t wait to get my hands on your book now. 🙂

  47. Thank you, Nancy! I loved your attitude about coming across great books and being grateful for the writing to have been done. The freedom to know I now can go on to a different project and to take the stance of finding a message that benefits others is inspiring. I plan to retread your answers a few more times as I need to hear the inspiration again and again!

  48. Oh wow. I love this bit!

    “So find your tribe, keep the faith, encourage others and don’t give up. Remember, you serve the story and your journey to bring it to children is your quest. For some that quest will be longer and more difficult than it will be for others, but you will get there if you are strong and faithful to your subject and don’t give up.”

  49. “Write the story you feel will make a difference in the world. Tell the story that will inspire kids to believe in themselves or have courage or to reach out and lend a helping hand to someone who seems different and whose difference might be the very thing the world needs.”
    Thanks, Nancy for your inspirational post and congratulations on your book!

  50. I loved this post about this fascinating story! And, being from Wisconsin, he began his baseball career here! It’s fun to see his “Oshkosh” uniform on the cover! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  51. I am so inspired by your attitude and desire to tell those stories that need to be told. I am looking forward to reading your book! Thank you for this wonderful post!

  52. Thank you for sharing, Nancy. What a gift to have Steve Sandy’s insight and encouragement! It sounds like you were truly meant to write THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, and I can’t wait to read it. Good luck next week with your visit to the Hall of Fame! (Fingers crossed that William Hoy gets inducted.)

  53. What fabulous insight into your process. Thanks so much for sharing! As someone who also loves research but sometimes gets bogged down by it, it’s helpful to be reminded to keep the heart of the story at the core. Congratulations!

  54. Thank you for sharing your unusual (by which I mean, deeply earned) perspective. To sustain the will to persevere in this not-so-easy quest to create books that will connect with and encourage, even inspire children, one does have to keep going back to one’s own heart. Thanks for this injection of tough faith and inspiration.

  55. I love when a person champions another champion and not themselves. You are a “Hero” writer in my mind. thank you for making lives “real and matter’.

  56. I just happen to have read your book, Nancy, to my son a couple months ago. (He loves PB biographies and baseball.) We enjoyed it both so much! I also was really glad to read about your process in creating the William Hoy story. So informative and inspiring, and meaningful to this aspiring author!

  57. It’s always encouraging to read about other writers who have struggled and succeeded….I think we always contemplate giving up at times, but that drive to do what we love to do, always wins! I needed to be encouraged this I thank you Nancy!

  58. Thanks, Nancy, for very specific information about your journey with this book. It’s such a source of encouragement to hear the length of the journey, and the hard work involved. Great story and great inspiration!

  59. Nancy,

    I look forward to reading your book. I was quite intrigued when I saw it come up on our libraries must read summer list for NF PB’s! So, I put it on request. I have two people ahead of me yet.

    Like you, I enjoyed writing the back matter. Two of my ms’s are fact based fiction stories with back matter and it was such a relief to allow more information.

    Great post and insight. Thank you for sharing it. I know I will love your book. William Hoy was one of my uncle’s favorite players as he was deaf too and accomplished more than what he thought he was capable of.

  60. Love this piece of advice, “Find your tribe, keep the faith, encourage others and don’t give up.”
    Thanks for sharing!

  61. Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for answering this interview in such a supportive way. How wonderful that you can write a book based on a true hero that I’m sure will influence many hearing impaired and others to strive for greater things.

  62. Thank you, Nancy. As the daughter of a baseball fanatic, this is an interesting read about a man I’d never heard of.
    I do have a question–you refer to him as Deaf. I write a fair amount about health, in which the constant refrain is person-first. So it would be “a man with a hearing impairment.” That would go over well with kids and a 500-word limit. I wondered if capitalizing Deaf was your way to acknowledge this issue of language? There is also the whole Deaf world, which has its own culture.
    Finally, you should get in touch with the President of my alma mater, Guilford College. Jane Fernandez is not only the College’s first woman president, she is its first deaf president. She is a remarkable person, and I bet she’d love this story.

  63. Wow, Nancy! What a great post — so inspiring! I loved hearing how William’s story came to life and the bits of wisdom you included throughout. Thank you!

  64. “Find your tribe” – that’s it exactly, to get the support, guidance and camaraderie to persevere, and to enjoy and contribute to the process, and the people all along the way. Thanks for telling your story.

  65. I can’t wait to read this story. I’d like to buy it for a man who has been deaf all his life and would appreciate this story because he is a big baseball fan.

    It’s so helpful to know your process and how you kept trying until you finally became published.
    Thanks Nancy.


  66. Hi Nancy,
    wishing you all the best with your story. I can’t wait to read it myself. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and your story of how it came to life. It’s so encouraging to hear the journey.

  67. Thank you for your words of advice and for bringing this story to life. I had never heard of William Hoy until the release of your book and I’m sure there are countless others like me. Thank you for persevering and not giving up. This is a story that we all need to hear. Thanks also for this line… “So find your tribe, keep the faith, encourage others and don’t give up.” It may become my new mantra!

  68. You hit this one out of the park Nancy! So great to be inspired by others on the diamond and at my writing station!

  69. PB Biographies are the one thing I wish to be able to write well, but still afraid to try, so thank you for sharing your process! The more I learn, the less intimidating these type of stories will become and maybe one day I’ll produce one myself.

  70. Thank you for your insight! The idea of writing nonfiction scares me a bit, but you made it seem a little less daunting!

  71. Thank you for all your advice and encouragement on nonfiction picture books. It was so timely and helpful.

  72. Congratulations Nancy! I can’t wait to add your book to my library. I’ll read it with my grandsons. I will also buy it for my daughter. She is a deaf education teacher. The story of William Hoy will inspire her deaf students to follow their dreams. Enjoy your trip to the Hall of Fame.

  73. Thank you for your inspiring story. I am also a journalist trying to make the transition to writing for children. I recently took Nonfiction Archaeology with Kristen Fulton, which I thought was very helpful. It’s great to hear from another journalist who has found success in writing for children.

  74. This was such an informative post. I really want to write a PB Biography and this helped me with some areas I was wondering about. Thank you.

  75. I love your philosophy of serving the story and bringing that story to the children as only I/you can. Indeed, it is a quest! Since joining 12 x 12 this year, I too have discovered much help & joy, and I can’t wait to sign up again next year at the Gold level! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to share your quest!

  76. Wow, what an amazing journey and pb story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’m really looking forward to reading The William Hoy story and getting the word out about this powerful, important, and labor of love book!

  77. Nancy, thank you so much for this very helpful post! I have checked your book out from the library several times to read and reread. In my mind it is such a perfect balance of facts and heart. Good luck with your next book–

  78. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I needed to hear most of it right now. Especially, ‘finish this one so you can move on to the next.” You’re helping me to get ‘unstuck.’

  79. It sounds like a great story. Thanks for writing it! And I agree with you in that the story I most wish I’d written is whatever I’m writing.

  80. Thank you for sharing this month! I am looking forward to buying a copy of your book for the school library where I work! I enjoyed reading about your journey in getting this book published.

  81. Thank you, Nancy. I enjoyed your post and your amazing PB story. Your honest comment about needing to “put research aside and start listening to my heart” was very meaningful. I enjoy research and sometimes, in the attempt to find truth, I miss my feelings…my heart, my reason for writing the story and doing the research. Thank you for that reminder.

  82. Thanks for sharing your journey, Nancy, and congrats on a beautiful, meaningful book. I love your sentiment about how the absence of a story that needs to be in the world is a writer’s responsibility. I completely agree!

  83. I almost missed this one! I’m so glad I got here tonight.
    This book likes to be a must-read, so I’m going to make the request to my local library that they bring it in for me, and that they purchase a copy if they can.
    I’ve found my problem is it’s difficult to know what to cut that doesn’t add to, but clutters, the story. I’m looking forward to reading The William Hoy Story to see how it’s done well.
    Thank you, Nancy.

  84. This is such a fantastic interview! Nancy, thank you for sharing so much of your process on this book. I love picture book bios and you’ve given such useful and encouraging tips here!

  85. Thank you, Nancy! What a great bunch of questions! You talked about your focus in the story in terms of distance–the wide angle being life to death vs. the close-up single story (and landing somewhere in between); this was an ah-ha to me as if it brought to light an angle of writing that I hadn’t exactly put into a solid thought yet!
    Also, I love your perspective of knowing your purpose in why you’re writing about what you’re writing about, and also nodding to other writers’ work without envy.

  86. Too awesome! As a former teacher of the hearing impaired, a HUGE cheer has gone up in our house for this book! There are so few books written that involve a hearing impaired person, and a Hall of Fame deaf ball player – Just…WOW! This is definitely going to be a requested book in our school library! Thank you for taking on this project!

  87. Just saw this in my book store! Love reading about how things came together, from beginning to end. Congratulations!

  88. Congratulations on your book! It looks inspiring, and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing the book’s evolution and your journey. So much great advice– thanks!

  89. Thank you for sharing your writing story Nancy. The Hoy story is so inspirational and I can’t wait to read it.

  90. I needed to hear this “if you don’t give up the journey continues through every rejection, every setback. Continuing your journey is your best chance of getting where you need to go.” Thanks for the motivation to carry on!

  91. Thanks so much for sharing, Nancy. I loved reading about your process. I look forward to reading your book!

  92. Thank You Nancy for sharing your story! I can’t wait to read it! My kids and I need to add a little more nonfiction into our reading lists, and you have inspired me to pursue that:>

  93. Loved your honesty and perseverance in bringing this story to life. Great story to introduce children as well as adults to physical limitations and how William chose to use it to advance his ability to play baseball.

  94. Nancy, I love your positive and enthusiastic attitude about writing. I can’t wait to read your book about William Hoy. As a baseball fan, I hate to admit that I had never heard of him before now. Thank you for writing this story about a remarkable man.

  95. I love how you describe your process for finding the focus of your book. It sounds like you had to distill it from a mountain of research. Your passion for the subject shines through in this interview and makes me want to read the book right now.

  96. Picture and chapter book bios were my favorite in elementary school, mostly about athletes. I think I’d forgotten that until reading your interview. Very inspiring. It’s clear you love what you do and I’m sure it comes through in your story writing as it did in this interview. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  97. Informative, interesting and inspiring-on so many levels. Thank you for sharing your journey as well as writing about William Hoys.

  98. Thank you, Nancy! Your words of wisdom make a good trail map as I stand at the trailhead of writing PB biographies.

  99. You’re article is so timely to read; it’s so reassuring to here the angst of other writers during the editing process. Can’t wait to share your pb with my hubby…a college pitcher and lifelong Braves fan. Thank you!

  100. Thanks for sharing your inspiration, Nancy. Can’t wait to read your book! I appreciate your describing your process of writing a bio for picture book age. Congratulations on finding the spark of the story– and thank you for showing some of your steps on that journey. Sounds fascinating.

  101. Such a great story of finding the essence to your story and knowing how it appeals to children, its message, and how to incorporate what’s most important. Thank you!

  102. Thanks for the great interview, Nancy! I am in the research phase for a nonfiction PB and learned a lot from this post!

  103. Thank you for the reminder to bring the story to the children. Congratulations on your beautiful book.

  104. Thanks for sharing your writing journey. I’ve also written a picture book biography. It was a wonderful experience that I hope to repeat. Congrats on the success of your book.

  105. I’m working on a PB bio and this post really helped me to think about how to bring the children into the emotions of the story. Thanks for the helpful advise!

  106. What an inspiration, Nancy. I appreciate your advice on choosing the right biography to write for children and your description of editing your research material. Thank you!

  107. I can’t believe I almost missed this post, Nancy!!!! I loved reading about your process in creating on of the best picture books of 2016…I am so excited for you…and for every kid who will get to read The William Hoy Story…my grandson LOVES it!
    Congratulations, sweet Nancy!

  108. Congratulations on writing this wonderful book! I was unfamiliar with Hoy’s story and fought it both interesting and inspiring.

  109. “Write the story you feel will make a difference in the world.” That is such a Miss Rumphius thing to say and do. Exactly why I wanted to write for children in the first place.

  110. Thank you, Nancy and Julie! I found these Q&A’s extremely helpful as I continue to write my first narrative non-fiction PB.

  111. This is really wonderful to see stories about people who are different. Although this is a burgeoning field, there’s still not enough. Thank you so much for doing this!

  112. What an inspirational post! I am logging into my library network now to see if they have your book. If not (and even if they do) I hope I win a copy!!! 🙂

  113. Lovely interview, Nancy! Your heart really comes through. I especially appreciated your answer to the first question. Thank you!

  114. Biographies are tough, I think, to engage readers. Yours is engaging. Thank you for trying to help all of us to “keep on keeping on”.

  115. Wow! Your story about Hoy speaks to my heart on so many levels. I love baseball and you shared something about someone I never heard of before. And I can relate to him in some way because I have a hearing problem and wear hearing aids. (Minimal loss, I do not need to sign) . Also I will adopt your idea of writing as a responsibility. Anything to trick my brain to keep writing from the heart.

  116. I absolutely love that someone has written on this topic. Thank you so much for your insight, words of wisdom and for writing this book. I wish you great success. Joan

  117. Inspiring story- I enjoyed hearing how your book took share and look forward to sharing it with my kids. Thank you for the words of wisdom and encouragement!

  118. Nancy- I loved your line aboUt finding the heart of the story instead of trying to talk about every detail from brith. I too am getting lost in all the many details and thank you for this reminder. What an incredible story for all to read. Thanks again!

  119. I am so intrigued by this story. I cannot wait to read it. Thank you for sharing your journey about creating this book. It is insightful and the story sounds like a gem that will mean so much to so many young people, and to the adult readers as well. I love baseball also, so this will be fascinating to learn about this player.

  120. Nancy, dropping all the worthwhile bio details because they obscured your focus instantly alerted me to a big frustration I’ve had. I keep forgetting that back matter is the perfect place for it all. Thank you for sharing your experience, and I look forward to reading your book.

  121. Thank you for sharing your writing & research process for this book.
    I’m sure it was a lot of work keeping the PB focused and short after having done so much research.
    Best of luck on your next books!

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