I met Nancy in 2003 as an MFA student, and was lucky to be her mentee. In the classroom, she often delivered truth about one’s work with no sugar coating, but if you could listen and understand how much she cared about your work and your stories, you’d be on your way to better writing. And so, I was.
In years since, I’ve been Nancy’s student and fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, learning things I thought I already knew (like how to recognize a good first sentence), continuing to be amazed at the work her students generated with her unique prompts. At the end of the week, we all went home with stories we could work on and send out to the world, and a notebook full of magic.
Nancy’s generosity extends well beyond the classroom; it might take the form of a hand-written card of encouragement she mails a student after a workshop, or her taking the time to walk with a student after class, further discussing his story and suggesting publications to submit to.
And then there is Nancy’s writing. It is that of a master, her prose lovely and precise, no thread unused. I am particularly in awe of the way she writes dialogue; how her wit finds its way to the page, how unique and unforgettable her characters are. Her stories can take you far from your zip code, or deep into a seemingly familiar corner of the world, that—like those important first sentences her students learn about—you thought you already knew, until you read it—until you learn it—from her.