Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Nancy Bo Flood

ph_popcornWhat keeps you up at night?

Pop­corn in the brain. Ideas are pop­ping and images are stream­ing through my brain. I know that if I don’t get up (ugh, real­ly, 3 am?) and write them down, I won’t have a clue in the morn­ing what they were. All those bril­liant ideas, gone! I like to read a chap­ter from my cur­rent work just before I go to bed. The thoughts stir up new ideas, some­times even solu­tions to prob­lems. Of course some­times I look at what I’ve writ­ten in the mid­dle of the night and there are no trea­sures, just stale pop­corn. Some­times there are some real jew­els, like find­ing the mag­ic ring in a box of Crack­er Jacks.

What is your proud­est career moment?

Cowboy Up!Two very hap­py moments—from this past year. I was asked to read from Cow­boy Up! Ride the Nava­jo Rodeo at the Poet­ry Roundup ses­sion of the Texas Library Con­fer­ence. Me, a poet? Watch­ing kids race hors­es around bar­rels, throw a las­so from on top a gal­lop­ing horse to snag a dodg­ing calf’s back hoof—now that’s poet­ry. My favorite is watch­ing the “mut­ton bust­ing” three– and four–year-olds ride a buck­ing sheep. That was the inspi­ra­tion for my favorite poem. When I shared this poem with about 200 librar­i­ans at their Texas con­fer­ence, they all kind­ly stood up and pre­tend­ed to ride along. Librar­i­ans are hero­ic. They got right on that imag­i­nary sheep, held one hand up high, and grabbed tight onto a fist­ful of wool.

My hap­pi­est career moments hap­pen when I’m with stu­dents, espe­cial­ly the respons­es I’ve received from Nava­jo school chil­dren. Dur­ing author vis­its they give me a big smile and say, “You wrote Nava­jo Year? That is my favorite book.” The very best moment of all occurred while read­ing from Cow­boy Up! Ride the Nava­jo Rodeo to a class­room of sec­ond-graders at Many Farms Ele­men­tary. This lit­tle guy wear­ing a too-big tee shirt, jeans, and cow­boy boots, looked at me, grinned, and raised his hand. Then he said, “I am in your book.”

Less than 1% of the books pub­lished for chil­dren are by or about con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Indi­ans. Child­hood is short; chil­dren grow up fast. All chil­dren need to see them­selves in books, now.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Eques­tri­an! I have imag­ined com­pet­ing on the com­bined eques­tri­an event which includes dres­sage, cross-coun­try, and jump­ing. As a child I wished for, begged for, even plot­ted for get­ting a horse of my own. No luck. But as soon as I was grown up and liv­ing in the coun­try with room for a horse, I bought a horse, a strong beau­ti­ful, calm gold­en palomi­no, Natchee. My next dream was to be become a “real rid­er,” which meant not being scared of the horse. I want­ed to be able to walk out into a pas­ture through wild wav­ing grass, catch my horse with just a rope hal­ter, slip on a bri­dle, and ride. Fast. Leap over ditch­es and splash through creeks. And I did. Once I even jumped over a pic­nic table! Natchee and I were rid­ing in the Olympics.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

bk_BoFloodWarriorsSwim with sharks. As part of my research for War­riors in the Cross­fire, I need­ed to pad­dle my kayak over the reef, leave the safe calm lagoon behind, and head to the open ocean. I loved snor­kel­ing in the lagoon. I could see bottom—white sand 30 or 40 feet below with fish of all col­ors nib­bling on coral heads. But in the open ocean, when I looked down, there was blue that con­tin­ued until it became black. That alone sent shiv­ers up my back. But my main char­ac­ter in War­riors jumps out of his out­rig­ger to save the life of his friend. They had been hunt­ing tur­tle in the open ocean and, mean­while, a shark had begun hunt­ing them.

So I pad­dled out. I put on mask and snorkel and slipped over­board. The rise and fall of the waves made me a bit nau­se­at­ed. I was so scared my heart was pound­ing, and I was still hold­ing on to the side of the kayak. I need­ed to let go and drift around a bit. Every shad­ow and shift of light under the sea’s sur­face looked like the sil­hou­ette of some kind of hun­gry sea crea­ture. I kicked away from the kayak and then I saw them. Beneath me. The sleek backs of three reef sharks! I watched them cir­cle around and then one shark slow­ly come direct­ly at me. There was no time to haul myself back into the kayak. If I could have walked on water, I ph_Grey_reef_shark2would have. The shark was so close I couldn’t think, I auto­mat­i­cal­ly did what I’d been taught in those bor­ing div­ing lessons. I fist­ed my hand and punched him in the nose. He turned and dis­ap­peared. Would he return? With my arms pum­mel­ing like a crazed wind mill, I swam to the kayak, with­out breath­ing, with­out car­ing how much I was splash­ing. I pulled myself up over the side expect­ing to feel teeth chomp through my legs. Final­ly all of me was in the kayak. My whole body was shak­ing but I pad­dled back over the reef and straight to shore. I lay on the warm wet sand, closed my eyes, felt the safe, hot sun.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Bugs and Insects, the World Book Ency­clo­pe­dia, and com­ic books.  I grew up in a rur­al farm area of Illi­nois. We did not have a library or a book­store. My par­ents val­ued edu­ca­tion and the first step was learn­ing to read. My old­er broth­er could read and I was deter­mined to read, too. But there wasn’t much avail­able. My par­ents bought a set of World Book and Child­craft Ency­clo­pe­dias. My dad was a bas­ket­ball coach and the team earned extra mon­ey to pay for “away” tour­na­ments by col­lect­ing news­pa­pers for recy­cling. Dad drove a pick-up truck and my broth­er and I got to help load tied-up stacks of news­pa­pers into the back of the truck. Our pay­ment was when we unloaded the stacks, we could search through the piles of news­pa­pers for dis­card­ed com­ic books.

I read one book of the ency­clo­pe­dia at a time, alter­nat­ing with Bugs and Insects, and com­ic books. For many years that was my sum­mer read­ing!

10 Responses to Skinny Dip with Nancy Bo Flood

  1. maureen fox October 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    WOW! The shark sto­ry is amaz­ing! Way to go, Ami­ga!

    • nancyboflood October 9, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      Hard­er than fac­ing sharks is fig­ur­ing out cyber “stuff.” I hope you receive this reply, Mau­reen. Let’s swim with the sharks togeth­er.

  2. Liza Ketchum October 8, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Def­i­nite­ly scary stuff! You’re brave!

  3. nancyboflood October 9, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    You give me cred­it for brav­ery, Liza, but I think it was more fool­ish­ness. Imag­ine, the Saipan young boys would pad­dle out past the lagoon, catch a sea tur­tle, hold on and swim with the tur­tles. I think my bravest act con­tin­ues to be fac­ing that blank page, hush­ing the edi­tor in my head, and writ­ing.

  4. Janet Wong October 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    The way you per­formed your poems at Sylvia Vardell’s TLA Poet­ry Round Up was SO MUCH FUN–I still remem­ber the JOY of it! You def­i­nite­ly brought “rodeo spir­it” into our con­ven­tion cen­ter room and I’ll bet the 200+ librar­i­ans in the audi­ence will remem­ber it for­ev­er. Look­ing for­ward to pre­sent­ing with you at the PLA con­fer­ence in Den­ver in April 2016! (and I hope that you can stop by the NCTE ses­sion in Min­neapo­lis where Sylvia and I will be talk­ing about Poet­ry & Movement–and shar­ing your poems!)

  5. nancyboflood October 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Janet and Sylvia, your are the poet­ry magi­cians, tru­ly, bring­ing poets togeth­er with teach­ers, librar­i­ans and chil­dren, with the most won­der­ful spir­it. Thank you.

  6. svardell October 9, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    Yes, I agree with Janet– shar­ing COWBOY UP at the TLA Poet­ry Round Up was a high­light and you get every­one involved! It’s an impor­tant book that offers us a glimpse of con­tem­po­rary Native Amer­i­cans doing things they love and it’s also tons of FUN!

  7. nancyboflood October 10, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    Thank you, Sylvia, and because of your work — and pas­sion — poet­ry is becom­ing part of every day, from the kitchen to the class­room .… and beyond. Just ask Darth Vad­er!

  8. anita moulton October 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I hope you share your read­ings at the next spell­binders in Novem­ber. That lit­tle taste was excel­lent.

  9. David LaRochelle October 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    What a great sto­ry about swim­ming with sharks, Nan­cy! And I loved hear­ing you share COWBOY UP at the Ari­zona Library Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence sev­er­al years ago! Thank you for help­ing kids to find them­selves in books.

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