Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Nancy Loewen

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 illus­trat­ed by Sachiko Yoshikawa Two Lions Pub­lish­ing, 2011

What keeps you up at night?

At var­i­ous times: Panera’s iced green tea; the sound of my 18-year-old daugh­ter raid­ing the fridge; play­ing Sudoku on my phone; and, as with every­one, a head full of this-and-that.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I’m going to reach way back for this one, more than 20 years ago. I had just pub­lished my first book with Cre­ative Education/Creative Edi­tions. It was a biog­ra­phy of Edgar Allan Poe, illus­trat­ed with beau­ti­ful and haunt­ing pho­tographs by Tina Muc­ci. One day I was work­ing at home and I received a fax from the mar­ket­ing direc­tor at Cre­ative. I watched the fax come through, bit by bit, and was elat­ed to find that Poe had received a starred review from Publisher’s Week­ly. The first line said, “Call­ing upon her sig­nif­i­cant sto­ry­telling skill, Loewen adds large mea­sures of dra­ma and pathos to her inter­pre­ta­tive biog­ra­phy of Edgar Allan Poe.”

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Pho­to­graph­ic inter­pre­ta­tion by Tina Muc­ci Cre­ative Edu­ca­tion, 1993

I had nev­er real­ly thought of myself as a sto­ry­teller before. To me, sto­ry­tellers were those peo­ple who could spin a good yarn off the top of their heads, who could effort­less­ly keep young children—and any­one else—entertained. My mind doesn’t work that way. I’m more of an arche­ol­o­gist: dig­ging cau­tious­ly, then slow­ly piec­ing arti­facts togeth­er. But that starred review made me real­ize that just as there are count­less sto­ries to be told, there are also count­less ways to bring them into the world.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

Nick and Nora light blue flan­nel paja­mas cov­ered in sock mon­keys. At one point my whole fam­i­ly had match­ing pajamas—me, my two kids, my then-hus­band, even my broth­er and sis­ter-in-law. Made for some great fam­i­ly pic­tures!

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

gymnastProb­a­bly gym­nas­tics. (Every­thing but the bal­ance beam—that just does not look like fun.) I was bare­ly able to mas­ter a cart­wheel as a kid, so this is strict­ly in the fan­ta­sy realm. I don’t see how it’s even human­ly pos­si­ble to do all those flips and spins and rolls and twists. But what a joy it must be, to be air­borne of your own will!

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

Some­times our bravest actions are also pri­vate ones. I’ve done a num­ber of brave things in recent years, but what I want to tell you about is some­thing brave—and very public—that I did way back as a sopho­more in high school. It was 1980 and I was on the Mt. Lake (MN) speech team in the cat­e­go­ry of Orig­i­nal Ora­to­ry. I chose a dif­fi­cult top­ic that was just start­ing to edge onto the pub­lic radar: incest. I had only three sol­id sources, but I made the most of the infor­ma­tion I had. I some­times look back in won­der at that 15-year-old small-town girl who knew that just because a sub­ject was uncom­fort­able didn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.

At that time, my broth­er was attend­ing col­lege in Kansas. The night before Regions, he was in a seri­ous car acci­dent. My par­ents left for Kansas imme­di­ate­ly, but I stayed with my grand­par­ents and went through with the com­pe­ti­tion. All I knew was that my broth­er had head injuries and wasn’t con­scious. I walked around in a daze, but some­how, when I was stand­ing in front of the judges, I was able to focus. I took first place, and lat­er took first place at state as well. My broth­er even­tu­al­ly made a full recov­ery. But what a chal­leng­ing spring that was, for all four of us.

I’ve also wrest­ed can­dy bars and slimy plas­tic bags right out of the mouth of my very bad bea­gle, Dorie. And I once pulled a tick off my son’s leg, bare­hand­ed!

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

cover imageI’m pret­ty sure it was Pep­per­mint by Dorothy Grid­er, illus­trat­ed by Ray­mond Burns. It’s a great sto­ry about a white kit­ten who lives in a can­dy store. His broth­ers and sis­ters find homes, but no one wants scrawny lit­tle Pep­per­mint. Then Pep­per­mint final­ly does get adopt­ed and his new own­er pam­pers him and wants to enter him in the Best Pet con­test at school. Pep­per­mint acci­den­tal­ly dyes him­self blue—but still wins the con­test. Love that book!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

One of the perks of work­ing at home much of the time is that I get to watch TV while I eat lunch. The Dai­ly Show with Jon Stew­art is what I watch most often, now that The Col­bert Report is off the air. Recent­ly I binge-watched the sec­ond sea­son of Orange is the New Black. I was hooked on Break­ing Bad and the British Sher­lock. But if I am to be com­plete­ly hon­est, there are times when I give in to the temp­ta­tion of the TLC line­up: Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, or 19 Kids and Count­ing. I draw the line at My Big Fat Amer­i­can Gyp­sy Wed­ding, though.


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