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!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

10 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
maureen fox
maureen fox
8 years ago

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

nancyboflood
Reply to  maureen fox
8 years ago

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

Liza Ketchum
8 years ago

Def­i­nite­ly scary stuff! You’re brave!

nancyboflood
8 years ago

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.

Janet Wong
8 years ago

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!)

nancyboflood
8 years ago

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

svardell
svardell
8 years ago

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!

nancyboflood
8 years ago

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!

anita moulton
anita moulton
8 years ago

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

David LaRochelle
David LaRochelle
8 years ago

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.