Mymcbooks's Blog

Keepsake that Educates!

Interview with Author Nancy Loewen



In order to write, I need:

1) Hot tea, preferably chai.

2) A notebook. I save my kids’ partially used notebooks from school. Of course, that means that occasionally the covers of my notebooks have stickers or rhinestones or the names of cute boys on them, but it’s only a problem if I happen to be working at a coffee shop. If anyone is rude enough to snicker, I just put on my reading glasses and stare them down.

3) A pencil.

Eventually, of course, I need a computer, and often I need library books and website articles and the two-inch-thick thesaurus that I bought at a garage sale for a quarter, a quarter-century ago. But it all starts with the tea, the notebook, and the pencil.

Now that you know a little about my writing process, you might want to know some other facts about me. So here they are, in no particular order:

  • I’ve published nearly 100 books for children, mostly nonfiction.
  • I was born inMt.Lake, a town of about 2,000 in southwesternMinnesota. I grew up on a farm. My parents raised corn, soybeans, and cats.
  • You already know that I have children, and you’ve deduced that at least one of them is most likely a girl. You would be correct. I have a teenage daughter who is the real writer in the family, and a teenage son who plays piano almost as well as his grandmother (the one with all the cats). I also have a husband, who works very hard so that I can sit around and drink chai tea and doodle in old notebooks.
  • I graduated fromMankatoStateUniversitywith a BA in English, thinking I’d go back for a master’s degree within a few years. That was in 1986. In 2007 I finally earned thatMFA, fromHamlineUniversity.
  • We have a beagle named Dorie. She’s a bad, bad dog, but she has adorable floppy ears and a tail that doesn’t quit, so we just put child safety locks on our cupboards and take her on lots of walks.
  • We live inPriorLake, which is a southern suburb ofMinneapolis. (“Prior to what?” people sometimes ask. I don’t know.)
  • I have one brother, who is four years older than I am. When we were kids, he dropped a board on my face while building a tree house. I forgave him years ago, but I still have the scar. I’ve always thought it looks a bit like a lightning bolt . . .
  • Most of my published work has been children’s nonfiction, but I also like writing fiction, for both children and adults. One of my short stories was published in Mid-American Review. I’ve also published essays in Minnesota Parent and Child magazines.
  • Besides our bad, bad beagle, we have a guinea pig named Freddie, and two cats named Cyrus and Obi. I don’t mean to slight them by not giving each of them their own paragraph, the way I did for Dorie. They behave so much better than Dorie, and they deserve more. But this bio is getting kind of long already. In fact, I think I’d better end it right now.

 Interview with Nancy Loewen author of The Last Day of Kindergarten.

I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

 My pleasure!

What is the last book you read?

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I recently visited her home (Orchard House) inConcord,Massachusetts, and was inspired to re-read it. I think it’s kind of fun that this old-fashioned classic was the first book I read on my Nook!

What were your earliest memories of writing?

I wrote a few stories in elementary school, and when I was in junior high I got it in my head that I would write a novel. I wrote about a misunderstood but very nice rich girl, who liked to sew in her spare time. (It’s probably good that I never finished it.)

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?

My parents and teachers were encouraging, but mostly it came from within.

Are you working on a new book?

I’ve got a number of projects that are very slowly moving forward: revising a young adult novel, finishing a middle grade novel, and revising a few picture book manuscripts. I hope to develop some new picture books soon, because I have a lot of ideas I’m eager to play around with.

What inspired you to write The Last Day of Kindergarten?

My daughter provided the inspiration for this book. She was very sad to be leaving kindergarten–she cried most of the day! I felt that there were probably other kids like her who would like to see some of their own emotions and experiences reflected back to them in a picture book. At first the manuscript was more about the sense of loss, but in revision it became more about pride and celebration and looking forward to the future.

What was your favorite children’s book?

Peppermint by Dorothy Grider, illustrated by Raymond Burns. It was about a kitten born in a candy store. The kitten is the last one to find a home and is accidentally dyed blue–but ends up winning a “best pet” contest. I still have the book. 

As an adult reading to my own kids, my favorite was My Many-Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

I struggle with making writing a priority. When I have lot of other responsibilities, writing time seems to be the first thing that I let go. I’m working on that . . .

I also find it very draining to write first drafts of longer works of fiction. I get restless and tend to snack more than I should. :) 

How did you feel winning your first book award?

It made me feel optimistic, like I was doing the work I was meant to do. 

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?

I’ve got two teenagers and a husband who travels a lot for his job, so I don’t have much spare time these days. But I do like to garden, cook, and, of course, read. I travel when I can. I also spend a lot of time walking our dog. She’s a beagle and can be rather annoying if she doesn’t get enough exercise!

How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Sometimes a reviewer’s expectations don’t fit the nature of the book. If that’s the case, it’s easy to ignore a bad review. But if the reviewer has said something that is useful to me, I try to learn what I can from it–and then let it go.

I do suffer from writer’s block, quite often–not in terms of ideas but in how to express those ideas. This happens much more with technical nonfiction or everyday correspondence than it does with more creative pieces.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

I hope that kids will read my book and understand that mixed feelings are normal–that it’s okay to feel sad and happy at the same time. And that graduating from kindergarten is an accomplishment worth celebrating!

Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?

Well, he’s not known primarily as an author, but I read Barack Obama’s autobiography even before he was a presidential candidate and was struck by how thoughtful and insightful he was. So Barack (and Michelle, of course!) are at the top of my list.  

I’d also love to dine with Kate DiCamillo, Ann Tyler, Kathryn Stockett, Amy Tan–and many others.   

What author inspires you the most and why?

Sheila O’Connor, author of Sparrow Road (a middle-grade novel) as well as two lovely books for adults. She was my teacher and advisor at Hamline, where I earned myMFA. She’s so dedicated to her students and yet still manages to tend to her own writing, and I really admire her ability to do both so well.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

Oh, I’m still working on that. I try different approaches but nothing seems to stick. I’m pretty good at meeting deadlines, but without a deadline, things can drag out. 

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

Go with your gut feelings–does the book delight you in some way? Do you feel a connection with the art or the story? If so, the book will probably delight your child, too. Don’t overthink it. Just expose your kids to lots of books of all kinds and be enthusiastic about reading. The rest will take care of itself.

What advice you would give to new writers?

Writing and publishing are very different entities that require completely different skill sets. There are wonderful writers who are unpublished and mediocre writers who make the bestseller lists. Don’t tie your writing identity to your publication record; instead, take joy in what you accomplish when it’s just you and the blank page–because that’s where art begins.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I’ll be publishing a new book with Pinwheel Books (a division of Marshall Cavendish) in the spring of 2013. It’s my first book for the toddler set, and I’m very excited about it!

Thank you for this interview.

October 7, 2011 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , , , ,


  1. Hi Nancy,
    The Last Day of Kindergarten sounds like just the book for my Grandson who is in Kindergarten now. My daughter and I are looking forward to going to Orchard House. I just hope we get there sooner then later.🙂
    I look forward to also seeing your other books and having met you here.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Comment by Carol L. | October 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. Congratulations on the book award!

    I’ve never read Peppermint, but it sounds like one the kids would enjoy. I’ll have to look it up at the library!🙂

    Comment by Kristie | October 8, 2011 | Reply

    • If your library doesn’t have it, I think you can find it on Amazon. It’s pretty dated by now, of course, but in a good way.:)

      Comment by Nancy Loewen | October 11, 2011 | Reply

  3. I think it’s great that you start writing with a pencil and paper, because that’s the way I imagine I would write if I could! Terrific interview🙂

    Comment by jwitt33 | October 8, 2011 | Reply

    • Yes, sometimes low-tech is the way to go. As long as my pencil sharpener works, I’m good!

      Comment by Nancy Loewen | October 11, 2011 | Reply

  4. I hope you do make it to Orchard House! And Walden Pond is very close and definitely worth a visit. I wish I could go there this time of year. I imagine the leaves are beautiful

    I hope your grandson has a wonderful experience in kindergarten–it really is a milestone!


    Comment by Nancy Loewen | October 11, 2011 | Reply

  5. my little girl is in kindergarten, this book would be great for her! So Cute.

    Comment by Rebecca (@TheRhinoMisses) | October 18, 2011 | Reply

  6. What a great idea to write this book. my son had a very hard time with this time. I also am going to read My Many Colored Days. I hope I likeit as much as you.

    Comment by stacey l | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  7. I love the theme of emotions..plenty of books on shapes, colors, kindness, but to take an emotional situation for a kindergartener and relate it in this book is great!

    Comment by Erinn S | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  8. I also find chai is very helpful with increasing my productivity.

    Comment by Lily Kwan | October 20, 2011 | Reply

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