Author Spotlight: Nancy Churnin

©David Woo, DMN Staff Photographer

March 4, 2016

Today we present debut author, Nancy Churnin whose book, THE WILLIAM HOY STORY is out now! Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of her interview to win a copy of her book!





Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children. 

I grew up in Bronx, New York in a world of books. My parents had one room they designated the library and it was my favorite room because the bookshelves stretched from the floor to the ceiling. Even with all that bounty, I still made a weekly trek to our local library and was so excited when I graduated from a two-book check-out to an unlimited book check-out. I used to take out 12 at a time! 


I have always loved to read. I remember I chose my freshman English class at Harvard University on the basis of which class required the most books. I enjoyed them all. I have a Master’s in journalism from Columbia University and love my job as theater critic for the Dallas Morning News. Still, my secret obsession remained children’s stories that I shared with family and friends. 

I didn’t feel an urgency about publishing until Steve Sandy, a Deaf activist in Ohio, contacted me about William Hoy. The more I learned about this Deaf hero who taught umpires signs so he could play the game he loved, the more I felt in my gut that this had to be a children’s book. 

With Steve’s encouragement I stepped up my determination to learn the writing techniques that would help me succeed in the world of children’s publishing. I learned a lot from 12 X 12, Rate Your Story, Susanna Hill’s writing class, Mira Reisberg’s writing class, Kristen Fulton’s writing class and my critique groups. Through 12 X 12, I got my wonderful agent, Karen Grencik, by submitting my William Hoy story. I also received a great and encouraging call from the amazing Miranda Paul when I submitted the same story to Rate Your Story around the same time. Karen believed in it from the first day and found it a wonderful home at Albert Whitman and Company. It’s been a fantastic ride.

What projects are you working on now?


I have a couple of manuscripts I’m working on, but I’m not ready to talk about them yet. One of my goals is to have multiple stories polished and ready for the editors and authors attending the WOW retreat that takes place in Georgia in July.



When is your next project due out?

No dates yet, but all in good time.



What is your typical process for writing? 

I start with a person and an idea about that person. I write notes on pads of paper, I write an outline, then I put it all aside and letting the story run through me and on to the page. Then rewriting rewriting rewriting! That’s what I’m doing now on a couple of projects. Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting!


What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


Write what is in your heart to write and tell a story that is bigger and more important than you are. If you are working on something that is more important than you are, nothing can discourage you because good criticism is helping you serve the story and negative criticism is something you brush away as you forge on to serve a higher purpose. 


Listen to your story and let it lead you, but if you are lucky enough to have people in your life that care about your story as much as you do, let them guide you when you stumble in the darkness.

Where can people find you on the internet? 

On Facebook at Nancy Churnin Children’s Books, on Facebook at Nancy Churnin, on AlbertWhitman.com, on my website at nancychurnin.com and on Twitter @nchurnin.


What is one thing people don't know about you?


I love to sing show tunes in the car and at home and anywhere, frankly, where I know no one (but me and okay, maybe my friend Lauren) is listening. It’s quite the eclectic concert, particularly when Lauren provides the harmony.




Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News. A native New Yorker and lifelong baseball fan, she’s a graduate of Harvard University with a Master’s from Columbia University's journalism school. This is her first picture book. She lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, and in between shows, book signings and, oh yes, writing, they’re raising four boys and two cats.






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39 comments:

  1. I love your advice to tell a story that is bigger and more important than you are. Great post!

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    1. Tanya, that's what kept me going during the long early stretch when I didn't know if I'd ever figure out the right way to tell this story. I couldn't give up on Hoy because his story had to be told and besides, he would never give up.

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  2. So excited for you and this book, Nancy!

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    1. Thank you, Kathy. The support of this amazing community was everything in keeping me going from idea to manuscript to revision revision revision and finally publication.

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  3. Very inspiring story! Congratulations on your wonderful book.

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    1. Thank you, Darlene. Hoy inspired me to keep going. I felt he was on my shoulder as I was working on this telling me not to give up.

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  4. Great interview, KidLit411 and Nancy. Especially the bit about writing a story bigger than you are--I love that.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Wendy. Elaine and Sylvia have created something wonderful here on KidLit411. I am so grateful to be part of it.

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  5. Inspiring post! Delightful to read.

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    1. Thank you, Cathy. Elaine and Sylvia got me going with their great questions!

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  6. Nancy! Can we sing show tunes together sometime? What fun! I love show tunes and I am so excited about your debut book! Congrats again!

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    1. Carrie, I never turn down offers to sing show tunes, although I do try to keep my renditions away from professionals! Thanks for all your support, Carrie, so glad to be part of the North Texas SCBWI!

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  7. I grew up knowing the name Dummy Hoy without knowing his proper name -I'm looking forward to seeing a book about him without the slur!

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    1. Mike, what's fascinating is that Hoy didn't consider it a slur in his time; everyone who was deaf and mute was called Dummy. I was mindful that kids today wouldn't understand that so I did not use that name in the book, but explained how it was commonly used at the time in the back matter. What's ironic is that we think of Dummy as meaning not smart (as opposed to dumb as in not speaking) and Hoy was one of the smartest guys around. He was valedictorian of the Ohio State School for the Deaf!

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  8. I grew up knowing the name Dummy Hoy without knowing his proper name -I'm looking forward to seeing a book about him without the slur!

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  9. Congratulations on your book and thank you for the inspiring post! Re-writing . . .

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    1. I know, Wendy, I need to do some rewriting on some manuscripts this weekend! :)

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  10. So interesting, I'd never heard of William Hoy before.

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    1. Marty, that's why I'm so excited to share William's story. He's a hero whose story should be known, that's what kept me pushing on with this manuscript.

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  11. Congratulations on your debut, Nancy! The book sounds so interesting. I had never heard of William Hoy before. Considering his contribution to the game, it is great that you're introducing him to young readers (and their parents)!

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    1. Thanks, Abi! William Hoy inspired me to not give up in my goal to publish this book. I feel honored, privileged and excited to share his inspiring story with as many kids and adults as possible.

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  12. This is what I love so much about reading (and writing) nonfiction picture books...an entire world of history comes alive. Thank you, Nancy, for providing young readers with this magical story. I can't wait to give you a hug in person at the WOW retreat! And I'll be thinking of you tomorrow at your book launch...all good wishes and success!

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    1. Thank you, Vivian, your friendship and support means the world to me. I can't wait to give you a hug at the WOW retreat, too!

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  13. I am thinking about so many stories that are bigger than me. Great advice!

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    1. Wishing you all good things, Ellen, as you pursue those stories. The world needs as many as it can get!

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  14. Woo Hoo on your book! I'm totally interested in sharing this story with the children in my classroom. I am working on two stories that I feel are bigger than me. I'm also working on(well honestly, was working, I've not touched that ms in quite some time, FEAR)a story that is close to me, personal. I may revisit it this month, thanks to this post. Thank you so much. Loved coming here. Sorry I won't see you at WOW. That has been my main retreat for two years. Have fun in July. Again, thank you.

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    1. Pam, I would be so honored to have you share the story with the kids in your classroom. A free, dowloadable Teacher's Guide is going to go up any day now on the albertwhitman.com website prepared by my dear friend, a wonderful teacher named Kristie Smith. I am so glad you are working on big stories, too, that are personal and resonate with you as this one did for me. I'm sure your work in the classroom will have you attuned to what resonates with the children.

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  15. Thanks for telling us your story and for writing William's story. Can't wait to see you at WOW!!

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    1. Thank you, Mona, looking forward to meeting you, too! This will be my first week-long retreat. It's been a great motivator to work on new stories that I'm excited about. I hope it's the same for you.

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  16. Thanks for sharing your process, I have grandchildren who will love this story!

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    1. Thank you, Margaret, I am so honored for you to say that. I know that when I was growing up there was no gift I treasured more than a book. I must still be growing up because I still feel the same way. :)

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  17. This sounds so wonderful! Looking forward to reading it, Nancy!

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    1. Thank you, Maria. I hope you enjoy it and will be as inspired by William's story as I continue to be. Learning about his challenges and the smart and gracious way he handled them has made a difference in my life that continues.

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  18. Wonderful interview! I'll be purchasing a copy of your book (if I don't win one, lol). I hope you'll sign it for me at the WOW retreat in July!

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    1. Thank you, Kristi! I hope you enjoy it and I will be so honored to sign it for you at the WOW retreat. I've been reading your rave reviews about the retreat and I am so looking forward to being there for the first time this summer.

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  19. Wonderful interview! I'll be purchasing a copy of your book (if I don't win one, lol). I hope you'll sign it for me at the WOW retreat in July!

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  20. I'm looking forward to reading this one. Like Kristi V, I plan to buy it if I don't win. And, like Kristi, I am signed up for WOW!

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  21. Thanks Mona, I look forward to meeting you at the WOW retreat!

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  22. Your book looks fabulous! I look forward to reading it. I love NF that inspires.

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