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Alex Bali interviews Nancy Bell

Nancy Bell is a widely acknowledged writer based out of Alberta. She is a member of both the Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta. She boasts a long and successful career highlighted by the many prestigious awards she has received and the various international conferences she has presented at. Most recently she won a silver medal in the Creative Writing category of the Alberta 55 plus summer games. Her work is incredibly diverse and consists of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.


1.When did you first start writing and what has driven you to keep writing?

I have been writing since I was in grade school. I still have some of my early compositions and a couple of long handwritten stories about horses which are pretty bad, I have to admit. I can’t not write, the words and characters just keep popping into my head. I write poetry too and sometimes I take the dogs for a walk and come home with a poem. Not writing would be like asking me not to breathe.


2.Do you draw from any of your past experiences/memories when writing?

Of course. Each character is a part of ourselves. Building the world my characters live in is drawn from my own memories of places and linked to experiences, although never totally, just aspects that inspire events and things in the work. My very first mentor when I was still quite young told me “you meet the author in her books not in her living room” (attributed to Gilean Douglas) and she was quite right. We reveal aspects of ourselves in our writing we would never actually speak of in conversation or knowingly reveal.


3.Did you face any challenges when you were starting out as a writer, and if so did they affect your writing in any way and how did you overcome them?

When I was young it was lack of experience, and this was in the 1960’s so there really wasn’t much support for young writers. Then as I grew older and kept writing, it was finding time to write between working full time, riding and showing horses and all the other things young people fill their lives with. As I got older, raising children and working and running to hockey with the kids got in the way, I still carved out a bit of time to do some magazine articles and short stories. Then in my late forties I experienced a catastrophic accident on the farm which ended my working career and left me bedridden for a number of months. This event, though not welcome at the time opened the door to give me the time to write, and I did. My first novel (Laurel’s Miracle now Laurel’s Quest) was published in 2010 and the writing and research of it saved my sanity. It is very hard to go from 150 miles per hour to 0 in about 6 seconds and if I hadn’t had writing to fall back on I would have gone stir crazy. Now, my challenge is to deal with the discomfort of sitting for any length of time, but luckily I have a pretty flexible schedule and can work around that.


Nancy’s passion for writing is evident from every response, it is as much a part of her as her desire to breathe. Writing clearly goes deeper than just her stories; it is a method to escape problems while allowing the mind to still be productive. Nancy’s determination to keep writing never wavered despite facing various forms of adversity and an incredibly busy schedule. Nancy says in one her responses that “We reveal aspects of ourselves in our writing” and this provides further depth into how much truly goes into anything written by Nancy. Time, effort, countless hours of research and most importantly aspects of the writer themselves are all forged together in the process of creating something that will stand the test of time.


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