What Nancy Chadwick reads

What Nancy Chadwick reads

Nancy Chadwick, the author of Under the Birch Tree, is a fierce memoir writer with a long history of reading books on writing. While writing her debut memoir, she couldn’t help but dig into these great books from her fellow writers. Keep reading to find out what books inspired Nancy Chadwick and her writing process.

Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

I read and reread [Natalia Goldberg’s] books because of one simple thing – inspirational. They are delicately instructional, simple and insightful. Though these books vary in how they are written, I’ve always come away with discovering direction for my own writing, down a path that is quiet, easy and emotional.

Nancy also looks to Goldberg’s other writing for inspiration:

Writing Down the Bones, The Great Spring and The True Secret of Writing


On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser

This is a timeless read where I have often reread parts on Principles, Methods and Attitudes. His guide kept me mindful of good writing practices when developing the writing of my memoir.


Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd

I got something out of every chapter of this eight-chapter book, from writing narratives, essays, memoirs, style and editing. I used this book to aim for as best writing as I could where Kidder (a Pulitzer Prize winner) and Todd are fine examples of professional writers.


A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

First published in 1929, Woolf gives me a peek into her own writing life and her literal and figurative thoughts on her writing space. She never holds back her feminist views, especially when encountered by a male-dominated literary landscape. She’s an affirming source for me as a woman writer who also has a place alongside others in the literary world.


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I first read Bird by Bird after I wrote the first draft of my memoir. I didn’t like it! It got me all worked up thinking what I just wrote was nothing but a bunch of blah blah that said nothing. I didn’t like her tone or attitude; she sounded sassy at times. I reread her book when I felt my memoir had really come together. And I loved it! Why the opinion change? Because I knew that I, indeed, had a shitty first draft and that I had a long road in turning my manuscript around. I went from doubting my abilities to seeing my capabilities. Her book was the push to get out of my doubtful stubborn attitude to dig deep and keep writing, to believe in myself that I could really do it.

Nancy Chadwick

I grew up in a north suburb of Chicago. After receiving a journalism degree at Marquette University, I got my first job at Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago. After ten years there, I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be in the agency business, so I reinvented myself and turned to the banking industry. Then, after another ten years, I realized I wasn’t a banker, so I quit and started to write, finding inspiration from my years in Chicago, and San Francisco and putting to use my knack for writing good descriptive scenery, an ear for dialogue and experience in human interaction.

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