Nanci Lee Woody, Author of Tears and Trombones Shares Her Passion
YDA: Tell us about your writing journey: Who or what inspired you to write and when did you start writing?
Nanci Lee Woody: I’ve always loved writing. I started my writing career when I was teaching at American River College. There, I wrote a business math textbook where I exercised my creativity by making it an entirely different approach to the subject. I followed that with several editions of an accounting text and all the ancillaries.
I’ve been told that far away from the mind that produces an accounting book is the mind that produces poetry. Not believing this, I have always written poetry. The first poem I wrote was dedicated to my beloved daughter when she turned twenty-one. It won first prize in a competition and with that impetus, I have never stopped writing poems. They come from a place inside where deep emotions or strong feelings exist.
YDA: Tears and Trombones is a very powerful book centered on the pursuit of a dream. It reads to me like The Pursuit of Happyness by Will Smith. What inspired you to write this book?
Nanci Lee Woody: When I met my husband, I found a creative partner. He was a symphony musician and a music history teacher. Our first collaborative project was a musical, “Hello to Life!” He wrote the music and I, the book and lyrics. We produced it ourselves in Sacramento and it was the most exciting and rewarding thing I had ever done.
My husband was not only creative, he was a “character” one could write a book about. He had led a most interesting, unusual life. I thought, “If I could tell his story right, other people would be equally fascinated by it.” Thus our second collaborative project began (taking eight years), after which was born my first novel. Tears and Trombones follows a depression-era boy who wants nothing more than to become a classical musician. His alcoholic father is dead set against it and uses ridicule, harassment and finally, cruelty, to keep the boy from his dream. Tears and Trombones is the story of a mother’s love for her son as well as the story of two women who also love him. It is about the fierce pursuit of a dream and the love of music.
In addition to the novel and poetry, I also write short stories. They are inspired by people or events that I find fascinating, touching or funny. I like for my stories to have an emotional impact on the reader. I want the reader to have strong feelings for my characters.
YDA: How do you relate to your books? In a way, do you see yourself through your characters?
Nanci Lee Woody: I have several poems, segments of short stories and chapters of Tears and Trombones that I cannot read out loud simply because I cry. My deepest feelings are with my characters. I feel their pain because it is my own.
Tears and Trombones has my heart on every page.
YDA: It is no wonder, then, that your work reads so real because you write from the heart. Can this be an accurate assessment of your work?
Nanci Lee Woody: Here is my first poem, written from my heart to my daughter on her 21st birthday.
Our Birth Day
wearily straining my child-woman’s body
against or for you
(I knew not which)
brought you forth.
I was surprised
at the warm, wet mass that was you
and marveled at your smallness
at your aliveness on your own
as you were severed from me.
on this celebration of our birth day
I humbly acknowledge
the woman you’ve become.
I marvel at our alikeness
and our unsameness
and your aliveness on your own.
From me you came
and my soul will never cease
its watchful inclination toward you.
From me you came
and from that first
stirring deep within me
there was spawned
a womb-deep love
that defies distance
and knows not
YDA: Can you share with us your writing process? How do you write?
Nanci Lee Woody: A story brews in my mind, sometimes for months, even years, so when I sit at my computer, the stories or poems are already there. I edit constantly, after every paragraph, sometimes after every sentence. I do not outline or lay a story out before I begin. Recently I wrote a short story, “Loss,” based on an event that happened to me twenty years ago but made an impression on my mind. The story won first place in the California Writers Club annual short story competition.
YDA: Congratulations! Who is the author you’d be found reading?
Nanci Lee Woody: I read literary or mainstream fiction by authors such as Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, or Hope Jahren. In the last year, I have re-read such classics as D. H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers,” Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” I read every short story published by the New Yorker and the occasional one in Atlantic, as well as stories published online and in print anthologies. I also read poetry and works published by my writing friends.
YDA: What are your writing plans for the future? Do you have another work in the making, a character you want to bring to life?
Nanci Lee Woody: I am working on a fictionalized memoir made up of short stories. Each story is based around someone who was significant in my early life. I lived fatherless and in poverty as a child and had many influences, good and bad. Through the stories about other people, my own life will be revealed.
I also write short stories and poems as they come to me. My most recent short story, “The Toilet Dilemma,” is based on an event that happened years ago, but rings true today – women waiting in line to use a restroom wherever a lot of people are gathered.
I also am applying for a writers’ retreat where my husband and I will have the time (with no distractions) to revise our musical, “Hello to Life!”
YDA: Such are very interesting projects and I can’t wait to read your memoir. What would be your advice to young writers?
Nanci Lee Woody: Write what you know. Do your homework. Be selective when sharing your writing. Be strong. Do not expect everyone to be supportive or even to like your work. You do not need your friends’ approval to do what you must. Join writers groups. Go to writers conferences. Hang out with other writers. Read read read.