Next Chapters is a biweekly feature spotlighting graduates of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, which has been running since 2010.
Novel Incubator Year: 8
Current Project: forthcoming novel Graceland, about a comic road trip involving three generations of women.
What book do you wish you wrote? Why?
Straight Man by Richard Russo. It’s one of my favorite books—both literary and humorous. If you don’t find Straight Man funny, we can’t be friends.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I blame my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Baevsky. She praised my poems, “A Thermometer’s View of Winter” and “Spring to a Blade of Grass.” At age 10, I was a shy, dorky child with an overbite—completely unaccustomed to praise. After Mrs. Baevsky put my poem on the bulletin board (if you can believe that!!!), my career path was set. I had no choice.
Share a time when something you wrote embarrassed you or caused you regret. How about when something you wrote brought you or others joy?
When my two daughters were little, I began writing a humor column about family life for our local newspaper. Eventually, of course, my girls grew, and their teacher or someone would mention the column, and my cover was blown. My children realized they were material. That said, I never intentionally wrote about anything that would embarrass them. The closest I came was when we were carving our Halloween pumpkins on Christmas Eve. When we were done, and had decorated the pumpkins as Santa and Rudolph, my younger daughter said, “Mom, could you not write about this in your column?” Of course, I did. Mommy had to pay for their college.
My older daughter basically ignored my columns for years, but when she was in graduate school, she started reading them all online. She called me one day, laughing so hard she could barely speak. Phew, I thought—no lasting damage. That was a good day.
What do you do for fun?
One of my hobbies is acting as an “extra” in movies and TV shows filmed in Boston. It’s allowed me, literally, to bump into Ed Helms in Chappaquiddick, leap over Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day, and stare unabashedly at Bradley Cooper’s rear end in Joy. And may I just say for the record, there is no greater joy than staring at Bradley Cooper’s rear. (Note to George Clooney: just kidding. It’s always been you, baby.)
How many agents did you query before getting representation, and what qualities did you prioritize in choosing yours?
Omigosh, you don’t want to know how many agents I queried. Well, you might, but I’m not going to tell you. My agent might read this, and she doesn’t know.
What qualities did I prioritize in choosing my agent? She liked me. This is the same way I chose my husband, and we’ve been married 40 years. It works.
What is your favorite punctuation mark? Why?
I feel the semicolon has been unfairly maligned. Some people (that’s right—I’m talking to you, Michelle Hoover) teach that semis are snooty and uppity, but darn it, they connect my otherwise random thoughts like nobody’s business; it’s not an easy job. (See how I did that?)
That said, anyone who reads my work will notice that I have a love affair with the dash. When I had to break up with colons and semicolons, the dash was there to pick up the pieces of my shattered prose. We’ve agreed to be exclusive. Don’t ever try to get between me and my dash.
For 13 years, Nancy Crochiere chronicled the ups and downs of family life—including her obsession with George Clooney—in her humorous newspaper column, “The Mother Load.” Then her children grew up and left home, leaving her no choice but to try fiction. Quitting her job in educational publishing, Nancy took courses at GrubStreet and graduated from the Novel Incubator program in 2019. Her debut novel, Graceland, a comic road trip involving three generations of women, will be published by Avon/HarperCollins on May 30. Find out more about Nancy and her work at www.nancycrochiere.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram @ncrochiere.