If memory serves (and there’s no guarantee of that these days!) I first had the pleasure of meeting the effervescent Nancy Coffelt at the Humboldt County Children’s Authors Festival many years ago. In fact, I think I was a one or two book author at the time and in awe of the depth of Nancy’s career. As she explains below, her life was dramatically changed in 2018. I cannot imagine the challenges she faced in finding her way back to making written and visual art. One of the things she didn’t share is that her new way of addressing the canvas –through grids — has led her to yet another way to share her gifts. She paints amazing pet portraits, including this one of the very handsome dog that runs our household.

Nancy Coffelt

My new projects are science and math-based. It might seem strange to some people that an artist and (mostly) fiction writer would be focusing on these subjects, but science and math played an interesting part in my life after May 2018. My vehicle was struck by a truck and I ended up with a brain injury. As far as the science-based project came to be? The injury left me with a feeling for a few months that real-life wasn’t really “real.” Ironically, I had begun this MG novel project a few months before the accident–a project where the main character had a different way of looking at things due to getting a brain injury as an infant. I decided to use the writing project to process what I was feeling during this time. The result was a mess. But it did provide a jumping off place to revise from a more healed-brain perspective over about a year and a half later. 

The math project is a PB manuscript. After the accident, I also found that my previous art style wasn’t available to me. Painting became my daily personal rehabilitation and I found that I was using a grid pattern–squares to make the canvas space make more sense. I thought if this helped me understand a new concept, then perhaps that might work in a picture book as well. Fingers crossed. The MG novel is with an editor after requested revisions. The PB is with my agent. I’m working on a new MG project as well. But it’s too early to say anything coherent about it. 🙂 

Nancy began her career as a fine artist–and she still is, showing in galleries and creating commission-based work. Nancy submitted her first picture book project, slides and all, in 1989 to Harcourt and they took one of the projects. She went on to do four books with Harcourt and since then has published PB projects as well as middle grade and YA with publishers including Houghton Mifflin, Little Brown, Chronicle, Holiday House, and Simon and Schuster. Nancy loves language arts and science too. There is just so much information to share because it’s all so interesting!