Kincaid, Nanci 1950–
Kincaid, Nanci 1950–
PERSONAL: Born September 5, 1950, in Tallahassee, FL; daughter of William Henry Pierce (an educator) and Lois (a teacher) Pierce Cannon; married first husband (a football coach; divorced); married Dick Tomey (a football coach), February 14, 1997; children: (first marriage) two daughters. Education: Attended Virginia Tech University and University of Wyoming. Athens State College, B.A., 1987; University of Alabama, M.F.A., 1991. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, public speaking, grandchildren.
CAREER: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, creative writing and literature instructor, 1987–91; University of North Carolina, Charlotte, creative writing and literature instructor, 1992–96; University of Arizona, Tucson, instructor of English, 1999–. Panelist at Southern Literary Festival, 1992 and 1997, and Writers Today Conference, 1992; keynote speaker, Eudora Welty Writer's Conference, 1993; visiting writer, Meridian Community College, Meridian, MI, 1994; presenter at North Carolina Writer's Network, 1995, Winthrop College, NC, summer writing program, and Hoover College, AL.
AWARDS, HONORS: Herbert L. Hughes Fiction Award, The Rectangle, 1986–87; W.B. Yeats Writer's Award, Athens State College, 1987; Fiction Award, Southern Literacy Festival, 1987; Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellowship, 1989; Yaddo fellowship, 1989 and 1994; Teaching Writing fellowship, University of Alabama, 1990; University of Alabama graduate council fellowship, 1990–91; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1991; MacDowell Colony fellowship, 1993; Bunting fellowship, Radcliffe College, 1994–95; Emerging Artist Award, Alabama Fine Arts Society, 1996; Mary Ingraham Bunting Foundation grant.
Crossing Blood, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1992.
Balls, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 1998.
Verbena, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2002.
As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Pretending the Bed Is a Raft (short stories), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 1997.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 1991, edited by Shannon Ravenel, Algonquin Books, 1991; New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 1994, edited by Shannon Ravenel, Algonquin Books, 1994; Short Stories of the American South; and Christmas Stories from the South, Algonquin Books, 2005.
Contributor of short stories and poetry to periodicals, including Carolina Quarterly, Missouri Review, Ontario Review, Oxford American, Southern Exposure, and Southern Humanities Review.
ADAPTATIONS: The short story "Pretending the Bed Is a Raft" was adapted as the film My Life without Me, Sony Pictures Classics, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Nanci Kincaid grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and married at age nineteen. Her two daughters were nearly grown when she returned to school to earn a bachelor's degree from Athens State College and a master's degree in fiction writing from the University of Alabama. Her poetry and short stories have been published in periodicals and anthologies, and Kincaid has taught creative writing at the college level.
Kincaid's novel Crossing Blood is a coming-of-age tale set in the American South during the 1960s. "Kincaid's adept characterization, blend of humor and pathos, and ear for dialogue mark this promising debut novel," wrote Publishers Weekly contributor Sybil Steinberg. The novel's narrator is adolescent Lucy Conyers, whose white family lives on the edge of French Town, a region of Tallahassee consisting mostly of African-American residents. Lucy's mother advocates racial equality while her stepfather does not. Lucy has an older brother, Roy, and a younger brother, Benny, and her brothers' best friends are two African-American boys who live nearby. Benny's friends are the sons of Melvina Williams, a woman who keeps house for the Conyers family. Melvina is the mother of four other children and is married to an alcoholic and abusive husband. Lucy's mother attempts to make up for white racism by helping Melvina's children, and in doing so, jeopardizes her marriage. Reviewing Crossing Blood in the New York Times Book Review, Steven Stark concluded: "It's easy to wish that Ms. Kincaid had taken more risks with her characters, that the narrative had been more concise. Still, she offers a fresh, honest, and complex portrait of love and hate in the South of the 1960s."
"Eight exquisite examples of great short story writing" is the phrase Library Journal contributor Ann H. Fisher used to describe Kincaid's Pretending the Bed Is a Raft. In the title story, Belinda, a young mother and cancer patient, makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. In "Won't Nobody Ever Love You like Your Daddy Does," the same male neighbor attracts a girl and her mother. An instructor in love with his student contemplates leaving his wife in "Why Richard Can't." Booklist contributor Mary Ellen Quinn noted that "the narrative voice in all the stories is sure and strong," and praised the author's "fresh insights and quirky humor." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Kincaid "a master at revealing personality through dialogue" and labeled Pretending the Bed Is a Raft a "fine debut story collection."
Balls concerns the culture of southern college football as seen through the eyes of fifteen female narrators. Having been married to two football coaches, Kincaid brings an insider's view to the game as it affects coaches, their families, and the players. The story begins in 1968, and the novel's main narrator is Dixie Carraway, a former homecoming queen married to former college quarterback Mac Gibbs. Mac coaches high school teams, then becomes the coach of the fictional Birmingham University Black Bears. Kincaid also depicts the recruiting of players and southern fans' passion for college football. When Mac starts a black quarterback, he hears from the Ku Klux Klan. Mac also commits recruiting violations and experiences problems in both his marriage and career. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote that "Kincaid handles this rather pulpy material more-or-less evenhandedly" and noted that her "gritty, down-to-earth dialogue dominates the novel, saving it from its worst miscalculations."
Reviewing Balls in the Library Journal, Wilda Williams praised "the novel's warm humor and eccentric characters." Booklist contributor Dennis Dodge noted that although Balls "seems to center on the most macho of sports, it is all about the inner lives of women," and called the novel "unfailingly perceptive and deeply moving." While a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Kincaid "hasn't quite found the shape to show her wit and wisdom to their best advantage," she "is a fresh, promising voice in the serio-comic good ol' girl school."
Bena Eckert McKale is the exceptionally strong protagonist in Kincaid's third novel, Verbena. Bena's life is dramatically altered after her husband dies in an automobile accident while seated next to another woman half his age. Later, Bena learns a baby also died in the crash. Kincaid thrusts more than her fair share of heartache on Bena, but the character perseveres and manages to maintain her friendly southern virtues and raise five teenage children. William W. Starr of the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service commented that "readers likely will cheer her choices in this engaging but tough characterization, shorn of sitcom sentimentality and blessed with an ending so gently satisfying." The final chapters in the novel were inspired by the real-life drama of Kincaid's own mother, as Bena battles to find meaning in a life of continuous setbacks and painful lessons. "This is an authentic story," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted in reviewing Kincaid's book, "of a resilient woman's doubts, troubles, heartbreak and survival."
In As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, Berry Jackson, an inexperienced and socially awkward thirteen-year-old, finds her world transformed during a searingly hot south Florida summer. As she struggles with her own nascent sexuality, Berry observes the goings-on of her family, including girl-obsessed older brother Sowell; her uptight and self-righteous father, who is the principal of the local school; and her loves-truck mother—interested not in her father, but in the local preacher. When a tornado rips through her tiny hometown of Pinette, the town is nearly destroyed, and her father has vanished, along with a young woman, Rennie Miller, a lovely young waif and dreamer. As the town speculates on whether Berry's father has run off with Rennie, a gang of prison inmates is sent in to help with the cleanup and rebuilding. One of the inmates, Raymond, catches Berry's attention and she develops a crush on him. When he saves her from a poisonous snake bite, Berry returns the favor by volunteering to suck the poison from his leg wound. As her attraction to Raymond deepens, she struggles on the cusp of womanhood and tries to make sense of the contradictions and bad decisions she sees being made all around her. Texas Monthly reviewer Jeff McCord called the book "a novel that's tough, tender, and mysterious all at once," while a Publishers Weekly contributor described it as a "sticky, sultry gem." Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, remarked favorably on Kincaid's "memorably regional, wryly funny, and naturally artful first-person [authorial] voice." Kincaid's "quirky characters" and "Deep South sensibility" all "combine to make a well-developed fictional world," commented Ann H. Fisher in the Library Journal.
Kincaid once told CA: "How can you grow up Southern and not develop a passion for stories and the words that give them life? In the poor South of my childhood money was something only a few people had—words were the true currency of the culture. I also loved the way the truth hid inside the language, how artfully camouflaged it always was and is.
"I have over-listened all my life. All that listening built up and spills out into voices and stories. Some people speak when spoken to. I write when spoken to—whether by the inner voice or by the amazing external voices that surround me. I never have writer's block. (Even when I should!)
"I don't choose my subjects. They choose me. Race. Gender. The power of place. And lately, forgiveness."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Aethlon, fall, 1999, review of Balls, p. 188.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 27, 1998, Carolyn Nizzi Warmbold, review of Balls, p. L11; October 30, 1998, Don Briant, review of Balls, p. K10.
Atlantic Monthly, November, 1998, review of Balls, p. 138.
Booklist, March 15, 1993, p. 1342; October 1, 1997, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, p. 308; July, 1998, Dennis Dodge, review of Balls, p. 1829; March 1, 2002, Peggy Barber, review of Verbena, p. 1092; December 15, 2004, Michael Cart, review of As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, p. 707.
Charlotte Observer, June 3, 2002, Polly Paddock, review of Verbena.
Entertainment Weekly, December 12, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, p. 81; November 20, 1998, Rhonda Johnson, review of Balls, p. 120; November 26, 1999, review of Balls, p. 85.
Honolulu Advertiser, October 5, 2003, Wanda A. Adams, "Author Finds Fact in Fiction," review of Verbena.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1992, p. 419; August 1, 1998; March 1, 2002, review of Verbena, p. 280; March 1, 2002, review of Verbena, p. 280; December 15, 2004, review of As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, p. 1158.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 5, 2002, Polly Paddock, review of Verbena, p. K0104.
Library Journal, May 1, 1992, p. 118; September 1, 1997, Ann H. Fisher, review of Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, p. 222; September 1, 1998, Wilda Williams, review of Balls, p. 214; February 15, 2005, Ann H. Fisher, review of As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, p. 119.
New Yorker, September 7, 1992, p. 95; February 1, 1999, review of Balls, p. 14.
New York Times, December 13, 1998, Erica Sanders, review of Balls, p. 35.
New York Times Book Review, January 31, 1993, p. 21; February 13, 1994, p. 32.
Orlando Sentinel, July 19, 2002, Mary Ann Horne, review of Verbena.
Publishers Weekly, March 30, 1992, review of Crossing Blood, p. 87; August 18, 1997, review of Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, p. 66; August 3, 1998, review of Balls, p. 71; February 18, 2002, review of Verbena, p. 69; January 24, 2005, review of As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, p. 222.
Rapport, June, 1999, review of Balls, p. 25.
School Library Journal, November, 1992, p. 142.
Southern Living, December, 1992, p. 82; November, 1997, p. 126.
State (Columbia, SC), May 30, 2002, William W. Starr, review of Verbena.
Texas Monthly, February, 2005, Jeff McCord, review of As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me, p. 58.
Winston-Salem Journal, November 22, 1998, Anne Barnhill, review of Balls, p. A20.
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Web site, http://www.algonquin.com/ (November 12, 1998).
Auburn University Web site, http://www.auburn.edu/ (May 1, 2006), biography of Nanci Kincaid.