Nancy McCabe is the author of four memoirs and a novel that plays with conventions of the ghost story and the romance. She has also frequently written about travel—to literary sites and to China, her daughter’s birthplace—and about related subjects: creativity, children’s literature, adoption, and heritage.
Nancy’s most recent book is the novel Following Disasters (Outpost 19, Fall 2016). On her twenty-first birthday, Maggie Owen receives an unusual birthday gift: a house. For three years, Maggie has been fleeing her childhood demons: the deaths of her parents, estrangement from her terminally ill aunt, and a betrayal by her best friend. But now her career on the road, following natural disasters and working in temporary claims offices, ends abruptly as Maggie returns home to face her past.
Previous books include From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood (Missouri 2014). Part travel narrative, part reading memoir, part literary and cultural commentary, in it Nancy returns to beloved books from her childhood and travels to places related to favorite authors: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott. Along the way, she examines the ways books shaped her and whole generations of readers.
Her first book, After the Flashlight Man: A Memoir of Awakening (Purdue 2003), is a collection of essays sparked by two events. One night in 1990, a stranger cut the screen out of Nancy’s bedroom window while she slept and shone a flashlight into her eyes as she woke. After the Flashlight Man is the story of how she came to terms with this experience that threw her life into a whole new light. “Nancy McCabe makes plain, with stunning grade and strength, the redemptive power of story,” writes Lee Martin.
Meeting Sophie: A Memoir of Adoption (Missouri 2003) takes up several years later when Nancy set out to become a single mother, adopting a daughter from China despite many obstacles. Publisher’s Weekly says, “As a new mother and grieving daughter, McCabe struggles poignantly and triumphantly to maintain her own identity as she creates her place within family. Her tale will be familiar and inspiring to those interested in delving into their own family relations, as well as to single women considering adoption.”
Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to my Daughter’s Birthplace in China (Missouri 2011) picks up a decade later, when Nancy and Sophie return to China, visiting tourist sites and journeying to Sophie’s orphanage and birth village, life-changing experiences for them both. In Adoption Today, Richard Fischer describes Blue Willow Bridge as “wonderfully entertaining, serious at the right moments, sensitive and compassionate enough to give it heart, humorous and honest enough to make it real, McCabe hits another home run with this title.”
Nancy’s essays have won a Pushcart prize and made the Best American Essays Notable List five times. Her work has also made the Notable List for Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Newsweek, Gulf Coast, Crazyhorse, Crab Orchard Review, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, Bellingham Review, Louisville Review, and others. She has also received an Individual Artists Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and two awards from Prairie Schooner. In addition to creative nonfiction, she has published reviews, fiction, poetry, journalism, and academic essays.
Nancy directs the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, where she was a recipient of the Chairs’ Award for Teaching Excellence. She also teaches creative nonfiction and fiction for the Spalding University Brief Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing. She has served as a writer in residence at the Chautauqua Institution in New York and spoken at numerous colleges and universities, including Xavier University of Louisiana, University of West Georgia, University of Rhode Island, Westminster College, Hamilton College, Gettysburg College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Furman University. She is available for talks and readings.
She lives in Bradford, PA with her daughter.