Nancy Scott Hanway

Ocean's 8, Rihanna, and where's the sequel with just her and Cate Blanchett?

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

I Iove heist movies. Not a shocker—my just-completed YA novel The Criminal Gene is about a 16-year-old girl who discovers she comes from a long line of female thieves. She pulls off several heists with her old aunties before forming her own gang. So I especially love heist movies about women criminals. I was excited when Ocean’s 8 came out last year. Love Rihanna. And Cate Blanchett is my favorite actor.

And then . . . disappointed. I thought the women were underutilized. Especially RIhanna—Nine Ball is a fantastic character and Rihanna did a lot to bring the figure of the computer geek out of the cliché. But . . . the movie’s flat. Not as dangerous-feeling as the other Ocean’s movies. Part of it has to do with Sandra Bullock—for me, the wrong person to play that role. It should have gone to someone with more of an edge. Like Cate Blanchett, for example.

I’d watch an entire movie with just Cate Blanchett and Rihanna.

So if you know anything about a sequel let me know. This article from Bustle is all I’ve been able to find—and it’s from January. In the meantime, here’s a video of outtakes of Rihanna. I’m waiting.

Evidence of V by Sheila O'Connor (Rose Metal Press, 2019)

Must-read fictionNancy Scott HanwayComment

I’m so excited about this novel. Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor comes out next month. It dovetails with two historical interests of mine—how girls (and women, of course) are punished for their sexuality, and the 1930s in Minnesota, the setting of my work-in-progress. I know Sheila slightly (through a mutual friend, mostly) and she’s an amazing writer. One of the compelling elements of the novel is that it builds on a traumatic family story. Sheila’s maternal grandmother was placed in a juvenile hall for “immoral” behavior—an unplanned teenage pregnancy. I’d always known that women and girls who had babies outside of marriage were treated as social outcasts in the early 20th century, but not that they were institutionalized— it’s jaw-dropping news. Makes me so angry.

I love novels that use the emotional weight of documents, letters, and photographs, too, so I’m curious about how Sheila does this. Here’s a link to an excerpt on the Rose Metal Press site. It sounds like an ambitious, sad, and brilliant novel that I can’t wait to read.

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What The Writer Must Rescue

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

From the site, Advice to Writers

If you look at social media, you see this leveling of American culture. Everyone has the same photo of the same beach, the same blue water, same wedding party, same slang, same songs, same movies. We have one lingua franca. We curate ourselves for mass consumption. But real speech, in the moment, in groups of two or three, tears at the veil. What we say that is not recorded. Drunken confession. Botched jokes. The rejected advance. Campfire at a deer camp. The novel as village gossip. The writer must rescue the whispered and the regrettable.


“The Best People” — Photo by  Quaid Lagan  on  Unsplash

“The Best People” — Photo by Quaid Lagan on Unsplash

Being away. Really away

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

I just got back from sailing on Lake Superior in wilderness areas, mostly without cell service. Before we left, Cecil and I decided not to look at news for the entire two weeks. No Flipboard, no Slate, no Guardian, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram—none of the usual ways we get information (and lots of stress). And it was damn blissful.

Instead of asking each other at dinner—”OMG can you believe what that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named just did?” we talked about the water—how it looks when wind hits and the water looks crosshatched some times and rippled other times. Or where sea smoke (wispy fog that hangs above the water) comes from. The angle of waves. How it’s both scary and wonderful to get stuck in a thunderstorm on a boat. We discussed how—when we’re away from home—we don’t miss 99% of our possessions. We laughed at the dog discovering her echo.

And then we arrived back home to two shooting massacres and the news that Toni Morrison died. At first I wanted to climb back into the car and drive to the boat again. Stare at the water and fog and ignore everything that’s happening. But it’s too serious. And avoidance has never been a good strategy. So time to dig in.

Anchored off Suzy Island, near the Canadian border

Anchored off Suzy Island, near the Canadian border

Stories about Breasts

Women charactersNancy Scott HanwayComment

I read at least half a bunch of literary journals every month, and lately I've noticed stories about breasts. In these stories, there are breasts, always called boobs, that bob and slump and bounce and jiggle. Sometimes the boobs are compared to zeppelins or air bags.

The woman with description-worthy boobs is always untrustworthy.

There is often a quirky woman--a bearded lady or tattooed teenager--who is the center of things, symbolizing the strange state of being that is the male narrator’s life. Sometimes she has description-worthy breasts, sometimes she is flat-chested. Sometimes the narrator has sex with her, but more often he is denied his desire. She is demanding. The narrator uses fuck. A lot. The narrator uses nouns as adjectives. “He got all oracle-y on me.” The narrator downs vodka shots as a way of demonstrating his secure masculinity, often at a party where the other guests make strange statements. There is spaghetti-strap lingerie. And they use the word ‘dusky.’Did I mention that these are often beautifully written? And that--from the attitudes about women--you can't tell that nearly a century has passed since Hemingway began publishing fiction?


330-PS-2934 (USN 443983)   Sub Rescues Disabled Airship. Sailors of a ground crew landing party, haul down a disabled ZP2K airship at Boca Chica, Naval Air Station,

330-PS-2934 (USN 443983)

Sub Rescues Disabled Airship. Sailors of a ground crew landing party, haul down a disabled ZP2K airship at Boca Chica, Naval Air Station,

In My Sights, Sister

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

This beautiful poem by Rachel Galvin speaks to our complicity with violence done in our names. I love how she makes it personal by asking the question I often ask myself: What if I knew that person? She makes it even more intimate:

What if it were my sister?/ What if it were, /what. What we saw ground into our eyes with the photos,/with the newspaper reports.  

And that simple question changes everything about the news.

My story "The Mooring Field" in Diverse Arts Project - Winter 2017

Published FictionNancy Scott HanwayComment

Excited that my short story "The Mooring Field" is in the latest issue of Diverse Arts Project, with a wonderful photo to illustrate it by Amanda North.

This story is another in the series of stories I've been writing that take place in northern California, in a hospice facility and in a women's prison.

Photo credit: Amanda North

Photo credit: Amanda North

Characters want to get out

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

My favorite quote from the great Elie Wiesel, who died yesterday after a lifetime of breaking down walls as a writer and activist for peace.

Writers write because they cannot allow the characters that inhabit them to suffocate them. These characters want to get out, to breathe fresh air and partake of the wine of friendship; were they to remain locked in, they would forcibly break down the walls. It is they who force the writer to tell their stories.


Elie Wiesel (1987) by Erling Mandelmann , licensed under    CC BY-SA 3.0

Elie Wiesel (1987) by Erling Mandelmann, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Meeting Fictional Characters - Part 2

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

These encounters (writers meeting fictional characters) happen more often than you think. Comic book writer Alan Moore says he spotted John Constantine, from his Hellblazer series, in a London sandwich shop. (BTW, Moore says he based the character on Sting, which explains the reference.)

All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine. He was wearing the trenchcoat, a short cut—he looked—no, he didn't even look exactly like Sting. He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar.

I sat there and thought, should I go around that corner and see if he is really there, or should I just eat my sandwich and leave? I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I'm not making any claims to anything. I'm just saying that it happened. Strange little story. (from a 1994 interview in Wizard Magazine, qtd. in Wikipedia)

I love the fact that Moore didn't go around the corner. That he was scared by the character he brought to life. (Although Constantine could just as easily have been scared by his creator: Moore looks like a badass god. His Wikipedia page says he's "an occultist, an anarchist, and a ceremonial magician," whatever the hell that means.)

But anyway, it makes me think it's best I didn't meet my character the other day. Maybe it's like time travel, where it's dangerous to meet your former or future self. Meeting your character could create cracks in reality.

They say that Neil Gaiman met Death. That's a story I'd like to hear.

"Alan Moore" (CC photo by fimb on Flicker. Cropped original)

"Alan Moore" (CC photo by fimb on Flicker. Cropped original)

Meeting fictional characters in real life

The Criminal GeneNancy Scott Hanway1 Comment

The other day, my husband’s car got sideswiped by one of my characters. A little old lady in a big Buick whacked him as she left a parking space. She looked straight at him, backed up, and sped off. He got out of the car and ran through the parking lot to where she was stopped at a light. He rapped on her window. She locked her doors before sliding down the glass.

Lady, irritated: “Can I help you?
Cecil: “You just hit my car!”
Lady: “Not very hard!

He made her turn around and come back, so he could inspect the damage. She did, sulkily. There was a dent, but it would be more trouble than our ancient Volvo was worth to get fixed. She said, “I told you,” and left.

I was so sad I wasn’t there. She could so easily be Eugenia, the head of my fictional gang of old lady car thieves. Have you met fictional characters (yours or someone else’s) in real life?

"Underside" published in Crack the Spine

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

My short story, "Underside," just appeared in the latest issue of Crack the Spine, the online literary journal. The story is about a mother-son dog therapy team working in a hospice facility in California. The son is paralyzed from the waist down, and one day he and his mother come upon the cop who knows what caused the son's injury.

This story is the fourth to be published from a series that I'm working on. The stories all take place in Northern California, in a hospice facility or a women's prison. The mom in "Underside" is the character who connects the two places. She's an Episcopalian pastor, and along with her work on the dog therapy team, she also ministers to death row inmates in the prison.

I'm really fascinated by the way that dying creates intimacy among strangers--as well as by the few degrees of separation between all of us.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Fantastic Stories

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

I'm reading Ransome Riggs' Miss Peregrine series, finally. (The first book has been on my list for years.)  I usually experience a terrible sense of loss when I finish one--but it's unusual to fall in love with first page.

What makes this beginning so good? In the prologue, we're taken into this new world through a grandfather's crazy stories, in which the narrator, Jacob, only half believes. In Chapter One, the novel jumps forward in time, and the now sixteen-year-old Jacob realizes that one of those stories may have murdered his grandpa. It's endlessly inventive and very peculiar. And has fantastic photos. 


Rule Breakers: a chef, a writer, and a bottle of wine.

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

Francis Mallman, Helen Oyeyemi, and the Anko winemakers of Salta

Like every great chef, Francis Mallman’s a born rule breaker. Trained in Paris and New York, he specialized in French haute cuisine for many years, until he abandoned it for the homey woodfire cooking of his childhood in Patagonia.  

Cecil and I ate at his restaurant 1884 in Mendoza in 2012, one of my favorite restaurant meals ever.

So when I heard Mallman was coming to town last year, I got us tickets for the event at Cooks of Crocus Hill in Saint Paul. A 3-course dinner from his latest book Mallman on Fire


After we met Mallman--an approachable and quirky man in his 50s--we went upstairs to dinner.

Three glasses of wine sat at each place setting: an Albariño, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Tannat, all from Bodega Garzón, in Uruguay. But when someone asked, “Which wine should we pair with each course?” Mallman responded, “Oh, I don’t believe in pairing rules.”

Of course not. His talk that evening had been about how breaking rules led to discovering his life’s work. About how we need to lose our fears about the world, starting with our fear of the elements. (We are supposed to picnic outdoors in the winter in Minnesota . . . )

The meal was amazing, by the way. I still think about. Here are my personal pairings: 

  • Sauvignon Blanc with grilled pears wrapped in Iberico ham appetizer, because the acidic wine was perfect with the creamy and smoky flavors of the food.
  • Tannat--an Uruguayan grape that’s like a slightly more tannic Malbec--with roasted leg of porkwrapped in rosemary with orange, black pepper and rosemary salmuera. I love dense red wines with meat.
  • Albariño with dulce de leche ice cream with charred bananas. The Bodega Garzón Albariño is light and crisp. A strangely good combo.


And this brings me to another rule breaker: Helen Oyemi, author of the brilliant novel Boy, Snow, Bird. I just discovered Oyeyemi’s work, and she has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

The Plot: An extended play on the Snow White tale, Boy, Snow, Bird starts on the lower east side of Manhattan in the 1930s. Boy--the novel’s female narrator-- tells the story of her childhood with an evil rat catcher. She runs away from home and ends up in the town of Flax Hill, Massachusetts: a dreamy, fairy tale village of old-world artisans. Boy eventually marries a jewelry maker, a widower with a young daughter named Snow.

After Boy gives birth to a daughter named Bird, the novel suddenly becomes very real. The narration jumps in time and shifts from Boy to Bird, now a smart-ass adolescent. The town has previously seemed isolated from the world, but now we’re now smack in the middle of U.S. race relations in the 1960s, as the family comes to grips with racial hatred within its ranks. Boy returns to narrate the end of the novel, and there’s a bizarre and incredible plot twist.

This novel breaks so many writing rules. Among them:

  • The tone is inconsistent.
  • So is the style. Sometimes it’s magically real, sometimes not.
  • It deals with the issue of race in ways that are often didactic.
  • It introduces new characters and concepts at the end.

And yet it all works.

Oyeyemi trusts herself. She leads with her narrators' voices—Boy is sarcastic, scary, and yet adorable. Bird is a smart and appealing teenager. And the Snow White tale gives the novel a deep structure that seems to appear and disappear like a face in the mirror.


A toast and tasting notes:



So I toast Mallmann and Oeyeyemi--rule breakers who inspire me to take risks--with a 2011 Anko Malbec Flor de Cardón. It’s grown in the rugged highlands of Salta, Argentina, 750 miles north of Mendoza where most Malbec is planted. At 5700 feet, the vineyard faces more extremes of temperature and more intense sun, which changes the grape in ways you can taste. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, because it has a powerful fruit that hits right away. But then you note its dark complexity, with nice tannins and spiciness. In another wine, it could be unbalanced. But the Anko winemakers somehow make it work--just like all inspirational rule breakers.

"Fluke" - my flash piece appears in Limestone

Nancy Scott HanwayComment

Excited that my flash piece, "Fluke" appears in the Fall 2015 issue of Limestone."Fluke" is another piece that takes place in Northern California. It's about a man sitting beside his wife's bed in a hospice facility, considering the fact that he never understood her need to hear stories.

I'm interested in couples who met when they were very young. I met my husband in high school, so even though we only got married eight years ago, I have a deep sense of who he is.

Photo by  Sasha Freemind  on  Unsplash

Close to the Water

Published FictionNancy Scott HanwayComment

Proud that my flash piece, "Close to the Water," appears in the latest issue of Diverse Voices Quarterly. (I love that journal!) I've been writing a group of interconnected stories that all take place near Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco. It's one of my favorite places in the world (thanks to my wonderful father-in-law and stepmother-in-law for taking us there every summer.) Beautiful and yet also atmospheric. A fog bank hangs near shore, waiting to invade. 

Lately, I've been trying to stop censoring myself--to write about what I think. "Close to the Water" is the outcome: it's about death and violence against women.  I wrote it in an intense day and then spent a few weeks tinkering and editing.



Best new female character: Eva Zorelli

Great Female CharactersNancy Scott Hanway10 Comments

Who are your favorite female characters in YA fiction? Ever since I was a kid, I've loved young adult books with strong female characters. Sassy, flawed ones, like Harriet from Harriet the Spy or Claudia Kincaid of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Sweet-but-bad girls like my friends: loyal to the end, funny as shit, curious, kind, rebellious. I adore them even though they (like me) sometimes make truly terrible decisions.

My friend Callie Cardamon just finished a young adult novel (Eva Zorelli Brings On the Rain) narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl, another lovable and pissed-off heroine. Here’s the plot: When she loses her best friend to an accident, Eva Zorelli falls apart, lashing out at everyone around her. Her actions lead her to juvenile court where she is forced to choose between attending Rain Dance—a New Age program for troubled kids—or going to juvenile detention. As ludicrous as Rain Dance sounds, it's better than detention, so Eva agrees to go. Once there, the irrepressible Eva becomes the punching bag of the spiritual director, a deceitful bully who wants to break her spirit. Eva finds a way to save herself, a vulnerable nine-year old girl, and a brilliant seventeen-year old boy, while bringing down the spiritual director.

I finished the book, called Callie, and said, “Don’t get me wrong, honey, I love you, but put Eva on the phone!” That’s how much I fell for Eva. I was pulling for her the entire time. If I had read this novel as a kid, I would have been obsessed.

If you want to read it right away, you’ll have to talk to Callie herself (or her agent, Jacquesde Spoelberch). Or you can talk to me, and I will put in a good word for you.  Some lucky publisher will eventually get it, after the bidding war, of course.

Okay, so who are your favorite female characters in YA or adult novels?  Why? What novels should everyone read?

Callie Cardamon

Callie Cardamon

Callie Cardamon