Nancy Dinan wrote "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here," as part of her doctoral project.
Publishing a book, a piece of work that exposes part of a writer's soul, brings a multitude of emotions and thoughts – relief that the book is done, but anxiety on how it will be received.
Nancy Dinan knows this experience firsthand. Dinan, who just graduated from Texas Tech University's Graduate School with her doctorate in English Literature with a creative writing specialization through the university's Department of English in the College of Arts & Sciences, published her first book in May.
According to the book's publisher, Bloomsbury, Dinan's book, "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here," is a "cautionary fairy tale for our troubled ecological age." It's set during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood in Central Texas, where protagonist Boyd Montgomery sets out to rescue her missing friend. She is joined by others along the way, navigating the newly unfamiliar terrain.
"I'm proud of my book, but I have some mixed feelings," Dinan said. "I think it being out makes the flaws very noticeable to me, but it's received some good critical reception. People have really responded to it, but also people have said things that I completely agree with, too.
"It's been weird to have sort of public criticism. I don't know how to explain it. It is definitely like a roller coaster. That's very clichéd to say, but when I get a good review, I'm very high and when I get a critical review, I'm a little low."
Those critical reviews, however, are few and far between. Most reviewers have praised the book, and Texas Monthly called it a "detailed portrait of a part of Texas whose novelistic potential few authors have tapped."
Social media isn't always the most positive arena, but Dinan found it beneficial before and during her book launch.
"I joined Twitter about a year ago, and I've connected with so many people," Dinan said. "That is just really gratifying to me. I got a notification this morning from somebody in Ireland just saying, 'I can't wait to read your book. I loved your essay.' I think that has been a positive connection. There's a writer named Mary South who has a collection of short stories that came out recently, and she started a group of authors who have books coming out during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, I've been able to connect with people who I admire."
Dinan recently turned in her second manuscript to her editors. The official title is still up in the air, but Dinan has her hopes set on one in particular.
"That book has a couple of alternate titles at the moment," she said. "One is 'What We Will Need to Rebuild,' and the one I like most is, 'Maiden, Mother, Keeper, Crone,' because the book is about these archetypal times of women's lives. I don't know what the final title for that one's going to be, but I think it's going to be one of those two."
Interestingly enough, Dinan doesn't get final approval for her book title. However, she appreciates the editing and renaming process.
"It's a privilege to be professionally edited," she said. "When you're writing a book, it's hard to find readers for it. Then, if it gets picked up, somebody is professionally editing it. So, I really want to listen to them because they know that field extremely well. But I didn't feel super attached to any of the things that were cut out of my first book."
Though not technically a sequel to "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here," Dinan's second book still has close themes to the first and will tell parts of the same story.
Teaching in Costa Rica
In August 2019, Dinan and her family moved to Costa Rica so she could teach at Texas Tech University Costa Rica. She taught three classes in the fall and four in the spring. With Texas Tech University Costa Rica being a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) campus, Dinan hasn't been able to teach many fiction or creative writing classes.
"I also have taught the introduction to the technical communication minor," Dinan said. "I feel strongly that people on an international science, technology, engineering and mathematics campus should have this minor, but it doesn't work out with everybody's degree plan, it turns out.
"The campus is in sort of an upscale shopping area. It's a beautiful building. There's very much the feel of a startup here, where we're all discovering things as we go, and it feels like we're building a program. Costa Rica itself is lovely. I live in the city, so everybody thinks we go to the beach a lot, but we don't go to the beach very often at all."
Western Kentucky University
To continue pursuing her passion for teaching creative writing, Dinan accepted a tenure-track faculty position at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
"It's bittersweet," she said. "I like it here in Costa Rica. I like being part of this mission. But for my career, the next step is a tenure-track job. I'll be teaching in Western Kentucky's master of fine arts program. I'll also teach two introduction to literature undergraduate creative writing classes. I'm really excited."
Though she won't continue on as a Texas Tech instructor, Dinan will always be a Red Raider.
"I came to Texas Tech five years ago," she said. "I came to Lubbock by myself with my two children. My husband lived in Austin. It seemed like such a crazy decision, but it has worked out in so many good ways. I'm just so grateful for the experiences I've had in Lubbock and in Costa Rica, just being part of Texas Tech."