The oldest in a family of four girls and eleven cousins, I spent much of my childhood curled up reading a book whenever and wherever I could. The first book I remember reading independently was Robin Hood. The challenges of outsmarting the Sheriff of Nottingham seemed nothing compared to escaping my boisterous and often chaotic family. As a city kid growing up in Newark, N.J., stories were my pathway to fascinating people and mysterious lands far beyond my daily life. I vividly remember walking home from school with my best friend and making up stories about Peter Pan. She had blonde hair and always played Wendy, I was a tomboy and pretended to be Peter Pan. My favorite book in elementary school was Alice in Wonderland and the Miss Piggle-Wiggle books. I loved the fantasy of Alice and the personal puzzles the Miss Piggle Wiggle books always solved.
Nature has been a constant passion in my life. When we moved out of the city and into the suburbs, the first thing I did was enroll in the Girl Scouts. I was thrilled to go camping and take trips into the woods. I remained a faithful scout all through high school when, as a Mariner Scout, our troop crewed the YANKEE schooner from New York City up Long Island Sound to Mystic, Connecticut. My proudest memory is leading our troop in song throughout the weeklong trip as “shanty man.” My scouting experiences culminated in the Girl Scout Round-Up in Vermont along with 10,000 other girls from around the country. I’ve never lost my love of nature and have been a member of the Colorado Mountain Club, and continue to hike, ski, and bird watch.
My writing began with tiny steps – in a diary at the age of eight, essays and magazine articles when I was a teacher and librarian, and one day, a book. How humble that beginning was! I wrote my first book after spending a summer vacation trip to the Jersey shore with one of my sisters and her two-year-old daughter. It was a board book with a grand total of a single word on each page. And did I call my mother to tell her I was a published author? You bet I did! Eat your heart out, Tolstoy!
The Nature Investigator books began when a friend and I decided to write a nonfiction book about bluebirds. For weeks, we peeked in the nesting box in her backyard until, after a particularly rainy couple of days, she opened the box and we discovered with a shock that all the little birds had died. “There goes that book,” she told me as we walked away. “But wait!” I said, “What if we figure out why the birds died and wrote a book about that?” And so the Nature Investigator books were born, a series about a group of kids based loosely on my niece and nephew as the main characters, who solve nature mysteries in their neighborhood.
And did I mention that I love music? I have sung in any choir that would have me, from elementary school to performing in the San Francisco Savoyard Gilbert and Sullivan Group, the Hawaii State Opera Chorus, and church choirs too numerable to count.
Along the way, I began making “audiovisual presentations” and later, films. A few years ago, after walking around my Colorado hometown and viewing the abundance of murals throughout the city, I signed up with a Documentary Film Bootcamp. There, I directed and produced Talking Walls, a documentary film about murals that not only tells the story of the history of murals in our town, but most importantly emphasizes the need for public funding for the arts. Today, I’m currently working on another documentary film about our town’s oldest and largest community garden. And yes, I have a large vegetable garden in my own backyard.
I’ve been a sales clerk, waitress, researcher, teacher, librarian, media specialist, coordinator of information and technology, naturalist docent at our local nature center, singer, writer and filmmaker. Each of these experiences has inspired a story for me to write about and taught me that far more unites us as human beings than divides us.
Now, more than ever, I love to curl up with a good book, listen to music, view art, and dance, movies, and the natural world. Now, I have the privilege of telling stories that are important me. Stories about families and people, about different cultures, about exploring and protecting our precious and fragile natural world.
I’ve learned that every experience I have, every person I meet, every activity that piques my curiosity may one day be turned into a book.
Stories forever unfolding.
Nancy Bentley grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Columbia High School and Lake Erie College, then trekked off to San Francisco where she worked at Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample, an Advertising Agency. It was the era of the flower child and while not exactly a flower child herself, her advertising agency sat in what felt like the heart of the city – across the street from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore, around the corner from China Town, and peeking at North Beach through the back window.
She holds a Masters in Educational Communications from the University of Hawaii and a Masters in Library Science from the University of Denver. She has Certificates from the Denver University and Stanford University Publishing Institutes and she interned with Holiday House a couple of wonderful summers. It was during those internships she decided that writing was her dream job.
Nancy lives with her husband in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she grows a large vegetable garden every year, sings in the shower, reads every book she can get her hands on, and spends her time dreaming up stories to put on the page or in film.