The May-June 2021 edition of the Carolina Alumni Review – the one with Roy Williams on the cover – included this item on “Tall” in its Books section.
May 7, 2021
The conversation below with Charlotte podcaster Landis Wade at charlottereaderspodcast.com was recorded in February and released today. I read from “Tall” and we talked about the book.
Landis describes “Tall” as “an authentically written and compulsively readable memoir of Nancy’s life from gangly teen to investigative reporter.” The podcast includes a segment on “Investigative Journalism Tips for Writers.”
Feb. 20, 2021
Feb. 7, 2021
I’ve written two novels about Annie Price, investigative reporter, and intend to write a third – someday. Readers ask me: Why take the time and energy to write a memoir when you could be working on that next piece of fiction?
The simplest answer, as Socrates said, is “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
That doesn’t mean you have to write a memoir. It does mean that you can evaluate the life you’ve led and whether it has the meaning and heft you intended. It’s never too late to make changes in a life.
First, an explanation of the difference between an autobiography and a memoir. An autobiography is a chronologically told story of a writer’s life. A memoir generally covers one aspect or one incident in a writer’s life with a theme running through it. Memoirs, built on memories, can also be told chronologically.
Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World is definitely a memoir. I started out intending to write a sociological account of the obstacles many tall girls and women face in their journey to fit in.
My book’s first chapter is about a Swedish woman who had more than two inches cut from her thigh bones to shorten her 6-foot-1½ inch height. According to a 1964 Parade magazine article, the young nurse was ecstatically happy with the result. I searched for her online without results.
The first chapter also includes an account of girls in Australia who were treated with hormones to stunt their growth. The hormones, prescribed by doctors in league with worried parents, often resulted in tall girls’ developing reproductive problems later in life.
But I could find no concrete evidence of leg-cutting or treating with hormones in the United States. I’m sure there were incidents of hormone treatment aimed at tall girls, but the recipients have kept quiet about it.
Besides, I thought, would anyone really want to read that book?
What would be better, I decided, was to write about my own experience growing up as a tall girl and my life as a tall woman.
That overarching theme led to my accounts of searching for love and finding a profession as a journalist. For either search to be successful, I had to develop the confidence I never had as a tall teenager. That confidence was slow – but steady – in coming, as a reporter, then as an investigative journalist.
My search for love was another confidence-building opportunity, leading me from a broken engagement and another failed relationship to the man of my dreams. I had to overcome my prejudice against shorter men to appreciate that lover, now my husband, who is two inches shorter.
I wrote about my family of seven, which included a stay-at-home mother (who later became a teacher), my editor-publisher father and my four siblings. Some of my observations included embarrassment over the birth of a sister when I was fourteen, and anger about not being allowed to move into a college-bound sister’s room.
It’s difficult to write about my deceased parents without feeling some frustration and a lot of sadness. They made mistakes, particularly in their sometimes-hostile relationship with each other, but they always tried hard to be good parents to their brood of five. Largely, they succeeded.
My siblings like the book (some more than others.) Only one of the four asked for something to be taken out. She argued that particular part was their secret; not ours. I abided by her request.
Honesty is essential in a memoir and readers seem to sense when it’s lacking. I have tried to be honest throughout this book, though it’s painful to look back at such things as being teased about my tallness as a preteen.
As a journalist, at first it was difficult to allow myself to be vulnerable on the page. But I’ve found that everyone is vulnerable about something. In my case, I related my loneliness of being a first-time mother and my bitter disappointment at not being able to have a second child. I could have stayed quiet about these sensitive subjects but bringing them out allowed me to exorcise some demons.
My memoir also includes some great memories of moving as a bride to the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually relocating to the diametrically different atmosphere of Houston.
Readers say they have enjoyed sections of the memoir relating to my work as an investigative reporter, from stories about women being cheated out of fair divorce settlements to a dangerous project about the crooked leaders of a Texas community college.
I am learning that people are drawn to memoirs in a way they don’t relate to fiction
“I really enjoyed that book,” a friend I hadn’t seen in a while told me. “I liked your novels, but I liked this one better because it’s real.”
A big factor in deciding to write this memoir is my three-year-old granddaughter. I hope that someday she’ll enjoy knowing more about Mimi and her life. My son enjoyed it, though, like many men, his reaction was literal.
“Mom, I’m not 6 feet 4,” he told me. “I’m only 6 feet 3 ½.”
In the middle of some serious chapters, I needed that lightness.
As I have gotten older, I’ve had an irresistible need to examine my life as a whole.
How did being tall affect that life? Did it turn out to be a plus or a minus? As I’ve tried to point out, it really depended on the circumstances. Did I live up to my potential as a wife, mother and journalist? It depended on the day, month and year. There have been a lot of highs and lows, as there are in anyone’s life.
I don’t consider my life to be close to the end. I hope that I’ll have many more adventures. Indeed, I have them all the time, new experiences that demand my attention.
I try to make the most of them.
Jan. 5, 2021
Suffolk (Va.) News-Herald writer Rachel Wartian wrote about “Tall” and the stories Nancy Stancill tells about her parents, who were longtime residents of Suffolk. The online article is here. A picture of the article published in the newspaper Jan. 6 is below.
Jan. 3, 2021
Lily Chubb at the Daily Tar Heel at UNC Chapel Hill published an article about DTH alumna Nancy Stancill’s memoir, Tall.
– – –
By Lily Chubb
January 3, 2021 | 7:46pm EST
headline: “UNC alumna Nancy Stancill writes memoir detailing life as an investigative reporter”
UNC and Daily Tar Heel alumna Nancy Stancill’s career in investigative journalism inspired her to write two mystery novels and, most recently, a memoir.
Stancill’s memoir, “Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World,” was published on Nov. 24, 2020, and covers Stancill’s career as well as her personal life.
“I just thought it would be a good place to examine my life so far and maybe leave something of value to my 3-year-old granddaughter,” Stancill said.
Stancill was born in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and moved to Radford, Virginia, at the age of 8. She attended UNC from 1967 to 1971, a time in which both the nation and the University were fraught with protest and change.
Stancill worked at The Daily Tar Heel during her time at UNC, which she described as a good and bad experience.
“I remember one day I was allowed to interview the chancellor, and I was so excited,” she said. “And then there was the incident where one of the top reporters asked me to sharpen his pencils, which was very obnoxious.”
During her first year at UNC, Stancill lived under rules specifically for women that were punishable by expulsion if broken. The one she said was most infuriating was “closed study,” which mandated that first-year women had to be in their rooms studying from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weeknights, and was later eliminated by Stancill’s sophomore year.
After graduating from UNC in 1971, Stancill worked at newspapers in Virginia and California before moving to Houston, Texas, with her husband.
Stancill then began her 15-year career for the Houston Chronicle in 1978, where she worked her way up to the investigative team. She said her biggest story was about a variety of misdeeds at a community college in Killeen, Texas, including that the administration was mismanaging money.
“That was the only time I was really afraid for my safety,” she said. “Someone who blew the whistle on this college drowned, and I was told by sources, too, that I was being followed. Someone sent me a wanted poster that I was in and said that the administration should know if I ever stepped foot on campus.”
Don Mason, who was the principal editor on that story, said that Stancill exhibited great bravery in her reporting.
“I knew all the stuff she was doing over there in Killeen and some of the other projects she worked at, but I don’t think I appreciated how much personal danger she felt,” Mason said. “She’s brave, I mean, she did what a reporter does, and it was not always comfortable.”
Stancill left Houston in 1993 and joined the investigative team at The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.
For a story called “Starving the Wife,” Stancill investigated divorce cases in which husbands would wait a long time to settle, during which the wives were left in poverty and forced to accept much less than they deserved. She used computer analysis to determine that the average case was taking more than two years to settle.
Her story pushed the state to change some of the rules on divorce cases and caused the judges in Mecklenburg County to change some of their procedures and to institute mediation.
“There were a variety of reforms from that series,” she said. “It was probably the best thing I did there.”
After she left the Observer, she lived in London for three years with her husband and spent time traveling. She decided to write her first novel, “Saving Texas,” about a young journalist who becomes involved in investigating a secessionist gubernatorial candidate.
After her first novel was a success, she got a creative writing degree through the University of Tampa’s master’s program, which resulted in her thesis and second book, “Winning Texas.”
Stancill’s readers have praised her for her bravery in writing about personal traumas as well as her career in her recent memoir.
Stancill’s former editor, Steve Gunn, said that Stancill’s memoir is entertaining and gives useful advice to aspiring journalists.
“I really do think it should be required reading for young journalists, because it’s about both big stories and all that, but also how you balance a career in your personal life,” Gunn said.
Dec. 29, 2020
Here are excerpts from some of the recent signed reviews from “Tall” readers, as posted on Amazon.
“Whether you’re a six-footer or you top off at five feet, the book is a reminder that how you measure yourself is more of a determiner of your success and well-being than any measure on a yardstick.”
– Judy Goldman
“Two subjects especially engaged this short person – Stancill’s novel-like recounting of her years as an investigative reporter. And her tales of dating – and finding her true love in a man two inches shorter. Delicious.”
– Dannye Powell
“Stancill faced challenges with height, but also with fear, gender issues and family expectations. And she gives us examples of how she overcame adversity with each throughout her interesting life and successful career in journalism.”
– Daniel N
“A highlight of the memoir for me was the story of how she got the stories behind her most dramatic cases, including an exciting, well-paced account of a consequential corruption case in higher education.”
– Nancy A. Metz
“Nancy Stancill takes readers on a grand adventure, from her early life as a painfully shy, 6-foot teenager, to a kickass reporter who learned that height can be power.”
– Cindy Montgomery
“… I was among those who thought short women were cute, but tall women – those teased or avoided, growing up – lived in a different realm, one where they’d feel comfortable only as members of a basketball or volleyball team. Nancy Stancill’s book brought a new and valuable awareness to me and hopefully to her other readers.”
– Pat Gubbins
- Dec. 13, 2020
I really appreciate those of you who have bought and read “Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World.” I have been so pleased and humbled by the response.
Now I’m asking for one more thing:
Thanks in advance for doing this and thank you for letting me mention this to all friends.
Nov. 3, 2020
Happy Election Day! Storied Charlotte is a blog run by Mark West, professor of Engish and former chair of the UNCC Department of English. Here’s what he wrote about Tall. Read it here on his blogsite.
The Story of a Tall Girl Who Became an Investigative Journalist
November 02, 2020 by Mark West
For long-time readers of The Charlotte Observer, Nancy Stancill’s name might seem familiar, for she worked as an award-winning investigative reporter and editor for the Charlotte paper for fifteen years, beginning in 1993 and ending in 2009. Although she retired from her career as a journalist, she has never stopped writing. In 2013, she published the first of two mystery novels set in Texas, where she lived before moving to Charlotte. This month, her publisher, Black Rose Writing, is releasing her memoir. Titled Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World, this fast-paced memoir explores how Nancy’s status as a six-foot tall woman has impacted her journalistic career, her relationships, and her sense of self. For more information about Tall and Nancy’s other books, please click on the following link: https://www.nancystancill.com/
One might assume that the process of writing a memoir would be a solitary endeavor, but not for Nancy. While writing Tall, she found support from former colleagues who worked with her at The Charlotte Observer, various writing teachers and mentors, and fellow writers she has met in classes and workshops. Nancy sees herself as a member of a community of writers. I recently contacted Nancy and asked her how this community of writers contributed to the writing of her memoir. Here is what she sent to me:
“My biggest help in getting Tall done was a weekly class I took several times called “Under Construction.” The class is offered by Maureen Ryan Griffin each fall and spring with a few sessions in the summer. Maureen is a longtime prize-winning writing teacher who is also a gifted poet and writer. The classes usually consist of 6-8 advanced writers who are working on long-term projects. What Maureen’s class did for me was to give me deadlines. I knew that once a week I had to present a new or revised chapter to the class. My fellow classmates would offer valuable, gentle feedback. That was enormously helpful.
“Since I’m a former Charlotte Observer investigative reporter and assigning editor, I use my former colleagues to get good feedback as well. I normally meet with two writers every week where we do parallel writing. That means essentially that we sit at a table and work on our own projects, stopping to talk occasionally.
“I also have several excellent mentors. Poet Dannye Romine Powell has been an invaluable help on my two published novels set in Texas as well as my memoir. She has read all of them and given generous feedback. Another wonderful source has been former Observer copy editor Steve Johnston. Steve copyedited Tall and also takes care of my website. I don’t know what I would do without him.
“There is plenty of help available to writers in Charlotte. I took a poetry class offered last spring by Charlotte Lit. Dannye Powell was teaching it. Charlotte Lit is also a great source for daylong seminars and for long-term programs for writers looking to start or finish novels or memoirs. The writers’ organization offers high-quality programs and will send out notices to members. Membership is low-cost and well worth it.
“Tall tells the story of my life, but many people played a role in the writing of my memoir.”
With the publication of Tall: Love and Journalism in a Six-foot World, Nancy joins several other Charlotte writers who have recently published memoirs. This group includes Judy Goldman, the author of Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap; Patrice Gopo, the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way; Molly Grantham, the author of The Juggle Is Real: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom; and Tommy Tomlinson, the author of The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America. Like these other Charlotte memoirists, Nancy shares a personal story, but in the process, she and her fellow memoirists contribute to the varied narratives that make up Storied Charlotte.
Aug. 21, 2020
Hi friends. For those who asked about pre-ordering “Tall”, it’s now available from my publisher at a discount. Details below.
Shameless plug: It’s not only about the angst of a very tall woman. It’s about the golden age of journalism and finding love as a six-foot female. It takes place in Houston, Charlotte, California and Radford as well as other places in Virginia.
Please preorder here. If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of Nov. 25, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2020 to receive a 15% discount.
After the publication date, it will be available at the standard places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and likely at some bookstores, including Park Road Books.
Thank you so much for letting me provide this information. As with most authors, I’m responsible for all marketing and it’s the least attractive aspect of the business!
Aug. 5, 2020
Here’s the cover to Nancy Stancill’s upcoming reflections on her life as a tall woman, and on the lives of other women who, though tall, were nevertheless shaped by being looked down on by others. Black Rose Writing expects to publish “Tall” on Nov. 25.