In Memory of Phoebe Prince

I read a story today in the Boston Herald about a 14 year old girl named Justine Williams. She is a cancer survivor. She is also a survivor of horrific bullying which she had to endure while going through her cancer treatments. I can’t think of anything more vile than a person preying on another human being while they are enduring a life and death situation. It’s unthinkable, and yet this is evil if ever I saw it.

It reminded me of Phoebe Prince, a kind-hearted girl who committed suicide over a year ago after being subjected to such cruel bullying. Shortly after her death I wrote this poem. To those who tormented her, and to all those who think bullying is an option, it’s not.


(for Phoebe Prince)

So you welcomed her—

the new girl from County Clare,

taught her how little things—

wide smile, plaid scarf,

Irish lilt—keep a girl down,

never mind an untouchable who steals

the heart of your star line man.

There’s no room for a swan

in a piranha pool, and so

you strip her flesh with lies,

tear her face from a class photo,

submerge her under your words.

Irish slut . . . skirt’s too short . . . hair’s too curly.

You couldn’t let it go—

this gentle threat,

those tender eyes.

How she longed to just get by;

how she prayed for something,

anything to change before another day.

But someone had to lose.

On the day she left this world

she walked past the bottles

hurled from the window

of a whizzing car, past

the white picket fence

frozen in New England snow,

into a closet where she wrapped

life’s horrors around her neck.

But you weren’t done.

There were new girls

to slam into lockers,

punch in the head.

You returned to what

you’d left behind,

typed one word—


under your Status Update.

The Irony

It happened again tonight. I went to feed our parakeets and fish and frogs, started a bath, decided to make pancakes ahead for tomorrow’s breakfast, put away the dishes, forgot all about my bath water getting cold. You know how it goes. Writing always takes a backseat to life. And yet that is the irony, isn’t it? Without that every-day nitty-gritty stuff of life, we would have little to say as writers. In 2006 “Literary Mama” published this poem of mine. I think it sums up tonight’s feelings. I know it has struck a cord with other writers, especially mothers, because we are sometimes too tired to even “dream a poem.”

Why I Didn’t Write a Poem
By Nancy Tupper Ling

January 15, 2006

Cream of tomato soup singed the sides of the double boiler. I bathed the girls,
bubble smiles on their tummies, zebra fish on the walls. I dressed them in pink pajamas.
dried their hair; it curled under dark like violet petals. I read Moo, Baa, and Laa,
Laa, Laa. One last water call. A prayer. A kiss. A favorite blankey lost, then found.
I followed crumbs down the hallway, under the table. Imagined Gretel, the witch,
her graham-cracker shingles and jelly bean path. I scrubbed the pan: its liquid sienna
mess, its sweet acidity. Lined chopsticks, knives and spoons in the washer rack.
Thanked God for gas and light when cold pushes hard on night’s black sills.
I paid the bills, arranged sandwiches in boxes: triangle shapes with carrots and chips.
I phoned Kate in Orlando. She holds her baby near her black eye — her lover leaves her
every five months. How to make it right? Come home. Come home to this place.
It’s 12:27. I’m gathering batiks and teacups for tomorrow’s workshop. I’m slipping

into bed. My husband turns. Groans in his sleep. I want to dream a poem.

Kinship Writers

For any writers in the area, I’d highly recommend the Kinship Writers. Here’s my article on that experience.

Nancy’s Story

Some things don’t go as planned. When I showed up at the Armory in Somerville one Sunday morning last June, I was surprised to see the Kinship Writers coordinators, Jessica and Erin, standing outside of a locked door. I was already nervous about this session with agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette (of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency). At the last Kinship workshop, I’d felt a bit like a fish out of water. After all I’d been the sole picture book author in a room full of Middle Grade and YA writers. Not to mention navigating my way into the city from the sticks had been a bit of a challenge. But this looked like a great group of fellow writers gathered outside the Armory’s door, along with an agent who actually represented picture book authors (a dying breed). The only real problem was the locked door.

About this time a few of us noticed the Little Sisters of the Poor conveniently located across the street. Erin bounded over to the Sisters and came back with good news. Not only did they have room, but the facility was an even better fit. As it turned out, so was my experience that day. Immediately, I felt drawn to Ms. Paquette. She had a graceful and generous spirit, and her critique of each person’s work was truly insightful. Since we were a small group, Ms. Paquette spent plenty of time with each person and her work.

Still, the process of “hooking” an agent felt like dating at this point in my writing career. One has to experience a whole lot of toads and polliwogs before discovering “the prince.” I’d almost given up hope before taking Erin and Jessica’s workshop. After my first book (My Sister, Alicia May), I’d assumed it would be easy to find a publisher for my other manuscripts. Instead I’d spent years researching publishers and waiting for their reply. I was in need of an expert, and that’s exactly what I found in Ms. Paquette. Thankfully the Kinship Writers helped me to reach the castle’s drawbridge.

As I sat at the round table that day, I could tell I’d found “the one.” But as with all relationships, the question was whether it was mutual admiration. At the end of the day, I found an invitation on my stories to submit my revisions to Ms. Paquette’s attention. The tiniest spark of interest is, of course, a cause for celebration for any writer. But I had been down this road before, having spent a year revising for an agent in NYC-only to be let down in the end. So I revised and wrote and revised again. Basically I held my breath until February 3rd, 2011. That is the day I received a call from Ms. Paquette asking if I’d be interested in working with her. By then I’d witnessed her wonderful critique skills up close and there was no way I’d turn away from such invaluable advice. Just like the famous insurance company says, it’s really nice to have someone “on your side.” And it all began with a small step, and one very special workshop.

If you are searching for an intimate setting in which to hone your craft, or a chance to meet face to face with an editor or agent, I wouldn’t look any further than the Kinship Writers.

Gordon College, April 30th

Sue Persenaire kindly invited me to visit the Children’s Lit class at Gordon College this evening. I spoke to her students about the Incredible Journey of getting a book published. Comparing it to a hike up a mountain, I discuss the three P’s that lead to publication: passion, persistence and patience. 

I was truly inspired by their own work as future educators and I took notes during Sue’s discussion on multiculturalism. Always learning!
I’ve been invited back for a book signing during Homecoming. But hey, it’s almost summer. I don’t want to rush into fall.

Republican-American Interview

Shennen Bersani and I took a drive to the Farm in Roxbury, CT. The last time we drove this way together was when she was preparing to illustrate my picture book. She wanted to meet the girls behind My Sister, Alicia May. 

This time we headed down for an interview with Tracey O’Shaughnessy from the Republican-American newspaper. This is Tracey, Cheri, Grandma Barb and Shennen. We had such a great time reuniting with the girls and my childhood friend, Cheri (their Mom). Tracey asked some difficult questions, but with each interview we draw closer to each other. It’s been an amazing bond.
Thanks to Bob Falcetti, too, who took some awesome photographs for the article.

NESCBWI April 25th

Okay, so I had to do the 6 a.m. thing to get to this year’s SCBWI conference in Nashua. I don’t do that well, but at least I had good traveling buddies. Donna, Licia, Kat and I drove up together and we began our fabulous day with Cynthia Lord. She was fantastic, as was Floyd Cooper who demonstrated his technique as an illustrator.

I had an excellent critique with Pamela Glauber from Holiday House. Thank you, Pamela. And Margaret Park Bridges and I were able to connect at lunch.

 Then, low and behold, at the end of the day I ran into a former roomie and Simmons grad, Alison. That was amazing, but I’m sure there are a lot of librarians roaming around that conference.

April 16, 2009 Fine Line Poets Read at Tunxis

We couldn’t have asked for a better reception and a more orchestrated event. Thanks to my childhood friend, Carolyn Boulay, a librarian at Tunxis Community College, we had a fabulous reading. The night was entitled “A Celebration of Womanhood.” The evening opened with an hour of music by Debbie Rossel, a local singer/songwriter whose music is rooted in acoustic folk rock and rhythm and blues. Keep an eye out for her upcoming full-length album.

Then the Fine Line Poets followed her. We had five poets: Virginia Bradley, Jean Tupper, Marcia Szymanski, JoAnne Preiser and me. We like Carolyn’s description of us as an “all-women poetry troupe.” Many thanks to some of my longtime friends, especially Barbara Newsheller, Carla Gregory and Joan Jannace, who ventured out for a Thursday evening event.

And we also thank the Tunxis Library and the Celebration of Womanhood Club. Hope to see you all again next year!
Soon, the readings will be posted to this link (not that we really want to see ourselves reading):

April 14, 2009 JoAnne Preiser at the Needham Library

In the morning I spent more time with Rachel, Alicia May and Taryn. We played ping pong. Well, we chased that tiny bouncing ball into every cobwebby corner in my basement. That’s more like it. 

Later, Mom and I ventured over to the newly constructed Needham library to hear our fellow Fine Line Poet, JoAnne Preiser give a poetry reading. She read from her book, Confirmation, and from some of her newer poems which drop the listener onto various movie sets and film productions. The way she described the scenes in one poem, she enticed us to watch the Japanese movie, After Life
In this Hirokazu Kore-ada’s film, 22 dead people are told to select one memory each which they will carry with them into their after life. Wow! Which one would I choose? As JoAnne says in her poem, I’d have to pick one day “with the four of us.” But to be cruising forever? That might not do it. It would have to be an ordinary day, but one without nose bleeds or sick stomachs… please!
Kevin McIntosh followed with one of his short stories about life in an Irish family. He kept us in stitches.  
(Photo: JoAnne Preiser and Kevin McIntosh)

April 13, 2009 Interview with Bev Beckham

And so what begin with a visit to my friend Cheri’s farmhouse in July of 2006 has come full circle. Now she and her girls and Grandma Barb headed to Walpole for an interview with Beverly Beckham from the Boston Globe. At last we have my book in hand. Yeah!

Shennen Bersani ( brought her sister, Holly, who also has Down syndrome. She was able to meet Alicia May for the first time. It was as if they’d known each other forever. At age forty, Holly began to play with Alicia and Cheri’s youngest daughter, Taryn, immediately. 
Soon Jean Cochran, our fearless publisher (, arrived and we gathered to discuss the incredible journey of My Sister, Alicia May from its inception.
Less than a week later, here’s the whole story:
How awesome is that!