Author Q & A

Award Winning Children's Picture and Storybooks

Dr. Nana's Goat Tales

Nancy Lee Mervar



Why do you write books for children?

So many children today have no knowledge of rural life, its values and experiences. I wanted to share a bit of country life with them while also creating a book that makes children laugh. Nana’s Silly Goats began as a letter to my 85 year old mother, telling her about the adventures of bringing home four little goats to our small ranch in Colorado.

I tuck lessons into my stories “like a pill in jelly”. I wrote Bully Goat to the Rescue to both entertain children and to give them insight into one of the reasons other children act like bullies. In the story, Bully Goat needs a better way to feel important about him self rather than by intimidating the other goats. When he becomes a successful rescue goat, he also becomes a more self-confident goat and a better friend.

Why did you choose to write stories with goat characters?
We live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado where forest fires frequently occur. Our goats support fire mitigation efforts by eating grasses, bushes, and other low shrubs. We had no idea what entertaining as well as helpful animals that the goats would prove to be. Children love visiting our ranch, meeting the animals “up close and personal”, and seeing the real setting for my stories. So it seemed a natural extension to use goats as characters in my books.

What age groups find your books appealing?
The humor of Nana’s Silly Goats is directed at preschool and primary age children who think that goats driving tractors or eating peanut butter is hilarious. The ideas presented in Bully Goat to the Rescue are targeted at intermediate grade children to help them understand bullying and also more about goats and safe hiking.

How can teachers use your books?
My books are great resources for elementary school teachers and librarians. I have lesson plans and other resources available on my web site within the Teacher Resources tab available at no cost to educators. To make my books more accessible to schools, I offer a special educator’s 40% discount package of 10 copies of Bully Goat to the Rescue plus one copy of Nana’s Silly Goats for $49.26. This allows teachers to check out a guided reading book set.

What is special about your writing process?
My writing process is unique because I write books for children with children. I write the first draft of a story, but the revision and design process fully involves students who are the same age as my intended audience. I believe that the end result is the production of better children’s books because children, rather than adults, have revised and designed them.

Do you have plans to write more books?
“Waiting in the wings” is a Christmas poem about goats that I hope to publish as a board book for preschoolers. Kindergarten children have helped revise and design this story.
 

What made you become a writer?
By age 6, I was “teaching” my stuffed animals to “read” and dreaming of writing books as good as the ones my mom and sisters read to me. Finally, in high school, one creative English teacher challenged me to write descriptively about a paper clip, to persuade both for and against the Viet Nam War, to think on paper about books like Catcher in the Rye. I started to write … really write, and loved it. Then it was off to college where critical literature professors shrunk me back to size, and where the demands of becoming a speech and language pathologist left little time for creative story writing. Graduate school? Don’t even think of writing any thing other than scholarly papers and a life-numbing dissertation.

And then one day, retired and raising dogs in the foothills near Lyons, I read aloud to my husband a letter to my mom about the four little goats we had just brought home to our mini-ranch.


“Nancy,” said my husband. “That story would make a terrific children’s book. Go write it!”


And so, at nearly 60, I did! Feedback on my story was encouraging rather than crushing. I could do this … most likely floundering around like a carp in shallow water …. But I COULD DO THIS! I COULD BECOME A CHILDREN’S AUTHOR!!

 

Tell us a little about yourself; your career, hobbies, etc.
As a young child, I spent my childhood outdoors in the woods and fields of our family’s fruit farm in upstate New York. All kinds of animals were an important part of my life – chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, pigs, cows, sheep and even one little black goat.

Life on a small farm was a wonderful way to spend my childhood, but a tough way to make a living. I became the first member of my family to attend college. (My father only received an 8th grade education.) I graduated from SUNY at Geneseo summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. From there I followed the scholarship money to Boulder, CO, where I attended the University of Colorado earning my M.S. in Speech Pathology with an emphasis in language and learning disabilities. While working as a special education teacher, I completed my doctoral degree in Education at the University of Denver.
My education career spanned over 30 years, and included classroom and special education teaching, principal and central administration roles. It was a wonderful career and I have never lost my love of teaching.
 
I have lived in Colorado since 1973, but about 10 years ago I moved into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to live with my husband on our small ranch near Lyons. For a few years we raised golden retrievers, and still have several as members of our family. Then in 2009, we began to use Boer goats to maintain our pastures and reduce fire hazards from grasses and low bushes. How could I have predicted that four little goats would lead to two award winning children’s stories?
Photo by Lori Kiplinger Pandy
Photo by Connie Ferenc