Fridays with Friends: Nancy Tupper Ling pays attention

Nancy Tupper Ling is a poet, mother, wife, librarian, and children’s author (My Sister, Alicia May with Pleasant St Press, 2009 and The Double Happiness Box with Chronicle Books, 2015) — not necessarily in that order. Published in a variety of poetry journals, Ling was honored to win the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize for a poem entitled “White Birch.”  She has led workshops on writing at schools, libraries, senior centers, conferences and, yes, even a women’s correctional center. She lives in Walpole, MA, with her husband, Vincent, and her two girls (and she unabashedly swipes their stories all the time).

Nancy and I have been friends for going on thirty years, ever since the Gordon College days of sitting back to back quizzing each other in preparation for Dr. Stine’s Romantic Lit class. It has been a privilege to watch her grow as a writer over the decades. It has also been a great honor to experience her patient critique and nurturing encouragement of my poetry. Her students are indeed blessed.


KDB: What are your consistent sources of inspiration?

NTL: My inspiration….Like so many busy mothers, I’m never short on inspiration (children are inspiring). Instead, I’m short on time—i.e. when to sit down and to write? To solve this little problem, I don’t sleep. Ha! Actually, I like sleep, so my next best solution is to journal. Not like a diary, but a way to quickly jot down all the crazy ideas that come to me. Sometimes I take down ideas on paper, sometimes it’s on my iPhone Notepad. Either way, I’m inspired by all things observed…the sunset over my neighborhood (I don’t get up early enough to see it rise), the Queen Anne’s lace that greets me on a walk (I don’t walk enough), the people who come and go every day at the library where I work (I’m dying to write a series of short stories on life in the public library). And when the well is dry, there’s always prompts. I use these a lot when I teach teen poetry in the summertime. We create poems from paintings, by making lists, by browsing newspaper articles. My favorite quotation by Mary Oliver is “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” And when we poets, we authors, do just that, there’s plenty of inspiration.

KDB: Who (what artists, musicians, writers, etc.) do you follow/recommend?

NTL: Having just judged some fabulous poetry for the Mass Book Awards (, I can tell you about some poets whose work I’ve come to love. This is what I wrote about an octogenarian poet whose first book was published last year: Michael Miller’s Darkening the Grass (CavanKerry) offers a world where hope and time-tested love balance against human frailty and the wreckage of war.  The intimate images he crafts of a wolf in the darkness, a meadowlark, or each short breath of a veteran, will linger long after the reader departs.

Miller’s book stole my heart, but I have a few other newly found favorites. Shortly Thereafter by Collin Halloran is based on his experience serving in Afghanistan, and Life in the Second Circle by Michael Cantor exemplifies a poet’s mastery of form.

I surround myself with creative folks through my various critique groups ( Ironically, my mentor extraordinaire is in my mom, Jean Tupper, who is also a member of my Fine Line Poets. While I swore to my mother that I would never, ever become a poet, her patience prevailed. And, she is the best editor anyone could have. I’d also recommend any of my peers at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency ( if folks are looking for some great summer reading by children’s authors.


KDB: How can readers of All Nine support your art/engage with your work?

NTL: That’s so nice of you to ask. Today only, they can donate $5 on my website, Just fooling! Actually, it’s so important to support one another’s endeavors in the art world. I started a group on Facebook to do just that. I needed accountability for my own writing, so I figured others did as well. A year ago, I began The May Days which is a bunch of writers motivating one another to write something every day in the month of May.  If any of your readers feel that this would benefit them, they can ask me about joining. Also, I am co-authoring a book with June Cotner ( called TOASTS: The Essential Collection of More Than 500 Toasts, Graces, and Blessings which will be published by Viva Editions ( Anyone may feel free to visit June’s website, to learn about contributing to her upcoming books.



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