Nancy Bauer

Nancy BauerPhoto: Telegraph-Journal
Nancy Bauer
Photo: Telegraph-Journal

Nancy (Luke) Bauer was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (near Boston), in 1934. Her parents were Grace Luke, a housewife and kindergarten teacher, and Wendell Luke, a commercial artist. Nancy Bauer’s interest in writing began in high school and blossomed during her post-secondary years, when she excelled in her English composition program. She received her BA from Mount Holyoke College in 1956.

Bauer and her husband, Bill (writer and professor), lived in Connecticut, Texas, and North Carolina before moving to Fredericton, New Brunswick, with their three children in 1965. While in Fredericton, she dedicated her time to writing and raising her children; she found Fredericton an excellent location in which to do both activities. Meeting people involved in the arts helped her to feel a part of that community. One group she was part of, “The Ice House Gang,” inspired Bauer to write more fiction. Other members of this group—which was also called the “Tuesday Night Group”—included Kent Thompson, Bill Bauer, David Adams Richards, Dale Estey, Michael Pacey, Andrew Bartlett, Brian Bartlett, Ted Colson, and Robert Gibbs. An assortment of students, professors, and members of the wider community met there every week from 1967 to 1983.

Three projects grew out of these gatherings. The first was a chapbook series for which Bauer was the editor and publisher. Twenty-four chapbooks were published in this series, which featured a wide range of local writers. The second group project was the Maritime Writers' Workshop, which was founded by Bauer in 1974. This workshop provided the opportunity for budding or established writers to receive feedback on their work while strengthening their writing skills. Though originally intended to be for locals only, the Maritime Writers' Workshop attracted writers from all over, as it was the only English writing workshop east of Ontario. Participants from as far away as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario attended, staying a week in the University of New Brunswick residences. The final project that grew from the Tuesday Night Group was the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. This organization assisted in discovering and promoting the many talented writers in New Brunswick who wished to pursue their art. The federation has since branched out and now has chapters in different places in New Brunswick, including the Miramichi and Sackville. In later years, Bauer was a part of Gallery Connexion, an artist-run centre that was originally located in the basement of the Justice Building in downtown Fredericton.

Bauer has published five novels. Her first, Flora, Write this Down (1983), was the first novel to be published by Goose Lane Editions. Peter Thomas—a founding publisher of Goose Lane who had inherited Fiddlehead Poetry Books from Fred Cogswell and wanted to begin something more prose-oriented­—heard Bauer read and asked her for a manuscript. Her next two novels, Wise-Ears (1985) and The Opening Eye (1988), were both published by Oberon Press in Ottawa. Her last two books, Samara the Wholehearted (1991) and The Irrational Doorways of Mr. Gerard (1994), were again published by Goose Lane Editions.

Flora, Write this Down is the story of a girl trying to gain an identity similar to her mother, who is the stronghold of the family. Bauer’s second novel, Wise-Ears, focuses on an individual protagonist who is suddenly unsure of her role as a woman. Samara the Wholehearted—a sequel to The Opening Eye—and The Irrational Doorways of Mr. Gerard have broader perspectives and focus less on the individual and more on a group of characters interacting. In all of her work, Bauer combines experimental narrative structure with a straightforward prose style. Her female characters are resilient, intuitive, and often strong leaders of the community, perhaps because Bauer’s own mother was a selfless nurturer, and her grandmother, a midwife. Bauer also writes about families overcoming distress, the centrality of community, the roles of mothers in families, the roles of women in the community, and religion. Her strongest influences are Viktor Shklovsky and the Bible.

Bauer has contributed many short stories to a variety of literary magazines in the Maritimes, as well as Canadian Fiction Magazine, and has published poetry in the The Fiddlehead. In 1982 she received the second prize in the CBC Literary Awards for her short story “Prologue,” and in 1999 she won the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in Literary Arts in New Brunswick. Bauer also has produced a large body of non-fiction work. She has written articles and reviews for Arts Atlantic, The Fiddlehead, the New Brunswick Reader, and Salon. In the process, she has spread awareness of the arts in New Brunswick. Her subjects have been painters and writers in the Maritimes, including Peter Thomas, Allan Crimmins, Rick Seguin, Helen Brigham, Herménégilde Chiasson, Robin Allaby, and many more. This work has been vital for arts communities in the Maritimes and New Brunswick.

A former writing instructor and writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, Bauer is currently writing a novel and continues to blog about and write articles on the arts. Since 1965, Fredericton has been her home. She now has four grandchildren and lives in a house overlooking the Saint John River.

Shawn Gallant, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Bauer, Nancy. “Alfred Bailey and the Creative Moment.” Arts Atlantic 5.2 (1984): 28-29.

---. “Daphne Irving Enters the Fourth Stage.” Arts Atlantic 4.1 (1982): 28-30.

---. Flora, Write this Down. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1982.

---. “Herzl Kashetsky and the Things of This World.” Arts Atlantic 4.3 (1982): 30-32.

---. The Irrational Doorways of Mr. Gerard. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1994.

---. “The Long Distance Running of David Adams Richards.” Arts Atlantic 2.4 (1980): 30-31.

---. “Marjory Donaldson and the Scientific Mind.” Arts Atlantic 3.2 (1981): 28-29, 44.

---. “Oberon Press: The Other Ottawa Connection.” Arts Atlantic 4.2 (1982): 15.

---. The Opening Eye. Ottawa, ON: Oberon Press, 1988.

---. “Rick Burns Investigates the Box.” Arts Atlantic 4.4 (1983): 20-21.

---. Samara the Wholehearted. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1991.

---. “A Visit With David Silverberg.” Arts Atlantic 2.4 (1980): 32-35.

---. Wise-Ears. Ottawa, ON: Oberon Press, 1985.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

“Bauer, Nancy.” Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. 94.

Creelman, David. “In Momentary Triumph: The Novels of Nancy Bauer.” Atlantis: A Women’s Study Journal/Revue d'Études sur la Femme 20.1 (1995): 183-193.

Keefer, Janice Kulyk. "Words and Women." Under Eastern Eyes: A Critical Reading of Maritime Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987. 252-254. [See also "Maritime Women Writers." Studies in Canadian Literature 11.2 (1986).]

“Writing in the Maritimes.” The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. Ed. Eugene Benson and William Toye. 2nd ed. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1997. 739.