This Goodly Land

Nancy Van Laan (November 18, 1939–present)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Literary Awards

Biographical Information

Nancy Van Laan was born in Baton Rouge, La. Her father was a colonel in the US Air Force, and the family moved frequently as Van Laan was growing up. She began making up stories to pass the time on long car trips. Although Van Laan had a learning disability, she loved to read. She began drawing and writing poetry as a child and enjoyed illustrating her own stories. Van Laan also loved ballet and began taking lessons at the age of nine. By age seventeen, she had her own ballet company in Birmingham that performed on a weekly program broadcast on Alabama Educational TV (now Alabama Public Television). Van Laan’s dancing career ended as a result of an injury she sustained as a student at Sullins College in Bristol, Va. After completing her AA degree at Sullins, she enrolled at the University of Alabama, earning her BA in radio and television in 1961.

Van Laan moved to New York after college. She worked briefly at an advertising company and then joined ABC-TV where she worked as a network censor from 1962 to 1966. Van Laan began writing at this time and also studied art. After her first two children were born, she resigned from ABC and began painting professionally, creating murals for schools and private clients. She earned an MFA in theater from Rutgers University in 1979 and wrote two plays which were performed regionally. Van Laan moved to eastern Pennsylvania where she taught English at a private boarding school from 1984 to 1989. She also taught creative writing at Rutgers from 1986 to 1989. Van Laan published her first book, The Big Fat Worm, in 1987. Two years later, she left teaching to write full time. Since then, Van Laan has published over two dozen books. One of these, Rainbow Crow, was featured on the PBS television series Reading Rainbow. Van Laan lives and writes in Doylestown, Pa.

Interests and Themes

Nancy Van Laan writes picture books, many based on folk tales and Native American stories.

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Photo courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Co.

Last updated on Dec 18, 2007.

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