Nancy Carlson settled on her career early on. “I knew from the time I was in kindergarten that I wanted to make pictures and tell stories, and it is the only job I ever wanted to do,” Carlson says.
To call Carlson prolific is a grave understatement. The busy Bloomington resident is currently at work writing and illustrating her 56th book. She also travels extensively, visiting more than 150 schools each year, and writes plays that are produced locally by Hopkins’ Stages Theatre Company.
Carlson was born in Edina 52 years ago, into a family life she describes as “idyllic”; the ideas for many of her stories come from her childhood. And so do the pictures. “I loved comic books, and they inspire some of my illustrations,” Carlson says.
While her parents read to her and her brother and sister every night, she also spent lots of time outside. She still loves exercise and is an avid walker, hiker, skier, swimmer, and biker.
Carlson used to get many of her ideas as she walked, but she says that she spends most of her walking time these days “Worrying about my children. When you have teenagers, there’s a lot to worry about!” Carlson and her husband of 27 years, Barry McCool, have a son in high school and a son and daughter in college.
Generally, Carlson stays away from reading children’s books. “I keep myself kind of isolated because I don’t want to be influenced by them,” she explains. But she makes an exception for a series she grew up loving, Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books. “She is a wonderful, wonderful writer. I love the way she wrote from the viewpoint of a child. I use those books as role models for how children feel at different times in their lives.”