Nance van Winckel lives outside of Spokane, Washington, in an airy and beautifully apointed 2nd floor condo that looks over Liberty Lake, a small, but gorgeous body of water surrounded by trees.
She shows me her writing studio first. The large high-ceiling room faces the lake, and is lit by a floor to ceiling window nearly 5 feet across. She tells me she has plans to add another window in the same room, and I picture the room with one entire wall of windows. It will be spectacular.
We go out to the living room and Nance sits on the couch and I face her in a rocking chair. We cover some general questions first, then begin to discuss some new things for me. Because van Winckel is also an accomplished fiction writer, my questions about place generate some new angles. We talk about how important setting is to fiction, how much more dense the physical world appears in a short story versus a poem.
When I question her about specific work, she recalls a trip to eastern Europe in the mid 80s, a time when the Berlin Wall and Communism still stood. Her visit generated nothing more than a few notes, but more than a dozen years later the physical landscape of her visit found its way into a series of poems she was writing that eventually became the much-honored collection Besides Ourselves. Van Winckel figures it took a dozen years for that rich and complex place to work its way into her subconscious, until the sights and sounds were as second nature for her as any that existed in her from her childhood or coming of age.
We shoot some photos after we finish chatting, some on the porch overlooking the lake. We wander out front of her place and shoot a few more.
As always, the visit is over too fast. I'm keeping to a schedule, of course, and the journey has really only just begun. We say our goodbyes.