Interview with Nina Stibbe

Nina StibbeJennifer Vido

 As mothers, we always want what is best for our kids. This especially applies when searching for a suitable caregiver. Whether it’s a temporary babysitter or a full-time nanny, this specially selected person undertakes the responsibility of nurturing our children in our absence. Being able to forge a unique bond with this individual enables both parties to feel loved and respected. After all, we are in it together as one family, so to speak.

 This month’sJen’s Jewels Nina Stibbe addresses this very topic in her new memoir, Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home. In a collection of unedited, original letters written to her sister, Nina shares her real-life experiences as a nanny to a prominent family in London in the 1980’s. With humorous stories of the two mischievous boys in her charge peppered with tender moments shared with their mum, she gives a brutally honest account of her unforgettable adventures.    

 As part of my interview, Little, Brown and Company has generously donated five copies for my readers to win in the trivia contest that follows the interview. Winners will be randomly drawn. Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news in the publishing business by stopping by www.jennifervido.com, follow me on Facebook jennifervido.com, or on Twitter and Pinterest @JenniferVido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels the ultimate source for news on the web for today’s hottest authors.              

Jen: As a commissioning editor, your personal journey to publication is a story in itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.

Nina: At age 15, I was somehow entered for the less academic school examinations and left school in a huff without taking any exams at all. I already had a pocket-money job cleaning in a geriatric nursing home so I extended my hours there and joined the adult world. A couple of years later many of my friends were preparing to leave our village to go to university and I came to regret my hasty decision to leave school.

I realized – a bit late - that without my end of school exams I couldn’t go into higher education -  – so I answered an advertisement in a magazine to be a nanny in London, which was the next best thing and at least meant I could leave home and have an adventure.

Once settled in my nanny job I met people who inspired me to catch up on my education and study in my spare time. I did this and eventually got a place at college and got my degree.

I then applied for assorted jobs and ended up working for Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich – an American company with a London office and finally became a commissioning editor. I’ve only ever worked in educational publishing (textbooks for teachers and students) and have had no experience of literary publishing, until now.

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and write a memoir about your experiences as a nanny in London.

Nina: There was no “Aha!” moment really. My book is made up of the letters I wrote to my sister between 1982 and 1887.  Luckily my sister kept them and found them again years later when she moved house in 1999. She and I read many of them and found them charming and funny. They were put away again then until 2007, when Andrew O’Hagan (the British author) contacted me to ask if I’d contribute to a book of tributes to Mary-Kay Wilmers (editor of the London review of Books) who I had nannied for. I dug out one of the letters (one which offered an amusing and naïve description of Mary-Kay). Andrew included it in his collection. People liked it and it was then that I wondered about the possibility of publishing the letters as a book. So, maybe that was the “Aha!” moment.

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long did it take for you to compile the letters? And, what was the most challenging part of the process?  

Nina: I wrote the letters over a period of five years. Once Penguin, my UK publisher, got hold of them, my editor was determined to publish them unedited as far possible. I had imaged all kinds of tweaking, but no, we left them pretty much as I wrote them.

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