Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 550

Nancy Pickard was born Nancy J. Wolfe on September 19, 1945, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Clint Wolfe and Mary Wolfe. As a child, she enjoyed reading Nancy Drew books. After high school graduation in 1963, she enrolled in journalism school at the University of Missouri. When she was a senior, Pickard took a creative writing class. The teacher mocked aloud to the class a short story she had written, inhibiting Pickard from writing additional fiction. She completed a bachelor’s degree in 1967.

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Pickard reported for The Squire in Overland Park, Kansas, then wrote training programs for Western Auto at Kansas City, Missouri, through 1972, before seeking freelance writing assignments. In 1976, she married Guy Pickard and lived on a Flint Hills, Kansas, ranch. By 1981, Pickard had stopped writing freelance articles and turned to fiction. An avid reader, especially of mysteries, she relied on her reading experiences and writing guides rather than formal instruction to create mysteries. She soon sold a short story, “A Man Around the House,” to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

During the early 1980’s, an editor rejected Pickard’s initial novel, saying the manuscript confused her as to whether it was a mystery or romance with suspense. She considered those comments and focused on mystery, resulting in her first published novel, Generous Death (1984).

Pickard’s son, Nicholas, was born in 1983 (she and her husband later divorced). That year, Pickard read Virginia Rich’s mystery, The Cooking School Murders (1982), and wrote Rich, who responded, telling Pickard she had a fourth book in progress. After Rich’s death in 1985, her husband asked Pickard to complete that author’s fourth Eugenia Potter book, The Twenty-seven-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders (1993), and allowed her to continue the series.

Throughout the 1980’s, Pickard wrote mystery novels prolifically. Despite her success with novels and her initial success in the short-story form, she was unable to sell other short stories. At a writer’s conference, a speaker emphasized that short stories must include epiphanies. Pickard began applying that revelation to her stories, publishing her work in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mystery Scene, Armchair Detective, and numerous anthologies. She studied peers’ books, especially Sue Grafton’s mysteries, to improve her writing techniques. Pickard edited several mystery anthologies and contributed a chapter to the serial novel Naked Came the Phoenix (2001).

In 1986, Pickard helped establish Sisters in Crime (SIC) and served on that organization’s first steering committee. From 1988 to 1989, Pickard presided as SIC president. She also was active in the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), becoming a member of that group’s national board. Pickard’s experiences on the MWA committee choosing an Edgar Allan Poe Award true-crime book winner resulted in her analyzing those books’ structure. Her contemplation served as a catalyst for her trilogy featuring true-crime author Marie Lightfoot.

In 1990, Pickard’s favorite Jenny Cain mystery, Bum Steer, set on a Kansas ranch, was published. The Kansas City, Kansas, public library presented Pickard its Edgar Wolfe Award in 1997. Pickard collaborated with psychologist Lynn Lott to write Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment (2003), describing her struggles as a writer. Tired of series writing, Pickard wrote The Virgin of Small Plains, published in 2006. Pickard has spoken at writers’ conferences. She has served on panels at Boucheron, and has led workshops at SIC meetings.

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