My Favorite Memoirs

Many memoirs have inspired me while writing The Dinosaur’s Daughter. Here are five of my favorites about young people finding their way in the world.

India looking out a train window in about 1976. Photo by Nancy Wood.
India looking out a train window, about 1976.

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army, by Georg Rauch (2006). This is a gripping story from the front lines of World War II told from the perspective of a kindhearted and funny young man trying to survive in a brutal world. The book is beautifully designed, with photos and vintage letters interspersed.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Other Lessons from the Crematory), by Caitlin Doughty (2014). This coming-of-age story wades through the surprisingly sacred (and wry) work of caring for the dead while taking a critical look at the American funeral industry.

Lost in Place, by Mark Salzman (1995). Salzman is a delightful writer, one of my top five. This book is an hilarious look at growing up in Connecticut while seeking enlightenment as a Kung Fu master.

An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard (1987). This beautifully-written memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh explores Dillard’s interior world, her family, and how they twine through the geography and history of that city.

Little Britches, Man of the Family, Shaking the Nickel Bush, and other books in Ralph Moody’s memoir series published in the 1950s.  Moody is the consummate Western storyteller: funny, wise, and adventurous. He grew up in Colorado about 50 years before I did.

My Creative Family Tree

My family tree is a southwestern pinyon growing in the high desert of Colorado and New Mexico. The wizened evergreen smells good and the old branches burn well. The nuts, produced in abundance, are delicious.

Nancy Wood dancing atop Independence Pass, 1997

My mother, Nancy Wood, authored 28 books of poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and children’s books, published mostly by Doubleday and Candlewick Press. Three of her poems appear in the Unitarian Universalist hymnal. Her camera and ethnologist’s notebooks focused on Taos Pueblo and rural New Mexico and Colorado. University of New Mexico’s Center  for Southwest Research houses her photographic and literary archives.

Myron Wood, 1978My father, Myron Wood, was a freelance black-and-white photographer, shooting 125,000 negatives from the late 1940s through the 1980s mainly of Colorado, but also New Mexico, New York City, and Texas. Myron and Nancy produced several books together before they divorced when I was three. Daddy’s photographic archive is at the Pike’s Peak Library.

My eldest sister, Margaret Wood, has written two books about her years as one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s caregivers: A Painter’s Kitchen and Remembering Miss O’Keeffe.

My sister, Kate Lynch, is working on several manuscripts for the children’s and YA markets.

I also have three other siblings: Karin, a real estate broker and former thespian; John, an accountant and old book collector; and Chris, a dam-saving geophysicist. Together we swing from the branches of four biological parents and two ex-stepparents.

Press about the Allosaurus and India

People magazine cover, January 23, 1984India’s allosaurus find has appeared in magazines, newspapers, radio, and online. Media coverage was extensive in 1983-84 when the excavation was completed, and in 1995 when the allosaurus went on exhibit.

  • KRCC radio podcast 3/18/16: The Girl Who Dug up Dinosaurs
  • The Denver Post, 1/1/99: Dinosaur Find Buried in Past of ‘Girl Wonder’
  • Boston Museum of Science (and elsewhere) circa 1999: BBH Exhibits, Prehistoric Worlds, Backyard Discoveries traveling exhibit
  • Rocky Mountain News, 10/15/95: A Little Girl’s Big Discovery
  • KOAA Denver Channel Five Eyewitness News 6/16/84 news feature
  • Young Miss magazine, April 1984: Going Places: She Has a Prehistoric Hobby
  • People magazine, 1/23/84: India Wood Makes No Bones about It: Her Colorado Dinosaur Find Is a Real Monster
  • Rocky Mountain News, 9/21/83: Growing up with Dinosaurs
  • KBTV Denver, 9/6/83: Sundown 20-minute feature TV program

Why I Write

Tarryall creek, 2017I write because it is as essential to me as love, mountains, the wind on wild grass, and hiking.

For the first 27 years of my work life I wrote factual publications that did not require a glance at myself or my past. I wrote marketing plans, website specifications, three editions of Artists and Art Materials USA and Canada, and five editions of The State of Specialty NeedleArts. I supported our family financially and helped many independent businesses succeed. My antidotes to all this rationality and numbers were to build sculptures and forts with my kids and go camping.

But then Mom died when I was 46. She was the author of 28 books who suffered from bipolar and personality disorders. Her lack of empathy and glass-sharp tongue made me afraid to be like her. But she was also creative, funny, passionate, and one of the world’s finest poets, right up there with Rilke and Dickinson. Her death opened a space for me to become comfortable with who I am as a creative human. 

A few months after Mom died I began to write my memoir, The Dinosaur’s Daughter. I promised Mom I would. The more I wrote, the more I realized how much I loved creative writing. It was like pulling a plastic sheath off a rose ready to bloom.