NancyKay writes, edits, reads, and tells stories.
She’s a public health expert through work and education. She’s also a public relations consultant and speaker. Sometimes she cooks, gardens, and entertains.
She’s written everything from annual reports to websites,
from newspaper articles to books. She values truth.
She’s also a public relations consultant and speaker.
Sometimes she cooks, gardens, and entertains. NancyKay gets stuff done.
Before getting into the business of books, NancyKay Sullivan Wessman worked as a journalist and health communicator. She helped create and lead organizations that empowered other public health public information officers to do their jobs better. She inspired other public relations professionals to set and achieve measurable objectives.
Wessman began her weekly newspaper career in her hometown of Magee, Mississippi, and moved into medical PR before taking on public health public information. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, she earned a master’s of public health degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Now NancyKay writes books.
She also works as an editor, speaker, and consultant
- When and why did you begin writing?
“Writing began in my “toddler” years, for school and the local weekly newspaper. Because I could.”
- When did you first consider yourself a writer?
- What inspired you to write your first book?
“Not what, but who: Gerald Berenson and Dick Wessman. Husband Dick and I attended a fund-raising gala at Tulane University, where we met Gerald Berenson, MD, founder of the 40-year-and-still-going-strong Bogalusa Heart Study. The friend who introduced us mentioned that Dr. Berenson should ‘get NancyKay to write your book.’ Wessman encouraged; Berenson allowed.”
- Do you have a specific writing style?
- Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
“In both books – You Can Fix The Fat From Childhood – And Other Heart Risks, Too and in Katrina, Mississippi: Voices from Ground Zero – public health matters. Clean water and air, nutritious food, safe environment, regulated protection for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, protected child care facilities, pharmaceutical safety, access to preventive and therapeutic health care, lessons learned for better health practices, the infrastructure for water and sewage systems, transportation pathways – public health impacts individuals every day.”
- Are your writings based on someone you know or events in your own life?
“The books I’ve published are based on 25 years of public service – as director of communications and public relations for the Mississippi State Department of Health, during which time I earned a master’s of public health degree from Tulane and helped create and lead organizations that empowered other public health public information officers to do their jobs better. I parlayed my education and experience to consult with the CDC, Association of Schools of Public Health, National Institutes of Health, and other health organizations.”
- What books or type of books have most influenced your life as a writer?
“Other nonfiction works – such writers as Douglas Brinkley, John M. Barry, Christopher Vogler, Anne Lamott, Mary Karr, Erik Larson.”
- Do you have a mentor or writing group? How does that impact your work?
“In my transformation to author, I have learned from and relied upon friends and colleagues in the Creative Nonfiction-South tribe, BB Queens and Pulpwood Queens book clubs, and Easy Writers critique group.”
- What book are you reading now?
“Just finished Onward & Upward by Michael Wiese and Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, am continuing Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, and soon will start The Widow of Wall Street: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers, a book club selection.”
- Do you see writing as a career?
“Here’s a look back to see the future. I write because I can. From school to college to the first job at The Magee Courier and as I progressed into a public relations career, writing provided the foundation. After retirement from state service, I have been fortunate to study, learn, and practice new forms of writing: creative nonfiction, long-form narrative, and even short story writing. Who knows? I might someday give fiction a try!”
- What was the hardest part of writing your latest book?
“Continuing the work after my husband’s too-early death. I didn’t want to write even a sentence, and I could not develop a paragraph. But Katrina’s 10-year anniversary approached, and I knew Dick Wessman would have expected me to get it done. Thanks be to God, I did!”
- Do you have any advice for other writers?
“Stick it out. Write on!”
- Do you have anything specific you would like to say to your readers?
“Borrowing the title of my friend Bob May’s forthcoming book, ‘Have Fun, Dammit!'”
- What are your hobbies?
“Fortunately or not, I share Senator John Stennis’ plight: “my work is my play and my play is my work.” I also like all things culinary and enjoy yardwork – not just gardening, working in the yard. And I read.”