If there’s one thing Nancy Blackwell Bourne ’62 has always been bad at, it’s being good at only one thing. Writing her first book at the age of 80 with her right hand and illustrating it with the left is merely the most recent example.
“When I was young, I was left-handed totally, and when I got to the third grade the teacher stood at the blackboard, put her piece of chalk in her right hand, and said to everybody ‘pick up your pencil in this hand.’ And I did,” Bourne said. “So with my right hand I write, but everything else I do with my left hand.”
In June, Bourne self-published “Majelica’s Magical Moment,” a children’s picture book written in rhyme and illustrated with 32 images she painted. Majelica is a baby elephant who has been left behind by her family at a watering hole, and her stressful time trying to fit in with other animals and elephants was inspired by a story her son, David, told after he went on a safari in South Africa in 1998.
“He came back and said, ‘Mom, there was a little elephant that was left at the watering hole, and it was just so sad to watch this little thing go up to other animals,’” Bourne said. “Later on, her family came back, and everybody who was watching was so happy to see them reunited. I thought, ‘You know, I would just love to write a story about that.’”
Bourne has deep ties to Furman. Her mother, Lillie (Dill) Blackwell ’22, and father, Reece Croxton Blackwell ’23, met at Furman nearly 100 years ago, and because Reece was a math professor at his alma mater for 40 years, Bourne grew up on the old men’s campus.
All three of Bourne’s siblings also attended Furman, as did Bourne’s daughter, Anna Roycroft ’89.
“I was at the groundbreaking (for the current campus) in 1954, and then I was one of these people who lived on the old campus for two years and then the new campus for two years,” Bourne said.
After graduating with a degree in chemistry, Bourne went on to be a math teacher and insurance agent before learning to play the cello at age 50 and playing with three orchestras. An accomplished artist as well, she has served as the president of the South Carolina Watermedia Society.
“Even though I never used it professionally,” Bourne said of majoring in chemistry, “it gave me the confidence that I could learn to do most anything else.”
Her career as a writer is only getting started. Bourne recently finished a second, yet-to-be-published children’s book titled “The Line, The Dot, and The Zero,” which is written in prose on the advice of an instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, where Bourne took a class on writing children’s books.
The plot incorporates math lessons into a story about learning what can be accomplished by working together. Publishers, Bourne said, are reluctant to publish poetry because it cannot be easily translated to other languages.
“I wanted to do this so that my grandchildren and great grandchildren would have a legacy that I had left them,” Bourne said. “I’ve left a lot of paintings, but I thought a children’s book would be something that they could read to their children when they were little.”
Bourne and her husband, Terry Agner, live in Arden, North Carolina, but split their time with Pawleys Island, South Carolina. He is a retired pastor, and they have seven grandchildren between them.
“Majelica’s Magical Moment” is available on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com. For a signed copy, contact Bourne directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.