About the Author

Frances Nail was born in Memphis, Texas, in 1924. She studied journalism and art at Texas Tech University—and almost graduated. She holds a degree from the Art School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (now the Glassell School of Art).

Nail has been called by the Writers’ League of Texas the “accidental writer.” When she began, at age seventy, to write stories about her childhood for her family, she accidentally wrote a book. Her first book, Crow in the House, Wolf at the Door, was a finalist for the Violet Crown Award, presented by the Writers’ League and Barnes & Noble.

Nail has been a featured writer at the Texas Book Festival in Austin and a featured Author of the Month at BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas. Her autobiographical essays have appeared in the Houston Chronicle and other periodicals. She frequently reads to groups and organizations across the Hill Country.

Nail’s four books feature illustrations by daughter Katy Nail. Samples of the drawings appear on the Books page, and Katy’s paintings are displayed on her website. Two audio books include musical interludes by Nail’s granddaughter, Carrie Rodriguez. The author’s daughter Leslie Nail serves as her editor and “business manager.”

The photo below was made at the November 2009 book launch party in Austin.

From left to right: Carrie, Frances, Leslie & Katy.


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photo by Ave Bonar

Frances Nail’s stories are not only family history, but are reminiscent of so much in all of our lives. Besides, who else could make “peeing” poetic?       

—Liz Carpenter

In 2005, a one-woman play based on Nail’s work was performed by Austin’s beloved diva Karen Kuykendall. Karen won a B. Iden Payne award for her performance in I’m Not the Woman I Was, scripted by Robyn Turner and produced by Pollyanna Theatre Company.

This photo was taken after a show with Karen (left) in costume as Frances (right).

Nail’s new book, The Way of It, is dedicated to Karen’s memory: She was the soul of this town. She lit us up like footlights do, bringing out our best.

Karen Kuykendall

1937 – 2007

Austin Legend

Other Notable Notables

John Aielli is an Austin icon, host of Eklektikos on public radio station KUT-FM. When Frances first began writing and publishing her autobiographical essays, John invited her to read on the air. That led to a regional press discovering her work and publishing her first book.

Frances became a frequent guest on Eklektikos, and the two remain great pals.