Nancy Mairs, though born by accident of war in Long Beach, California, grew up north of Boston. In 1964, she received the A.B. cum laude from Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts), which made her a Doctor of Humane Letters thirty years later. She earned the M.F.A. in creative writing (poetry) in 1975 and the Ph.D. in English literature (with a minor in English education) in 1984 from the University of Arizona. She has taught writing and literature at Salpointe Catholic High School, the University of Arizona, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
A poet and an essayist, she was awarded the 1984 Western States Book Award in poetry for In All the Rooms of the Yellow House (Confluence Press, 1984) and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1991. The Arizona Humanities Council gave her their 2008 Literary Treasure Award. Her first work of nonfiction, a collection of essays entitled Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman's Life, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 1986. Since then, she has written a memoir, Remembering the Bone House, a spiritual autobiography, Ordinary Time: Cycles in Marriage, Faith, and Renewal, and three more books of essays, Carnal Acts, Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled. These are available from Beacon Press, as are her most recent books, A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories, which was supported by a fellowship from the Project on Death in America of the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, and A Dynamic God.
She and her husband, George, a retired high-school English teacher, continue to live in Tucson, though they make public appearances throughout the country. A Research Associate and SIROW Scholar with the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, she has also served on the boards of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Kore Press, the Coalition of Arizonans To Abolish the Death Penalty, and ARTability.