Thursday, June 13, 2024

Local Author Ann Bancroft Debuts First Novel, “Almost Family,” with Book Launch on May 30

Local author Ann Bancroft is pleased to debut her new novel “Almost Family.”

We’ve all been touched by cancer, whether it be personally or through a friend or family member’s diagnosis. Armed with decades of writing expertise and personal experience with cancer, local author Ann Bancroft has written a heartfelt debut novel titled “Almost Family,” and will share insights into the characters and her writing journey at her book launch on Thursday, May 30, from 4:30 to 6 pm at the Coronado Public Library.

Featuring a rough-around-the-edges, quick-witted heroine who stumbles upon an unlikely, but necessary, found family, “Almost Family” centers around Liz Millanova, who has stage four cancer, a grown daughter who doesn’t speak to her, and obsessive memories of a relationship that tore her marriage apart. She thinks of herself as someone who’d rather die than sit through a support group, but now that she actually is going to die, she figures she might as well give it a go. At a hospital-sponsored group, Liz hits it off with two other patients — Dave, a gay Vietnam vet, and Rhonda, a devout, nice woman. They form their own alliance and call themselves The Oakland Mets, with the goal of enjoying life while they can. In the odd intimacy they form, Liz learns to open up and get close. Beyond having a good time, they wind up helping each other come to grips with dying and resolve the unfinished business in their lives.

“Almost Family” debut novel by Coronado author Ann Bancroft.

Born in Germany, Bancroft shared that she grew up as an ‘army brat’ living all over the country. But the two places she now calls home are Coronado and Sacramento. Her love of writing blossomed at age eight, when she wrote and illustrated a sequel to the beloved Pippi Longstocking story. After finding an amazing mentor and graduating from UC Berkeley, she had a career as a reporter for The Oakland Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, United Press International, The Associated Press, and The Sacramento Bee. She was also appointed communications director for the State Department of Education.

Diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 2008, Bancroft retired early, and also experienced a recurrence in 2021 with a successful outcome. She didn’t initially set out to write a book, but the process began in 2012, based on a scene she had started in a short story writing class.

“Almost Family” is fiction but has nuggets of truth along the way, like the cancer diagnosis. She shares that she has had a disproportionate number of cancer deaths within her inner circle of family and friends. She has mentored cancer patients in a variety of ways, from connecting them to resources, offering a listening ear, taking copious notes during doctor visits, or helping with wig shopping. This has enabled her to feel comfortable talking about cancer and death, and she hopes that this book will help people more easily relate to those with cancer.

For her writing process, she holed up in a room for two to three hours every morning. By mid-2014, she had a draft which she was encouraged to send to three agents. Once accepted, she said it made her feel like she was in Little League being plucked out to play for the Giants. Ultimately, that deal didn’t work out and she put the manuscript away in a drawer. In 2018, she saw that San Diego Book Awards was having a contest for unpublished novels, and she dusted off “The Oakland Mets,” as it was then called, and was elated when it won, giving her the confidence to move forward.

The premise of the book for Bancroft started with “What if?” What if her circumstances had been different; she didn’t have supportive family and friends; she experienced the worst break up; or she received an advanced stage cancer diagnosis. She began to explore those ideas and Liz was the first character she created, with Dave and Ronda quickly coming to life. The trio would have never met under other circumstances but bonded as “found family,” a theme which developed from her understanding of moving around so much throughout her childhood. She shared that the characters had conversations in her head, and became real, and have stayed alive on the pages of her book, as they find unexpected joy even through tragedy.

With lots of time for editing during the pandemic, at the end of 2022 she contracted to publish the book with the award winning hybrid publisher She Writes Press, which has a large contingent of San Diego women writers.

Initially, she didn’t have a huge desire to be published, it was more about the experience of writing fiction after being a journalist, to see if she could write in other genres. She used her journalistic skills for research and scene creation, and discovered she enjoys writing in first person, like telling a story to a friend.

“I want people to laugh and cry and ultimately become more comfortable interacting with cancer patients,” comments Bancroft. “Anyone who has experience with or been touched by cancer in others will relate.” The book demonstrates that dire circumstances can overcome differences, and family and joy can be found in unexpected places.

Her next novel is on the horizon, with two-thirds of it already drafted. With a working title “Home for Brats,” one of the characters will be based on her mom. She has given herself a deadline of one year to complete it.

Ann enjoys traveling with husband Irwin.

Bancroft loves traveling, hiking, cooking and entertaining, and is always in the middle of reading a book. Some of her favorite authors include Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett.

I’m not the type of reader who gets on the bandwagon to read a book just because it is deemed a New York Times Bestseller. I have a much more personal method of selecting books which involves going into an actual bookstore, holding the book, and reading the first page.

Although I haven’t yet read all of “Almost Family,” from the prologue through the first few chapters I was drawn into the personal writing style and emerging story and I’m sure you will be too.

At first, when I heard her name, I wondered if I might be meeting the revered actress well-known for her role as “Mrs. Robinson,” but I soon discovered it was another Ann Bancroft, an amazing author who has had many funny incidents with her famous name.

During a free event on May 30, Bancroft will be interviewed by San Diego author Cheryll Cochrane and will sign books afterwards at the Coronado Library. Seating is first-come, first served, and Coronado’s Bay Books will have “Almost Family” available to purchase at the event and in the store. You can also find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

An Afternoon with Ann Bancroft

Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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