Nina Camic was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1953, and moved to New York seven years later following her father's appointment to the United Nations. She was back in Warsaw for her high school years, and embarked with a great deal of short-lived excitement on a programme of study in econometrics at the University of Warsaw in 1969. Half-way through her studies, she returned to New York to attend Barnard College. In 1974 Nina began graduate work in sociology at the University of Chicago. Marriage and family life led her to relocate to Madison where she made an abrupt retreat from sociology and entered Law School. Nina has been directing clinical programs and teaching Family Law and Torts at the University of Wisconsin Law School since 1989. She blogs, frequently about Poland, at The Other Side of the Ocean.
Why do you blog? > I view it as an exercise in creative writing and rigorous thinking. Daily blogging imposes a discipline and it teaches audience-awareness. And it feeds my delusions that I am, indeed, a bona fide writer.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Posting a few words and a handful of photos last week about my very old Polish highlander friend was deeply satisfying. That entire week of blogging from Poland was a crescendo of sorts for me. The emails that these posts generated are my most treasured blog comments.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > In one post, I inadvertently insulted John Kerry, plus a friend, plus a family member. Afterwards I thought I should just hang up blogging right then and there.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Keep your audience in mind when you are writing.
What are you reading at the moment? > I have a problem in that I am addicted to starting new books. For example, I've been completely smitten with Richard Bausch's collection of short stories. This did not stop me from digging into an Alan Furst novel that someone passed on to me. However, the other day I stopped to get coffee at a bookstore and now I'm dazzled by A.J. Liebling's Between Meals. Which is not to say that I've given up on the previous books, and on The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay waiting on my night table. And so on.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Anna Karenina. Maybe.
What is your favourite poem? > I love poems that are accessible and speak to daily life. Szymborska's terrific in that regard, as is Neruda.
What is your favourite song? > I used to love all things sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Recently I have had moody, evocative French and Italian vocalists (Loretta Goggi, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf) playing loudly as I attempt to make progress on writing my First Novel.
Who is your favourite composer? > Oh, Chopin, naturally. Nocturnes if you want to narrow it down even further.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Yes, one stands out. I had great faith in communist governance, even as I inspected it through the prism of living in Poland during its ideological combustion. I joined the organization of socialist youth when I was 15. I unjoined at 16, the same year I got beaten up by the militia during the spring student protests of 1968.
Who are your political heroes? > I suppose Jimmy Carter after his presidency, for his commitment to fighting poverty and speaking on behalf of peace. Adam Michnik back in Poland is an excellent political critic.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > So long as we do not fully support care-giving functions (through parental leave, day care, etc), women will remain marginalized and gender relations in this country will remain stalled.
What would you do with the UN? > Move it out of New York! Most importantly: replace it with something completely new and different - but do not get rid of the old structure until you've got the new one in place.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > That we reinterpret history in ways that serve current ideologies.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > We have always destroyed one another at the same time that we have fashioned a Renaissance in art and science and an Enlightenment in literature. History teaches nothing if not endurance. I'm not sure I would put a value judgment on what is a best point and what is simply ordinary.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't hesitate in offering kindness, even if it is poorly received.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Yes (though I should say that my husband does share many, if not all, of my political convictions). Any relationship without respect for a different way of approaching life is worthless in my eyes.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > I'll roll it into one word: Empathy- kindness-generosity-of-spirit
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Lack of attention to the other.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Many. To save the moment, a person, the planet... I think what hurts us is that we often will not admit to the numerous ways in which we do not speak truthfully.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Yes. Having grown up as a non-Catholic in a country that appeared to be 99% Catholic, I remain suspicious of strong, unquestioning devoutness to any religious precepts, or to the totalitarian authority of any church.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Oh so many! Polite small talk. Excessive sleeping. Reading poorly-written books. Watching most TV shows. But I have to admit that time-wasters can add balance to a packed day so I can't say that I am entirely scornful of them.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > No one who is already famous. Instead, I would be the breakthrough role for someone who looks smart and irrepressible on screen.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > In a place that is rich in culture, has great food and an appreciation for the human spirit, and is within a short train ride of beautiful countryside. Paris and Florence seem to fit the bill.
What would your ideal holiday be? > In a place where English is not the dominant language, where I can get to know the locals, where I can eat well and stay warm and write and hike. Any number of places along the Mediterranean seem perfect.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > I do many things, none of them as well as I'd like to. I write fiction. I moonlight as a cook at L'Etoile, the local fine-dining establishment. I grow perennials. I play with my grown up daughters. I go to far away places. I take numerous photos.
What talent would you most like to have? > At the moment, I think playing the saxophone very well would be bliss.
What is your most treasured possession? > Absolutely nothing material. My memories.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > A writer. I have wanted this since elementary school.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > No one is as witty and funny as my daughters.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Many great and noble things. But on a trivial scale, I can't get used to the fact that people in this country move around so much. Stay put, already! In Poland, you are never more than a cab-ride away from your family and your lifelong friends. I wish my daughters and friends were all within a cab-ride of our home.