Friday, July 7, 2023

Interview with Author Stephanie Shaw

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing career.


I offer up my early life as an explanation of the choice to write children’s books. I grew up in a time where the ‘electronics’ consisted of the radio. Television was something my family couldn’t afford until I was a bit older. And it was the stories told on the radio that my siblings and I would cling to. And, of course, books. We were read to every night. We had library cards at age five as a right of passage. Weekly trips to the library were treasured. I have to say, my fascination with books and my addiction to them started very, very early. I remember my sister and I discovering a string of Christmas lights in the attic that adjoined our bedroom. They were perfect for ‘under cover’ reading. And probably a fire hazard.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?


I always enjoyed writing. I was the kid in the fourth grade who was fascinated with diagraming sentences! And, I remember being praised for my writing. I wrote poems mostly and thank you notes (this was required writing but I didn’t mind).


In high school and college, it was the English classes that held my attention. Then when I began education studies, the required course ‘Children’s Literature’ just became my absolute favorite class. I dreamed of owning a children’s bookstore. I wanted to name it ‘Little Prints’ in honor of Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. But the reality was that I needed more secure employment. So, teaching became my vocation. And fortunately, that kept me very close to children’s books!


As a teacher, a counselor and then a principal, I loved connecting kids with stories…especially those kids who did not have the privileges I had in a home that encouraged reading.


Also, in my career, I was required to do a lot of writing. Grants, newsletters, reports to public and parents…all took careful word choice and even humor at times.


Why are you a writer?


The actual writing for kids (stories to be published), came after I took an early retirement to care for my mom. There were periods in-between medical appointments or physical care. I suppose I could have just as easily (although ‘easy’ isn’t a word I associate with writing) taken up knitting or woodworking or even golf like my mom did when she was in her seventies! But all my life I found a comfort or a distraction or a belly laugh in children’s books. Why not try to write one myself? And I did.


What is your writing schedule like?


It is totally haphazard unless I am in the process of revising an acquired manuscript. Then I am laser-focused and will work without distractions until I complete what an editor asks. My family is very familiar with my raising my index finger but not looking up from my computer. They know it means, “Not now!”


But as for daily writing to develop new work, that just doesn’t happen. I do engage in daily pre-writing activities such as walking, reading professional journals, blogs, familiarizing myself with what is new on the market etc. If I get an idea, I’ll jot it down and then come back to it later. But there is no regiment to the creative process until I have a solid idea.


What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time before you were published?

Oh, I would definitely tell myself to start earlier in life. Take classes. Join a writing and critique group…basically all the things I did once I started writing only do it at a much earlier point in my life.


What were the last three books you read?


The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingslover (pre-Pulitzer)

Nameless Serenade by Maurizio de Giovanni (translated from Italian)


Mysteries are my guilty pleasure. Once I find a series, I have to read every one of them…Agatha Christie, Richard Osman Elly Griffiths, Ian Rankin, Henning Mankel, Louise Penney. I just love them and I marvel how the authors weave the stories.

Do you read horoscopes?

I’m really obsessive about reading the newspaper every day. I may skim the political shenanigans but I thoroughly attend to the obituaries, the comics, the advice column and, yes, my horoscope. Then I promptly forget what it predicts for my day so I’m not sure why I read it. I love the obituaries that are often stories of wonderful well-lived lives and have terrific ideas for story characters’ names: Burl, Lydia, Clarence…names you just don’t hear any more.


What are your pet peeves?

Stickers on fruit and vegetables

Banquette seating in restaurants

The glacier-like speed of the publishing world

Fast Facts:

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Morning or night? Morning

Rivers or oceans? Oceans

White wine or red? White

Champagne or liquor? Scotch

Cupcakes or ice cream? Cupcakes

Laptop or desktop? Laptop

Casual or couture? Casual couture

Ponytail or headband? Baseball cap

Shower or bath? Shower

Summer or winter? Winter

Motorcycle or bicycle? Unicorn…I mean unicycle…I mean bicycle

* * * Connect with Stephanie * * *


Facebook: sgshaw50

Instagram: stephanieshaw830

* * * Fun Freebie * * *

If you visit Stephanie's website, you can download an Activity Guide for her newest picture book, ALL BY MYSELF