Anita M Shaw

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing in fifth grade after my teacher, Mrs. Miller (of the Southwest School in Torrington, CT. and back a few years . . .) finished reading us The Arabian Nights. I was full of inspiration! Every day that I had a new story to share, she’d let me read it in front of the class. Funny, I wasn’t popular, really, and pretty shy. Yet I was happy to bring my classmates on new adventures . . . and they were just as happy to come along. Especially if I’d written them into it. I write now because I can’t do anything else. All my characters want their stories to be told, and right now! I enjoy it. There’s nothing else like it.

Q: So, it was a teacher who started the flame of writing for you?

A: Yes, there were three who contributed in some way to my madness. Mrs. Miller definitely was the one who got the pen to scribbling first. Or the pencil, at the time!

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: Where do I start . . .? Mark Twain, Walter Farley, Daniel Hayes, Clara Gifford Clark, Dr. Suess, are some of the children’s authors I enjoy. Actually, anyone who can write that type of book well. I read mainly for the story, so it doesn’t matter to me that the author isn’t well known or a best seller. Some authors write better stories, in my opinion than the popular authors.

Q: That’s true. So, tell us, were you a good student in school?

A: Well . . . I could’ve been . . . had I put my mind to it more. I hated math, liked art, although I drew, and still draw, like a five-year-old. English was my strong subject. I could write stories using my vocab words each week. Which got a lot of attention from some of my teachers . . . Don’t ask me what the other kids thought. They kept it to themselves. In hind sight, I wish I had pushed myself to do better in other subjects.

Q:  What books did you read as a kid?

A: All of Walter Farley’s horse stories, Edgar Rice Bouroughs’ Tarzan, The Bobbsey Twins, and all of the twin series books . . . forgot the author . . . shame on me. But The Dutch Twins, The Indian Twins, The American Twins of 1812, the Chinese Twins . . . etc. HoneyBunch Morton series, Trixie Belden series, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, hmmmm . . . and a host of others I’ve forgotten.

Q:  What do you read now?

A: I don’t read as much as I’d like to. But, I read any book that interests me. I reread my favorites, and I probably have a bigger library of kids’ books than almost anything else. Except my writing library. Right now, I’m reading some eBooks for reviewing purposes. Fiction, of course!

Q: Have you had formal writing training?

A: Yeah, some. Home study courses, mostly. Two of which I never finished, although I was doing well in them. Finally, though, I took a short story course from NRI and finished with highest honors. Learned how to use a computer in that course, and have been using one ever since. Makes my writing life so much easier! Really, though, writing has always come easily for me. All of it. The ideas, the characters and what they’re like, the settings, the grammar, the spelling, just about everything. Description takes some doing for me. I generally have to go back to expand on what someone looks like, or what a house or room or whatever looks like, smells like . . . I can see it in my head. I know exactly what these things look like and all of it . . . I just most often want to get to the action. Tell the story. Everything else gets filled in when my brain is ready to handle it.

Q: What would your teachers think of you now?

A: Hmmm. Guess they’d be happy I was able to finally publish some stories and books, and make use of my talents. My sister promised Mrs. O. I’d send her a copy of my books,s so I have to do that. No clue where the others are. As for the instructors of my various courses, most would be pretty happy with what I’ve done. Mr. Zucker, however, is never satisfied. No matter how well you think you’ve done, he’d always push for better.

Q: So, you have been published before?

A: First piece was back in 1972 and others followed, including pieces for Horse, Of Course! and Vermont Ink.

Q: What made you decide to write for children?

A: I like reading stories for children and young adults as much as anything really. I still love the old stories. . . but having had three boys who loved to be read to started me thinking about writing for younger readers. The older they got, the more ideas I got! All I need is the time! The time travel I’m currently working on, among others, was originally written for my youngest son’s fifth grade class. They loved the first draft, and I’m polishing it up. It’ll be quite a different story once I’m through. The storyline is the same, but quite a bit of the action will be new. It’s been fun, though. They wanted me to write others featuring themselves. Not easy to do when there’s twenty-six kids all hoping for a good chunk of the action! But I managed to name every one of those kids more than once in the story. They’re all teens now, but still ask if I’ll do other stories.

Q: Sounds as though you’ve touched at least a few young lives with your work. What writing advice would you give to them and anyone else wanting to write?

A: Well, pretty much, if you want to write, then carve out the time to do it. You don’t need huge blocks of time. I’ve written whole pages in fifteen minutes, but on other days, not much of worth in several hours.

If you’re writing for your own pleasure and benefit, it doesn’t matter what sort of schedule you keep. If your goal is to write for a living, well, then, that’s a whole new chapter. Some organization and scheduling is in order, but the principle is still the same. You don’t need to write day and night.

Be open to advice and learning new methods. Read everything you can on the writing life and business. As much as you need to know how to write whatever it is you want to write about, you also should know how the business works. And make sure you find some support so you’re not feeling as if no one understands your need to dive into these fanciful worlds. If your spouse can be a confidante, great! But if not, a writing group on or offline, a friend, or even one of your kids.  My boys seem to have the patience to listen when I can’t get a hold of anyone else. My husband pretty much just wants to know when the money’ll start flowing in.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

A: Well, just as I’ve grabbed my dream by the rainbows, everyone has to do that, too, whatever it is you want to succeed in. As much as we all want it to, nothing happens just by wishing. It all takes work. If you’re willing to do what it takes, then anything and everything is possible.