PA Speak Up For Libraries events

I admit it. I don’t do blogs very often. I think of them, but it seems that writing fiction should be the main event on this side of the monitor. Plus life does seem to get in the way. But I do think of you who might check in once a while. I am grateful for your interest! And your patience! I promise there’s more fiction coming.

But today I’m back to tell everyone about my upcoming presentation at Ludington Library, 5. S. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA. Thursday, November 6th at 7 p. m. I’ll be participating in the PA Speak Up For Libraries Day in which authors and illustrators across Pennsylvania will be presenting at our libraries. High school libraries, college libraries, community libraries. We’ll be focusing on the importance of our libraries for all kinds of reasons. Come meet me and hear my spin on the subject! Ask me any questions you want. Also, I will be signing books. And I would love to meet you!

To learn more about these PA Speak Up events that will take place on or about November 6th, check out this site:

You’ll see a brief snippet of Kathy Silks and Lindsay Barrett George telling more about the event on Good Day PA. If you can’t attend my event, maybe there is a library near you that will be hosting another author or illustrator. All of these events will be very exciting, I’m sure.

I’ll let you all know when the next great Shaw opus will come out just as soon as I know it myself. In the meantime, be happy, healthy, and read, read, read!

Love to all–

By authorsusanshaw

Book-signing, teen workshop, molasses, and the start of a new story

Thanks to all who stopped by at last night’s book-signing. I enjoyed talking to every one of you. It was also kind of cool to watch the parade of kiddies with their treasures of balloon art and face paintings and mouthfuls of cake behind blue-icing lips. How can that not be fun? Smiles and laughter everywhere. Plus I ran into an old acquaintance from elementary school days–how about that? It’s a small world. The nickname of Suky gave her away. Not a nickname I’ve ever had, though sharing the same first name, so it caught my attention. Plus, she still does look like her twelve-year-old self. How does she do that?

Next up is the pair of writing workshops for teens that I’m giving at Tredyffrin Library in Strafford, PA, July 11th and 18th, each at 7 pm. Call Laurie Doan at 610-688-7092 if you are interested. And if you’d like something like that for actual adults, let me know. I’ve always got lots of ideas on how to get the writing muse into the room.

Start with a cup of sugar, a cup of flour, a cup of molasses–oh, no that’s my Aunt Hattie’s cookie recipe. But hey, the writing muse might like molasses. You never know!

Moving on with my new story. Fortune-telling and flute-playing and love stories. Playing it as it lays.

On to the next adventure!

By authorsusanshaw

Cabrini College authors’ panel and opus-pretending

Hello to everybody on this beautiful spring day. I was part of an authors’ panel for a librarian’s conference at Cabrini College the other day. Went through amazing rain to get there–creeks flooding over their banks everywhere, cars turning around. But I got there in good shape without the help of a helicopter and regardless of messages from the gods. A good event put on by Rick Stetler. Other authors included Marc Schuster, Donna Huston Murray, Tiffany Schmidt, Scott Heydt, and Susan Beth Lehman. Always interesting to hear the thoughts of other writers. And to hear the questions. Have put a bunch of new authors (for me) on my list of must-reads. How can you not want to read something called MICE DON’T TASTE LIKE CHICKEN (Heydt).

Sooo–back to work on the next opus, or at least what is pretending to be the next opus. While I pretend to write it. Having trouble getting past the beginning. Guess I just like where the character already is. I will have to knock her off the tightrope she walks. Who knew that a tightrope might be the safest place? But I guess if it’s that or an ocean’s whirlpool, go for the tightrope. But then–no actual story. Just me adding curtains to windows instead of breaking the window and letting the spears fly.

So let the spears fly!

If you’re in the area of Devon, PA on the 19th, come see me at the Neighborhood Funfest put on by St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. I’ll be signing books starting at 6:30.

And I’ll be giving some teen writing workshops at the Tredyffrin Public Library, Strafford, PA, in July. More on that later.

Love to all–

By authorsusanshaw

I’m back!

Hey, there, sorry to be away from the blog desk for so long, but I’m back.

I’m starting a new project, and hoping it takes hold. I never know until I’m just about there, so we’ll see. The La Traviata story is sitting on an editor’s desk. Waiting, waiting. In the meantime, there’s always the next great story!

I’ll be signing books at the Neighborhood Fun Fest at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 203 Valley Forge Rd, Devon, PA, June 19th, at 6:30. Please come!


By authorsusanshaw

Writing For Children Live–come listen!

I listened to the Marion Dane Bauer’s recent presentation on on picture books. It was wonderful!  What this lady doesn’t know about picture books isn’t worth knowing. Her presentation is now available for sale through the website. And she’s speaking again this Wednesday, September 26th, 7 pm on the same site. This time her topic will be POINT OF VIEW AND PSYCHIC DISTANCE IN FICTION
 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Check it out. It’s free.

This website has a series of author presentations lined up. My first one will be November 14th at 7 pm. Here’s the info on that.



NOVEMBER 14TH, 2012  AT 7:00 PM EST

    Do you want to know the writing secrets of a five-time published young adult author?  Listen into this FREE, LIVE teleconference call, and be INSPIRED!

Susan Shaw will discuss her writing process, using examples from her book Tunnel Vision.  She will also include suggestions on spinning ideas into stories and her thoughts on what good stories require.

In this FREE, LIVE teleconference, you will learn:

1.  Tricks for finding ‘that’ story.

2.  What a good story needs.

3.  What a good story doesn’t need.

Go to for details. Listen. Ask questions. Get inspired!

Be in touch!

By authorsusanshaw

Thanking Skyanne, Developing The Story, Traviata, and Waning August Days

Thanks to everyone who came to the PAYA Festival on Saturday. It was great seeing you there and talking to everybody. Thanks especially to Skyanne Fisher, the mastermind behind the whole thing. Skyanne is a genius, and I’m not kidding!

During the morning workshop, a huge panel of writers gave mini-speeches on different aspects of writing. Mine was on the development of the story, and I include it below. Hope it’s helpful!

Five minute talk on development of the story. 

  1. Start your story. It doesn’t matter which words you use, just start. You can always come back later and change what you wrote. Guaranteed that you will, in fact. But don’t worry about that now. Throw whatever paint you want on the white canvas to get going. Then it’s not white anymore. Be courageous. You’re stronger than the blankness.
  2. Write whatever is in your head. You cannot make a mistake here. Whatever you write has to be okay because it is you writing it. The idea of your story determines what is in the ‘story room’.
  3. Don’t censor, don’t edit. Let the story flow. If you think of a girl with hair of three different shades and a tattoo of a rose on her chin, then put that down. She might be very important to the story. If you don’t put it down, you will find that sensation of a sock being stuck down your throat. Don’t stifle your thoughts no matter how weird they might be. Weird is good! If you stifle one thought, you stifle them all.
  4. Follow your story, your character, around as though you are following a three-year-old child around a backyard. You follow, but don’t get in the way. If that three-year-old wants to eat a feather, let him. If he’s heading into the poison ivy, let him go there. No protecting allowed!
  5. Keep following the three-year-old, and if it seems that he’s abandoned you, look around your story room, what do you see? An emptiness? Then describe the empty room. What’s it feel like in there? What’s it smell like? Cedar, mildew? Is there blood on the floor or is it a forgotten silk ribbon? What’s behind the old couch? A prop you find in this room will probably propel you on to the next thing you need to write. Remember, everything in the ‘story room’ belongs in your story. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be there. Even the emptiest story room has something in it. Do you have the guts to write what’s there?
  6. As long as you see stuff, write it and say yes! Yes! It might not be what you thought you were going to write about when you sat down, but it’s what the story demands. And the more you write, the more you’ll see. You’ll be glad you let the story tell itself.
  7. You’ll know when you get to the end of your first draft.
  8. You’ve gotten there? That’s another five minute talk.

I also made a couple of comments on the importance of rest and nutrition. If you aren’t rested, those words just won’t flow the way they will if you are. So get your sleep!

I’m back to working on my Traviata story. The full first draft is peeking over the horizon. Maybe I’ll have it soon.

And I’m enjoying the last couple days of August. Open windows, cricket songs, summer breezes.  I love August! I hope your’s is waning as beautifully as mine is.


By authorsusanshaw

Book signings, past and future, and teleconferences, to say nothing of zucchinis

Thanks to everybody who attended yesterday’s book signing at Chester County Books and Music. It was fun connecting and reconnecting with such authors as Jen Bryant, KM Walton, Debbie Dadey, Ruth Zavitsanos, Shannon Wiersbitzky, and Kathye Fetsko Petrie. A good crowd, and if you attended, you got to talk with them, too. Wasn’t that great? The highest point for me out of a number of high points was the moment a certain young man grabbed a copy of ONE OF THE SURVIVORS off my table, turned to the front of the store while waving the book well over his head, and shouted, “This one!”

Yay for certain young men! Yay!

KM Walton, otherwise known as Kate, tells me she will be signing books, same as yours truly, at the PAYA event next Saturday, August 25th, so if you’re looking for her or me or a good number of other YA authors, then come to that and look for us. That signing will be at the PA leadership Charter School Advanced Ideas Center, 1585 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA, starting at noon. For more information on that and the writing and librarian workshops just prior to the signings, go to or

Come! You will be welcomed with open arms!

I want to make everyone aware of two teleconference presentations I will be giving for Writing For Children Live, hosted by Kim Taylor-DiLeva. The first presentation, The Writing Passion, will be November 14th, 7-8:30 EST, and second, Developing The Story, will be April 17, 7-8:30. After both presentations, callers may ask me questions. Afterwards, CDs of the teleconference will be available for purchase through
Other authors, including Marion Dane Bauer, of Newbery Honor book ON MY HONOR fame, will be presenting for this organization on other days. Participate in all!
On the writing front, I continue to write my Traviata story and hope that it grows and grows like some zucchinis I picked this morning. Hope my friends all like zucchini bread!
Best and love to all–
By authorsusanshaw

Book Signings, A Writing Workshop in August.

 I want to let everybody know about a couple of upcoming events. 

First is the mass book signing at Chester County Books, 975 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA. That’s from 2-5 on August 18th. Look on the bookstore’s website,, to know who else is signing. Lots of opportunity there for you! I’ll be signing copies of TUNNEL VISION and my other titles.

The second event will be held August 25th. This will be the 2012 PAYA Book Festival at the PA leadership Charter School Advanced Ideas Center, 1585 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA. A writing workshop begins at 10. I will be talking about developing the story, and other authors will be discussing other aspects of writing. At 11, we’ll break into smaller groups for critique sessions. And at 12, the book signings will begin.  I will be signing copies of TUNNEL VISION plus my other titles. There is a fee for the workshop but not for the signing. For more  information, go to

Come! Meet me and a bunch of other writers at these events. 

See ya there!

By authorsusanshaw

Book Signings; Ideas From Ray Bradbury; Work In Progress: La Traviata

Hey, everybody–I hope your summer’s going well. It’s pretty hot here in the lovely state of Pennsylvania, but I’m loving it.

It looks like I’m going to be involved in a couple of group signings next month. The first will be at Chester County Books, 975 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA, on the afternoon of August 18th, and the other will be for the 2012 PAYA Festival, also in West Chester, PA, on August 25th, at 1585 Paoli Pike at the PA Leadership Charter School’s Advanced Ideas Center. I’ll be signing at noon for that one and will also be involved in a writing workshop that morning. I don’t yet know exactly what time the Chester County Books event will be. More info as we get closer.

You can find out more about PAYA, which focuses on young adult novels, at I’d love to see you at either event.

When Ray Bradbury died recently, I heard about his book, ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, and immediately found a copy at the library. What a wonderful writer he was! His joie de vivre was apparent throughout the book, and he had me laughing out loud on the first page. You just have to love him.

One of Bradbury’s writing strategies was to create giant lists, many lists–elephant, pajamas, jam sandwiches, mockingbirds could start one–and when he couldn’t think of anything to write about, he’d choose a noun from one of those lists and write a prose poem about it. By the time he’d get to the second page, a character would appear and take over, writing his story for him. So that’s what I’m going to try the next time I’m looking for a story. Sounds like a shorter way than what I do, which is just writing and writing and writing randomly until that character shows up with his incredible story. The end result is probably the same, but I’m wondering if Bradbury’s method gets you there faster. I like the ideas of both the lists and the prose poem.

If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas on writing, get this book! Bradbury has some interesting takes on the writing life, but the main thing seems to be about his gusto for life. The read is interesting and entertaining even if you aren’t a writer. Then you might want to move on to his novels or short story collections if you haven’t already read them.

I’m working on a new book, so far called LA TRAVIATA, about a teen rock star. I’m having a lot of fun with it. I hope it gets to a point where you can have fun with it, too.

Catch ya later.

Hugs and thanks for reading–

By authorsusanshaw

My guest post on Patricia’s Particularity

Below is my guest post on Patricia’s Particularity. To see it there and explore the rest of her site, go to

Hi, everybody! I feel so honored to have The Boy From The Basement receiving so much attention from Patricia’s Particularity. I hope you’re all enjoying it.

So how did I come to write this book? Why this topic?

A person who was on my mind when I began the story was a friend in a hellish situation. He saw no way out of his mess, and I felt badly for him. There was nothing I could do to help, but perhaps Charlie’s story came from my wish that there was something I could do, something I could fix. Maybe that wish combined with other flotsam and jetsam swirling around inside my head, and it formed something new. Not sure. A story undoubtedly has many points of origin that come together with the right circumstances. But one thing—when I write a story, I’m usually trying to fix something. What it is, I’m never sure at the outset.

The afternoon I began The Boy From The Basement, my husband, John, and I had spent a couple of hours in Valley Forge Park, near where we live. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we walked through the park, admiring the landscape and the Schuylkill River as it flowed past the bank. We talked, we were silent, we were peaceful. It was a good time.

Then we returned home to the normal chaos of our lives. John got things started in the kitchen for dinner while I sat at my desk on the other side of the dining room from him, hoping to find an idea while the children came in and out with needs and questions and remarks.

I had been having trouble finding the next project after Black-eyed Suzie, which had only just been released. For months, nothing was happening storywise except me writing random words that went nowhere, but there must have been something about our time in Valley Forge that day that cleared a lot of the clutter from my mind because at the very inconvenient time of five o’clock, without a whole lot of lead-in, I wrote the following words: I’m sitting in a basement smelling of old cigarette smoke. Empty and raw, no feeling of ease or well-being. Just being.

With those few words, I knew I had a story. Sometimes I can just tell, and sometimes I can’t. This was one of those times I could. The story resonated in those few words. I didn’t have any idea what it was about or where it would go or even where those words came from. I didn’t even know the main character was a boy until he had to pee off the back porch.

But wow! With those opening words. Look—Wow!—a story!

I kept writing, one word flowing after the other, writing as fast as I could because I knew dinner was about to be ready—I can still smell it when I think of that beginning—we must have been having scrapple that night—and I didn’t want to lose the sense of the story when I had to leave it. I wanted to get as far along as I could so that the path I’d started would be findable when I came back.

And Charlie’s story emerged.

And yes, for you observant people, I did revise the beginning. Cigarette smoke became old burnt furnace oil because cigarettes meant someone else had been down in the basement with Charlie, and that didn’t work with the rest of the idea. A smoker in the basement along with Charlie would have meant a different story. But you never know. I could still write that one. Who was in the basement smoking? Where did he go? Would he come back? Was he another prisoner or what? Hmmm.

So I’ve got five YA’s out there: Black-eyed Suzie, The Boy From The Basement, Safe, One Of The Survivors, and Tunnel Vision. Five YA’s out there, and many more on the way. Read ’em all and let me know what you think at

I love my readers!

All best—

By authorsusanshaw