I met Shana at my first new member’s meeting for the Almaden Valley Women’s Club in 2001. She spoke so eloquently, she had a comical side to her and she convinced me that volunteering for the Women’s Club was such a rewarding experience. Eight years later I have to say she’s right. I have met so many wonderful, intelligent, selfless and empowering women in the club and I have Shana to thank. Shana is the author of two books and also a contributing writer to two editions of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. To add to that she is also a motivational speaker and has a parenting column, “Confessions from the Carpool” for the Almaden Times since 2005. Shana was our guest speaker at a Women’s Club meeting a few months back and let me tell you, if there were really an Easy Button, I imagine Shana popping out like a genie and giving some great advice on anything under the sun. She really knows how to keep the audience captivated! Her wonderful key note on “Life 4.0″ kindly reminds people, “Do what you can for your community, not what your community can do for you!”
I met with her for a quick session. She told me she was nervous about having her picture taken. Well Shana, it’s now my turn. I’m not a writer so I was pretty nervous about interviewing you!
Shana, In the Spot Light!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I was enthralled with the idea of being a writer the moment a little essay I wrote in 4th grade won my mom the title of “Mother of the Year” for our hometown. Our family was honored at a pancake breakfast, served as Grand Marshall of the town pet parade, received a free portrait sitting, and even an overnight stay in Tahoe. It was such a thrill that my words could bring all of that fame and fortune (from a kid’s perspective anyway).
[caption id="attachment_602" align="aligncenter" width="900" caption="Shana sitting to the right of her mother."][/caption]
In college, my parents said the letters I wrote home had them convinced I would write for Hallmark some day. I’m not sure that I wrote anything poetic, but I have always been very in touch with my emotional side, and I’m not afraid to share those thoughts publicly in any way.
The most recent impetus for me would have to be the response I received when our kids were born and I started writing an annual Christmas letter. Many friends and family members (you know, the bias-makers) found the letters to be honest and entertaining, and convinced me to write a book. I thought, why not?
You have two books out. How long did it take you to write them?
The first book, Caffeinated Ponderings on Life, Laughter & Lattes, technically took 5 years to write because I wrote it one essay at a time and eventually discovered the coffee link could unite them as a book. I co-wrote the second book, Femail: a Comic Collision in Cyberspace, with Linda Sharp. This one only took a year and was such a blast to write because we have great energy between us and we take great delight in hashing out the truths of modern womanhood.
Which current writers inspire you today?
I cackle at David Sedaris and love the combination of humor and pulled heart strings in the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert and Kelly Corrigan. For whatever reason, I am a non-fiction girl, through and through.
Though my essays are always intended to entertain and validate the experience of my fellow moms and aging Delta Dawns (who increasingly feel like Helen Reddy’s lyrics about the “faded rose from days gone by”), I feel like I am entering a sappier phase in life. As many of my friends and I are having more challenging life experiences, I’ve discovered I like to write inspiring entries on my blog at www.sunnysidecommunications.com. To that end, I am finding my own inspiration in books like Mark Sanborn’s The Fred Factor and Peter Block’s Community: the Structure of Belonging.
Do you have any mentors?
I don’t have a professional mentor, but I certainly have some people I strive to be like in my everyday living. For me, those people are my parents, who gave and continue to give my brother and me so much support, and teachers like Castillero’s Jean Hendrickson. While I think I do a pretty good job raising our two girls, I haven’t quite mastered the art of selflessness. While others may be creating original masterpieces in this medium, I am still a paint-by-number artist in training.
Where did you grow up?
With the exception of my 4 years at UCSB and a college stint in both Madrid and Buenos Aires, I am a lifetime Bay Area resident. There was a 4-month period when we thought it would make more sense to live large for less in the Sacramento area, but we raced back home where we belong. If we’ve repressed that memory, it doesn’t count, right?
Even though it was a mistake for us to leave, I am so glad for the A-ha moment it inspired. Community is so important to me, and I am grateful for the sense of belonging we have created for ourselves here in Almaden Valley.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Do you really want to open this can of worms? Because I have many. ☺ My greatest frustrations at the micro level involve sibling brawls. In my house, it all boils down to my kids taking turns being the instigator and the over-reactor in any given disagreement.
On a more substantive level, I get miffed at people who refuse to see their own role in improving their corner of the world. Just because we can’t fix the damage of every natural or man-made disaster, doesn’t mean we should just sit on our couch and do nothing about it but whine. If enough people see us standing up to do our individual part, enough of them will be inspired to their part and we will have the numbers to make headway on real solutions.
What is your favorite area in the Almaden Valley?
I feel like a true lover of Almaden, which I am, would have to say Quicksilver. But Charlene, I am a first class chicken and I fear that Wile E. Coyote or his friend the mountain lion will eat me for lunch. So, my favorite place in Almaden has to be Los Alamitos Elementary School and Castillero Middle School. I just love connecting with like-minded parents there who show up to support the kids.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
The first happened in 6th grade when we had to do current events in front of the class and I decided to report on the junior high gym burning down. My opening line was “The Cupertino Jr. High gym burned down and they think this guy named Arson did it.” And yes, my face, like that gym, went up in flames when all my classmates laughed in response.
Fast forward to a fraternity party my junior year of college, where I tried to impress a guy I liked by showcasing my mad skills at a drinking name called “Famous Names.” Basically, you need to find a first name that starts with the first letter of the last name of the person mentioned prior to your turn. So, for example, if the guy before you says Peter Uberoff, it’s up to you to find a first name of a famous person that starts with “U.” Well, I had just attended a Human Sexuality class, so body parts were on my mind and I blurted out: “Urethra Franklin.” Let’s just say I lost the R-e-s-p-e-c-t of everyone in the room. Ugh!
If you had one wish that you knew would come true, what would it be?
The cure for cancer sounds almost cliché but is certainly a first that comes to mind, as I seem to know far too many friends and loved ones who are battling this disease. I would also be inclined to wish a long and happy life for my daughters. If I am allowed to include a selfish one, though, I would love to make a real living doing what I am passionate about. If I could support my family through my essays and my come-together message at speaking engagements, I would shout my joy from Mt. Umunhum… from the safety of a car, of course.