August 26, 2020

Birth Stories for Books, TAILS FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER, by Stephanie Shaw

Sophie the Shelter Rescue Dog
Today, I'm so happy to share with you a guest post featuring the birth story for a new book by one of my first friends and favorite people in the kidlit community, author Stephanie Shaw. I featured one of Stephanie's earlier books last year, and I'm so happy she was willing to share more of her perspective and experience with us here today.

Stephanie's new book, TAILS FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER (illustrated by Liza WoodruffSleeping Bear Press) is worth every woof--and if you don't believe me, take it from my shelter rescue pup, Sophie!

Take it away, Stephanie!

Tails From the Animal Shelter
by Stephanie Shaw

Today is August 15, 2020. It is the ‘book birthday’ of my most recent picture book Tails From the Animal Shelter with illustrations by Liza Woodruff, published by Sleeping Bear Press.

The book is made up of page after page of various (fictional) animals seeking adoption. There’s Lucky the three-legged, one-eyed dog; Pooter the skunk, Hamlet a pot-bellied pig and many more. It’s also packed with non-fiction information about various rescue organizations. There are guidelines to consider before adopting and ways to support shelters if adopting is not possible.

Who should buy this book?

Photo Credit: Katia Prochovnic

Families who have family members clamoring for a pet!
Teachers who are looking for persuasive writing exercises.
Shelter and rescue organizations looking for a great fund-raising product.

Why writers? Because (aside from the fact that this is just a darn good book and beautifully illustrated and you need one for your kid lit collection) it is a testimony to my theory that writing is not a straight path. It is a maze. The ‘birth story’ of Tails From The Animal Shelter is just that.

About four years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to downsize and try living in another state (away from my beloved native Oregon). I could write anywhere, right? But it turned out I could not. And days and weeks and then months began to pass without any writing.

One healthy writing habit I managed to hold onto was a daily walk. I would trudge up a long hill and back down --- usually berating myself for not coming up with a new story.

Then one day it occurred to me to go back to what I did in the very beginning of my years in writing:  small poems. I didn’t have to write long paragraphs. Just little snippets. I could do that. And I did. I gave myself the task of writing a tiny poem each day. Each turned out to be about animals. And each one was searching for a home.

This led me to research how Humane Societies began. I tucked that information in with the poem collection and sent it to my editor at Sleeping Bear Press where I had four other picture books in publication.

It was my good fortune that Sleeping Bear loved it but they saw it as the basis of a non-fiction story and wanted the text expanded considerably. This was new territory for me. It was time to back up again and try this new route.

I learned so much. I read and read and read. I developed relationships with animal shelter workers. I picked the brain of a newspaper columnist who writes about dogs.  More than anything I developed a huge respect for non-fiction writers. This non-fiction writing was no walk in the dog park!

When I was stuck and thought I’d never have an idea (let alone a whole book), I went back. Since that time, I also completed three concept books for Read Your Story and a picture book (Sylvia’s Way, West Margin Press, 2021). I’ve asked for help. I’ve taken classes, attended workshops, connected with a great agent. Oh, and we moved back to my beloved Oregon.

I’m looking at a copy as I write this. It will forever be a reminder that writing is a labyrinth; a route under construction with lots of detours. 

But I love what it led to.

Thank you, Dawn, for allowing me to share this birth story.

Thank YOU for sharing your insights and inspiration with us, Stephanie!

Friends, the best way you can say thank you to Stephanie for spending some time with us today, is to support her work. Stephanie's books are available everywhere books are sold

Image Supplied by Stephanie Shaw
An Oregon native, Stephanie completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Education at Oregon State University and her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Lewis and Clark College. Her professional life includes teaching children with severe behavioral challenges, school counseling and school administration. But now her love is working with illustrators and editors to create stories that range from quiet to quirky, poetry to prose. When she isn’t assisting door-to-door vacuum cleaner vampire salesmen, taking cows on shopping trips for muumuus, or helping garden slugs with their calligraphy, she can be found at home with her husband Brad and her labradoodle Milo. 

Stephanie is a member of SCBWI and has served on the faculty of Oregon SCBWI at annual conferences and as a mentor to aspiring writers at Oregon Great Critiques many times. She is a three-time award winner for her contributions to Highlights for Kids and High Five Magazine. 

Stephanie’s books in publication include multiple picture books and board books published in the US and UK. Her work has been translated to Dutch, Portuguese and Turkish.
BEDTIME IN THE MEADOW, Tiger Tales, 2013
A COOKIE FOR SANTA, Sleeping Bear Press, 2014 
UNDER THE SLEEPY STARS, Tiger Tales/Little Tiger, 2015 
THE LEGEND OF THE BEAVER’S TAIL, Sleeping Bear Press, 2015
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, Tiger Tales/Little Tiger 2016
SCHNITZEL: A Retell of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Sleeping Bear Press, 2016
LULLABY FARM, Little Tiger, 2016
MOO LA LA! Simon and Schuster UK, 2017
PIECE BY PIECE, Sleeping Bear Press, 2017
SYLVIA’S WAY,  West Margin Press, 2021 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, Lucy's Blooms (Spring '21), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter (and e-presenter!) at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

No comments:

Post a Comment