You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Shannon Stocker’ tag.

by Shannon Stocker

Mega thanks to my mentor and friend, Tara Lazar, for hosting the cover reveal of my upcoming non-fiction picture book, LISTEN: HOW EVEYLN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (April 12, 2022, from Dial Books).

About three years ago, after listening to an SCBWI speaker talk about the importance of writing what you know and the #OwnVoices movement, I felt moved to write a book about a musician who’d overcome something huge. A musician who’d beaten the odds, defying the expectations of the world around them.

I, myself, am a pianist, a guitarist, and a vocalist. Music has fed my soul since the day I was born. But I also spent two years in a wheelchair due to a chronic illness called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. For seven years, I fought for my life. Countless physicians told me I would not survive, my condition would not improve, I would never have children, and that my husband should put me in permanent care. Countless people gave up on me, insisting I should accept my fate.

But my husband never gave up on me. And, more importantly, I never gave up on me.

Shortly after that conference, I started doing Google searches for potential subjects. The very first person who popped up was Evelyn Glennie. She is the first person to ever have a full-time career as a solo percussionist. She’s won two Grammy Awards, and been knighted by the Queen of England. And she is deaf.

I continued looking for other potential artists, thinking Evelyn would be too big, too famous, too difficult to reach, but her story kept calling me back. It felt like home. So finally, on February 9, 2019, I wrote to her team to ask if she might have an interest in speaking with me about a potential non-fiction picture book. Only two days later, they replied in the affirmative.

Within a month, Evelyn and I had our first Skype. Although she had a translator attend, Evelyn’s lip-reading abilities and speech made communication simple and clear (she lost her hearing as an older child). Not only was she talented, determined, and kind, but she was also one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. Her story poured from my fingers like the most familiar piano concerto, and within two months it was written, revised, and had its first offer for publication.

Shortly after the book sold to Dial, my editor wrote to tell me Devon Holzwarth would be illustrating. It took me all of three seconds to fall in love with Devon’s work, which I often describe as “music on the page.” I contacted Devon, who currently lives in Germany, and she told me that Evelyn was scheduled to play in the “September Special” classical music event close to her home only two days later! I wrote to Evelyn, who provided Devon with tickets and later met her during a break at the concert.

The entire process felt magical.

At this time, LISTEN will also be published by Penguin UK, and I just recently learned that it’s been selected by the Junior Library Guild as a book club pick. I’m immensely proud to have been a part of this book’s creation. I’m grateful to Evelyn for trusting me with her story. I’m grateful to my agent Allison for seeing something in me beyond this story. I’m grateful to Jess, my brilliant editor, for her insights. And I’m grateful to Devon…who gave my words life and emotion beyond anything I could’ve dreamed.

How beautiful, Shannon! I love the movement of the music depicted in florals, streaming from the drum. It’s lovely; congratulations!

LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION will be published by Dial on April 12, 2022.

Shannon is giving away a non-rhyming picture book critique in celebration. Leave one comment below and a random winner will be selected next week. Good luck!


Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released in 2019, her nonfiction PB bio about Evelyn Glennie comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Visit Shannon at shannonstocker.comFacebook, or follow her on Twitter @iwriteforkidz and Instagram @iwriteforkidz.

by Shannon Stocker

You know how you have to make a total mess before you can really begin cleaning? Like how you have to pull all the books off a bookshelf to alphabetize them, or empty all your drawers before reorganizing?

Well, that’s going to be this blog.

So bear with me. I’ll get there, I promise.

Those who know me know that I also write outside of the picture book genre. I write for Chicken Soup, my memoir is currently circulating somewhere in the publishing house abyss, and I’m working on my first middle grade novel. Because of that, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten from other writers is, “How do you organize your time between genres?”

The short answer is this: I don’t.

Inspired yet?

But seriously, one of the most difficult aspects of writing in different genres is switching gears. For example, my memoir voice and my picture voice are two very different things. It’s not like I can drop F bombs in my picture books. If for no other reason, then, I often worked on only one genre in any given day while I was writing my memoir. Sometimes I’d actually take the whole week, only changing genres when I felt thoroughly able to compartmentalize. But once I made that decision, I’d use my first few hours to make a big ol’ mess, reading scattered notes and writing crappy first drafts, and then I’d slowly tidy the room…revising over and over again until my work sparkled. And that worked well for me.

Until it didn’t.

On Friday, October 2, 2020, I brought my daughter Cassidy to the hospital for an MRI. We suspected migraines.

But they found a tumor.

Cassidy was immediately admitted; a biopsy, done first thing Monday morning, confirmed the doctors’ suspicions.

Cassidy had brain cancer.

Through tears during that first night in the hospital, I started a Caring Bridge site to keep friends and family apprised of Cassidy’s journey. The move felt a little like self-preservation, if I’m being honest. I didn’t have the bandwidth to answer all the texts and emails flooding in.

The next month trudged by in a slow, vomitous haze as doctors tried to figure out what kind of cancer was growing in her brain…and what kind of mutations were growing in the tumor. As soon as we thought we had an answer, another hospital would disagree. Her biopsy sample got lost. We had to consult with multiple facilities to determine the best course of chemo. Every ounce of energy, every second of time disappeared into the tornado that surrounded my family. Each time we thought we had enough strength to stand, reality shoved us back to the ground. The mess just kept getting messier.

October 2020 was easily the worst month of my life. And for perspective, I’m a coma survivor.

Once Cassidy’s port was implanted, chemo began the next day. Then again, the week after that. Then again. And again…until one day, we realized we’d found a rhythm. For six, seven, eight weeks, the writer in me pined for an escape. Some way to shelve reality, even if only for thirty minutes. But it was in that moment, when I felt my creative spirit drowning in sadness and fear, that I realized I had actually been nurturing it all along. Even during the worst month of my life, I’d somehow found a way to keep breathing.

Because Caring Bridge posts had been my creative soul’s lifeline.

In that messiest of messy moments, when darkness siphoned all hope, that is when Habit opened the door and ushered herself in. Habit helped me reorganize. Habit opened my laptop. Habit tidied my thoughts.

I didn’t even see it coming. And when it did, I didn’t immediately recognize it for what it was. I was just hurting.

So…I wrote. And I cried.

A lot.

In early January, I wrote my first picture book manuscript since the fall. Yes, Storystorm and 12×12 both nudged me in that direction…but Habit carried me through. Then, Cassidy created a YouTube series called “Candid with Cassidy: Fireside Cancer Chats.” Again, Habit helped me write summaries for each weekly episode.

We cannot expect to be creative when tragedy strikes. Sometimes, life sucks. And in those moments, we must allow ourselves freedom from expectations. We must allow ourselves to flounder. To feel lost.

To grieve.

But, if we have nurtured good habits, then eventually those habits will become guiding lights.

And if our habits included nurturing our creativity, then, when it matters most…creativity will nurture us.


Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released in 2019, her nonfiction PB bio about Evelyn Glennie entitled LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Visit Shannon at shannonstocker.comFacebook, or follow her on Twitter @iwriteforkidz and Instagram @iwriteforkidz.

by Shannon Stocker

If you’ve attended any SCBWI conference or followed writers on Twitter for longer than a minute, you’ve probably heard the message loud and clear.

Write what you know.

Know what you write.

We need #OwnVoices.

The push for diversity is strong, vital, and long overdue in the picture book world. I challenge you to go to any bookstore or library and pull books off the shelf, separating them by the protagonist’s race. Despite the recent push for #OwnVoices, over 50% of the books printed in 2018 depicted white characters.

Credit: School Library Journal

Considering that the other 50% includes characters that are every other race as well as animals, crayons, vehicles, letters, and anything else inanimate or not human, you can see that we still aren’t where we need to be.

Granted, we’ve come a long way. In 2015, over 73% of picture books featured white characters.

Credit: School Library Journal

Not exactly representative of the world in which we live.

In 2018, I really wanted to write a nonfiction picture book biography about Aretha Franklin. As a musician who used to close shows with her song Respect, I admired so much more than her voice. Her songwriting skills, her piano talents, her civil rights activism…when I was little, I wanted to be Aretha. So when she passed away in 2018, I thought, “Do it. Write her story.”

Then I attended SCBWI Midsouth and Cheryl Klein burst my bubble.

Someone asked, “How can you best write from the point of view of someone who’s a different race?” I leaned forward on the edge of my seat and curled my hands over the keys of my laptop, prepared to feverishly type her every word. And you know what she said?

“Don’t.”

Wait. What?

“Don’t,” she said. “If you’re white, don’t make your protagonist black. Don’t make them Latino. Because you can’t know that voice.”

She went on to talk about the importance of the #OwnVoices movement. Now, not every editor will agree with her, certainly, but she was firm in her convictions. And it got me thinking.

I wanted so badly to write Aretha’s story, but now I felt stymied. I’m white…but I’m so passionate about Aretha.

And then it hit me. One of the reasons I’m passionate about Aretha is because…I am a musician.

My mind whirred. At the time, I was between agents. I hadn’t sold a book in almost two years. The last thing I wanted was to pour myself into a manuscript that no one would even open because they thought I was telling a story that would be told better by someone else.

So, I thought, whose story could I tell better than anyone else?

The idea struck like thunder.

I spent seven years actively battling illness, two of them walking with a cane or in a wheelchair. Although I’m now in remission, those years changed me. I can still picture the way people looked away from me in the airport. The discomfort on the faces of passing strangers who wouldn’t make eye contact. The sting of that kind of isolation doesn’t fade away.

So how could I use that experience to write a story that might help others?

My very first Google search for “disabled musicians” brought me to deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie. I watched her documentaries, listened to her interviews, played her music, and just knew.

Hers was a story that I could write.

That I needed to write.

Within a month of interviewing Evelyn, that story wrote itself, went to Acquisitions at its first house, and brought me interest from five agents. Less than two months after writing the story, it sold to Dial.

So how can you apply this to your life? How can you turn #OwnVoices into your #OwnSuccessStory?

Get out a piece of paper. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Now, make a list of things that you love. Subjects you’ve studied. Hobbies you’ve had for years. Instruments you play. Foods you cook.

What are you good at? Write it all down. What makes you different? Are you a redhead? Jewish? ADHD? Color blind? Write it down.

What makes you YOU?

Write it aaallllllll down.

Then, go through this list and ask yourself—which of those things make you happy? Which of those things are you passionate about? Which of those things makes you relatable?

Maybe, instead of listing everything at once, you can write a new passion each day along with your StoryStorm idea. Or maybe one of every five ideas can include something about which you’re passionate. But find a way to weave the things you love into your stories.

If you write from a place of passion, your reader will know. They will feel it. Racial diversity is certainly a major part of the movement, but #OwnVoices isn’t just about racial diversity.

It’s about owning your voice.

So write what you know.

Know what you write.

And own your voice. The world is just waiting to hear it.


Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released in 2019, her nonfiction PB bio about Evelyn Glennie entitled LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Visit Shannon at shannonstocker.com, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @iwriteforkidz and Instagram @iwriteforkidz.


Shannon is giving away a copy of her debut CAN U SAVE THE DAY and a 30-minute Skype consultation (to discuss your writing career, writing in verse, a particular manuscript, whatever you’d like). Two separate winners will be selected.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!

 

Like this site? Please order one of my books! It supports me & my work!

Enter your email to receive kidlit news, writing tips, book reviews & giveaways. Wow, such incredible technology! Next up: delivery via drone.

Join 12,931 other followers

My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
January 2, 2022

TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 2022

Blog Topics

Archives

Twitter Updates

  • RT @nanmercado: I’ve reached out to several illustrator reps lately looking for Disabled or Deaf illustrators on their roster, and the resp… 22 minutes ago