Author Interview: Shaunda Wenger


Shaunda Wenger

She blogs here.

Shaunda, who are you as a person, versus an author?

I'm a mother, a book-lover, a friend, a cook, a teacher, a gardener, an athlete, a closet artist ... (although artist is a stretch--I like paper, and love the idea of putting something on it, whether that be words or pictures). When my children are grown I imagine I'll continue with everything I do now, although I'll have more time to do it. New and unusual things always interest me, so I imagine I'll put more time into exploring, both locally and globally.

What genre(s) do you write in?

I started with cookbooks--a literary one I wrote with Janet Kay Jensen, called The Book Lover's Cookbook, Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages That Feature Them (Ballantine), which combined my love for books and food. We couldn't have been more pleased to see this book in print. Because creating new dishes is an ongoing pastime, I hope to see more cookbook projects published in the future, so stay tuned! However, I'd started writing for children a few years before The Book Lover's Cookbook came to fruition, so I returned to writing children's fiction after the cookbook was out.

My favorite genres to write in are middle grade and picture book. However, I've also dipped in to chick-lit when I'm looking for a fun break.

With middle-grade, I enjoy creating characters with eccentric senses of humor or outlooks, given the situations I put them in. I also love writing picture books, but they are definitely a challenge to write well for today's market. Picture books being published today are getting shorter and shorter. They're great when the concept works, but I wonder if we're not selling children short by feeding into the idea that their attention can't be held for long durations.... Really? I've seen them sit for long periods of time for story-tellers who love the stories they're telling. The children respond by listening intently, and wanting more when the story ends. They respond because they know that story-teller is there for them, sharing something special. I worry society may be dropping--or losing out on--the chance to nuture "a love of story" in today's children. My love of reading wasn't fostered with short picture books. We owned ver y few--not for lack of want, but for lack of budget. Yet, my mother did sit with my brother and I and read aloud from a single large book filled with classic stories--stories that would be considered too long by today's standards.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

It depends. For picture books, I write solely for entertainment. For novels, I also write to entertain, but I always get excited when I can weave in interesting facts or tidbits that readers might not otherwise know. On the whole, my hope is for readers to walk away feeling inspired to overcome their own obstacles after experiencing the stories of my characters.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

I write best in my truck (parked, of course!), when I've got a snippet of free time between chauffeuring kids from place to place. Because their schedule is fairly regular from season to season, my free time in the driver's seat goes by a pretty good schedule. I actually like working in the truck, because once I pull out the lap-top, there's not much else to focus on, other than what's on the screen. But I do have an office, and it works well for providing space for writing in the morning.

Why do you write?

I always knew I loved to write. One of my favorite classes in college was a writing class, and that professor had pulled me aside to see if I might want to pursue it more seriously. But for me, at that point, I considered it a hobby, and I was on-track for graduation with a science degree, which would lead me to a practical, if not interesting career. It wasn't until after my first child was born, when I was staying at home, wondering what I might do with my "free-time" outside of being a full-time mother, that I decided I'd write. Once I opened myself up to the craft, I couldn't stop.

What do you love to read?

Middle-grade and YA, whether it be contemporary, historical, humorous, or fantasy. I love reading aloud with my younger sons, and sharing books with my daugther.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Definitely vanilla.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

I prefer longhand when I'm fleshing out new ideas. The only problem is that the pen never seems to keep up with my thoughts, so much so, that for all the speedy scrabbling, sometimes I can't read what I wrote--nor do I remember what was intended, which is troubling for another reason I'd rather not think about....Dementia, anyone? ;)

What is your current book?

My current book remains The Book Lover's Cookbook, which is geared to entice people to the library after sampling good food in the kitchen. The four books I published with Benchmark Education (Caterpillar Can't Wait!, How Does a Butterfly Grow?, How Many Muffins?, and The Farm Stand Mystery) are designed to be sold to schools, and thus, are not available to the general market.

I do hope to place a historical cookbook online soon. It's based on the cookery journal of my great-grandmother who boarded railroad workers at her home in the early 1900s in Avis, Pennsylvania. She not only housed the workers, but fed them, recording her favorite recipes--and those she sought to perfect--in her journal. Avis was home to a series of railroad machine shops, which fixed and maintained the engines. My great grandfather managed the shops. All of the recipes and tidbits from the journal are absolutely delightful. I really look forward to sharing this gem. It's nearly ready, so keep an eye out for it.

Rick Walton and I also have plans for a fun children's cookbook in the works. Fingers are crossed for this one!

As for my novels and picture books, I'm currently submitting like many others, hoping to find a bit of luck. I've come close a few times, which keeps me working for and chasing the dream.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Keep learning, keep sharing, keep yourself open to possiblities--and when they arrive, take them, and repeat.

Dogs or cats?

Can I say horses? I own cats, but I grew up riding horses.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I just want to be remembered for always doing and giving my best.


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