Anita M Shaw

Anita M Shaw


Good Books Build Character

I try to write books with character, and with heart and humor.

My story telling days started when I was four. My mother would plop us all in bed at 7:30. Of course, none of us would be tired, so we played games in bed until we fell asleep. Back in those days Westerns were the big thing on TV. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were our heroes along with The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hopalong Cassidy, Sky King, and Gene Autrey, and others.

Anyway, horses figured big in our games. Our bed where the three of us girls slept was an old iron bed and we used whatever was handy as reins, looping it around the foot board–or irons–and making believe we were heading west in our covered wagon.My younger brother watched and listened from his crib in the adjoining room. If I could have dragged him out of there, I probably would have. A “man” along with us for the journey would’ve been good!

Other times, after Mom came up to warn us of the consequences of not being quiet and going to sleep, I quietly told stories to them. Many of them revolved around four girls named Big Marsh and Little Marsh, and Big Denise and Little Denise. I think they were sisters, but they may have been friends, with each set of same names being sisters. As I sit and ponder that now over 60+ years later, I think in some stories they were sisters, but in others they were best friends forever.

Naturally the girls owned horses. Well, Big Marsh and Big Denise did; the little girls rode ponies. Probably Palominos, Paints, or gorgeous black or white steeds. All for the obvious reasons of the cowboys we loved. Later on, my stories included horses of the buckskin persuasion as I came to appreciate Dale Evan’s mare Buttermilk. In my teens I eventually bought an Arab-Quarter horse mare of a more creamy colored buckskin. Since she was about eight when I got her, I didn’t change her name to Buttermilk. Her name was Missie, but I changed it to Rebel’s Missy and rode her for years. Would give anything to have her and all the rest of my horses back! But, that was 40+ years ago . . .

At that same time, I wanted to write letters to my Gramma Davis. Mom would just say, when you go to school and learn to write you can write to her. Nowadays, moms let their kids scribble on a piece of paper with whatever–crayons, pencils, paint–and there you go. Guess my mother felt the letter ought to make sense from the get go.

Back then things were more laid back. There wasn’t the push to get your kid reading at birth. At five years old, I entered kindergarten, learned how to spell my name, played in the sandbox, sang the kid songs of the day, had a snack and a nap, painted or drew some pictures, had stories read to us, made stuff from Popsicle sticks or did some other type of craft, and went home. Easy Peasy.

If I asked about writing more than my name then, I probably got told I’d learn that next year.

So, next year I walked into first grade all excited to learn to read and write! And learn I did. I learned to read and write faster than anyone else in the class. I recall many days when I would drop into my seat in the reading circle and announce the new word I’d learned to spell.

Must’ve done that a little too often for one of the twins, I think it was Sheila, but it could have been Sherry, felt the need to tell me off one day on their way to the restroom and back from it. Yes, they went together. I was minding my own business washing my hands at the little sink at the back of the room just outside of the restroom. Didn’t get why she was so teed off at the time . . . I was mostly a quiet kid.

As for the writing end of it, well, not only did I learn to write quickly, I wrote it all backwards. Some of us lefties tend to do things like that. I haven’t a clue what my teacher, Mrs. Chatfield, thought. No one ever enlightened me. Maybe she was a lefty herself, for she never said a word to me about it. Never suggested I should use my right hand nor forced me to.

The first day I brought home a paper, my mother met my dad right as he walked through the door from work and poked my papers in his hands. “Look at this!” she said. He looked at it with marvel and disbelief. Yes, I recall it like two minutes ago. “How did you do this?” and then, “Why did you do this?” Guess they hadn’t a clue what lefties are capable of although there are/were several lefties on my father’s side. Can only speculate that none of them ever wrote backwards. And that is a marvel to me!

Dad showed me how to to it “right”, and so I went happily on until February . . . when I was told if I didn’t start doing the science and math part of the deal, I’d be staying back that year . . .

Well, for crying out loud! NO ONE told me I HAD to do THOSE things! I thought I was there only to learn to read and write! I didn’t need all that other stuff to write letters to my grandmother! So . . . with my father’s coaching, I reluctantly applied myself to catching up with the class with that end of the curriculum and moved on.

We moved a couple of times after that year, and in the fifth grade, my writing aspirations became broader when our teacher, Mrs. Miller, began to read to us every afternoon from the 1001 Arabian Nights. And of course, elements from Aladdin and the Lamp, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves especially figured in those very early tales. If I hadn’t made a construction paper (red) cover for them all and presented them to my teacher at the end of the year, I’d post them here. But, alas . . . I can only recall vague elements of the stories.

I wrote right through high school. The stories were mostly about orphaned kids who after much conflict and adventure were adopted by either a famous couple or some member of a popular band. But after writing a novel called Captive Tomboy when I was sixteen, the stories took a new direction. Fan fiction ended abruptly and my writing began to mature.

When I was about nine, my mother began taking us to the old Litchfield Library. Mom was an avid reader and sometimes went through spurts of reading aloud to us. We loved it, but after a while she must have deemed us too old for such a thing and left off doing it. So when we got to visit the library for the first time, I was in heaven! All those wonderful stories waiting for me to read! Awesome!

At first we could only get one or two books out at a time. Mom usually had a small stack for herself. When I pointed that out and protested the miserly two books I was allowed to get, the librarian explained that Mom had been coming there for years and could be relied on to actually read all the books she took out and bring them back on time. When I could do that, I could take out more books too.

Sounded fair, although I was still unhappy over it. I could read those two books on the way home! And I probably would have if reading in the car hadn’t made me carsick at the time. Steadily I worked my way up to nine books a week. Glorious! And I read them all in that week and brought them back on time with Mom.

Back then, I read everything I could get my hands on about horses, so Black Beauty and then all the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley made up the majority of my stack of books–which after a fashion numbered a dozen.

Books about twins got my attention as well. Probably because of that pair of twins in first grade. So the Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope and all of the twins books in Lucy Fiitch Perkins series. Some I liked better than others because in many the story was primarily about the boy. Most, if not all, were about boy/girl twins. The Dutch Twins, The Indian Twins (Native American), The Cave Twins and the Spartan Twins were my favorites. The Chinese Twins was my least favorite as the girl wasn’t in the story for more than a minute.

Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Honey Bunch Morton as well as the Hardy Boys came on the heels of the twin obsession. Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Loved the movies, had to read the book!

Learning there was Native American blood on both sides of the family, well, I went for every book I could find on that subject. Fiction and non-fiction. And eventually, that’s how Captive Tomboy was born. That story also landed in the hands of a teacher–my 11th grade English teacher who apparently thought it was good enough to polish and publish. She introduced me to Writer’s Digest, giving me a few copies from her own library of them. Unfortunately, she moved back to her native state after that one year, and my story went with her. Maybe some day I’ll try to recreate it. With a happier ending! Yes, my tomboy Jobyna died in the end.

How and why I wrote The Best Air Hockey Tournament Ever!, I’ll save for the Creating the Story page.

Besides reading and writing, I love to ride horses and bikes; love to bowl and play air hockey, hiking on a gorgeous day, and playing card and board games with family and friends. Naturally furry friends are right along in that list!

My husband and I have four sons, grown now, and two granddaughters – one now five, and the other is twenty. While in the past we had furry friends galore, dogs, cats, horses, gerbils, mice, birds fish and little lizards, our zoo is now defunct. Our last doggie past away in 2022 – Kai Cei named for the mom in The Best Air Hockey Tournament Ever!

I hope you enjoyed learning a little about me and my love of books!