About shanathornton

Listener, reader, storyteller, author of four novels, owner of Thorncraft Publishing and creator of BreatheYourOMBalance® Visit thorncraftpublishing.com for more details.

Stories & Webs

My writing has been shaped by a history of reading about violence, and that violence is perceived as transformative and even spiritual in its results. That violence began with my earliest discovery of books and stories, those from the Bible. While one might argue the books of the Old and New Testaments offer proverbs and pastoral psalms as well as guidance for love, they are full of justification for and forgiveness of violent acts. Violence can certainly be physical AND psychological and emotional. When I studied literature in college, medieval literature, Beowulf, all the way to Southern lit, Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away—a lineage of violence in the history of literature captivated me.

Nightmares have plagued my sleep. Vivid, horrific cinematic-type dreams of war, abductions, gang-mafia-mob torture, one-on-one murders, etc. that haunt my days, too, and so, I made a choice in my twenties to stop viewing extreme violence on the screen, not to read horror books, and to limit my in-take of mainstream fictional violence and television programming. That didn’t stop my nightmares but at least they weren’t layered with tv and movie imagery, or characters from a slasher book. I couldn’t watch tv at all without seeing commercials for violent investigative crime shows, depicting images of torture in a matter of fifteen seconds. There was no guarantee that I wouldn’t see it, so I stopped watching tv. While I want you to understand that I do not have my head in the sand, please know that I have always read the news (The Washington Post) religiously, and a lot of books of both fiction and nonfiction, mostly literary fiction and political nonfiction, some memoir, some poetry, some history, some philosophy and theory, art criticism…that’s enough, you get the idea. I don’t need the tv images to understand violence. I am regularly horrified because the images are already in my head.

So, I made a promise to myself after writing my first novel, Multiple Exposure, that I wouldn’t focus on violence in the next books that I wrote. That was in 2012. The spider was already my logo, and I viewed storytelling as a web, but Multiple Exposure was still focused on violence and fear, even if the narrative wasn’t exactly linear. In my point of view at the time, the spider as consumer was as violent as life needed to be, and consumption-conflict might be present but it didn’t have to be the source or the result of the story’s meaning, linear or not. And spider woman in the indigenous stories I read was like my relatives who told stories and histories and spun dreams, fantasies, and tall tales. I was drawn to her story web.

My transformative and spiritual experiences in life were sourced from something other than violence—I had been regularly transformed and felt a spiritual connection to trees and plants, people, animals, landscapes, even to history and people and moments in history that I learned about when I visited a place. My spiritual experience and transformative life lessons were not shaped by violence happening to me or around me. While I was defined by violence and influenced so profoundly that I was shaken by empathy for every crises I read about in the papers, and I still am, sometimes, I focused my writing on telling a different kind of story. I took what I considered to be a new route, though I’d already been writing these stories about a medicine wheel in college.

In the stories, I wanted to show sorrow for the passage of time, for those unattainable moments that we all want but don’t achieve, for the sweetness that surprises us, for the full circles and spontaneous songs we sing together and the moments of longing when we want to be heard and felt, understood beyond even our own knowing. That was my focus for the Family Medicine Wheel series, and the first book was published in 2015. I wanted the narrator, Robin Ballard, to reveal a woven story, not linear, and more than that, I wanted it to be interwoven with the stories of her family members, with their secrets and lies. I wanted the books to reveal how stories move in and out of our lives, and we are yearning for information about aspects of how our family’s stories intermingle with and define our own at different times. We struggle with trying to make sense of them, as Robin does. Success and failure are not singular tracks limited to one aspect of our lives. The reader might think that Robin could succeed at songwriting with Kevin, while failing to fall for him romantically. And then, later, one sees that Robin being single is a success, and the songwriting is a burden once she discovers her joy in managing the tea shop with her aunt. This is only one part of Robin’s life from the books. And, she is only one character of many.

The stories of Robin’s ancestors are equally as focused on transformative redemptive experiences, free of violence as the main initiator of change and more appreciative of a connection to the landscape, their place in history, their growth into the future. Robin’s great-grandmother and her friends carry plant medicine, and go searching for it, and moreover, each character has at least one talent that they offer as a medicine to the people around them, to the world. That’s the intimate take-away from both books in my series.

Yesterday, I read these excerpts (copied below) in Rob Brezsny’s most recent newsletter, and they are the best descriptions of the sentiment I hold in my own heart when I write the Family Medicine Wheel books and how I changed my writing focus:


It’s hard to find modern stories that don’t depend on endless conflict to advance the plot. I understand the attraction to such stories, but I don’t understand why they dominate storytelling.

Are authors and filmmakers really unable to conceive of the possibility that entertaining adventures might emerge from pursuing discovery and excitement and joy as much as from overcoming relentless conflict and difficulty?

Read what Ursula K. Le Guin has to say about the subject.

“The Hero has decreed that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of the narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn’t any good if he isn’t in it.

“I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”

“One relationship among elements in the novel may well be that of conflict, but the reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd.

“(I have read a how-to-write manual that said, ‘A story should be seen as a battle’ and went on about strategies, attacks, victory, etc.)

“Conflict, competition, stress, and struggle, within the narrative conceived as carrier bag or medicine bundle, may be seen as necessary elements of a whole which itself cannot be characterized either as conflict or as harmony, since its purpose is neither resolution nor stasis but continuing process.”

—In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin writes much more on these subjects: https://tinyurl.com/ykures5a



In her essay “Spider Woman as Healer,” Nancy Corson Carter writes:

“I am inspired by another way of storytelling—not the linear, singular, ‘breakthrough’ and ‘power over’ brilliance of the ‘hero’ narrative, but the spiraling, juxtaposing, and interpenetrating ‘power with’ luminosity of the weaver in the act of telling.

“I imagine the weaver as the one who attends and intends while the hero extends; the weaver carefully untangles knots that need to be rewoven, while the hero cuts them asunder with his sword.

“Ursula K. Le Guin writes of an ‘unheroic’ fiction under the rubric of the ‘carrier bag theory of fiction.’ This term comes from the idea that the earliest cultural inventions were probably containers, slings, or net carriers used to hold gathered things.

Le Guin decries the hero or ‘killer story’ as one that ‘hid my humanity from me.’

“In its place, she celebrates a new/old story, a ‘life story’ that many people have told for ages, in the forms of myths of creation and transformation, trickster stories, folktales, jokes, novels.’

Click here to subscribe to Rob Brezsny’s free newsletter.

My books in the Family Medicine Wheel series:

Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel

Ripe for the Pickin’

The Ripeness of the Harvest

The following was written in 2012, before I published by first book, and saved as a draft that I haven’t edited since that time…


My experience with death has included a particular type of suffering, watching another die, but some type of magic has been the end result, some witnessing of beauty and…dare I say, divinity of the human. I’m hesitant to say a person can be divine, but I do believe moments of divinity sometimes enter our lives with a shimmer of change, with good results, even if they don’t always remain.

When my grandmother died last year, I experienced the grace that can be present during suffering, the force of holding on alongside letting go. They happen simultaneously–the same way my newborn tightly grips my extended finger while turning her body away from me in order to watch my husband playing peekaboo, and the same way my five-year-old clings to my arm and keeps her legs wrapped around mine under the water while striding out into the deep end. There’s a space to find joy in the act of letting go and moving forward.

Two of my grandparents were released from intense physical suffering at the moment of their deaths. I wonder if, during death, they found anything more than the end to a period of suffering, but I also know that is enough when the time arises. Both of my grandparents died during the end of summer, just around the harvest time.

Upon returning from my recent family vacation to the beach, I found myself, sitting on the back deck, thinking about the harvest. I plan to release my book in the autumn. It’s the harvest, the ending of the growing season, but it’s a beginning as well, a time when we create from the fruits of labor, a time to end the labor (for some, labor a form of suffering) in order to discover nourishment with our new approaches. My family farmed, but I don’t plant fields of crops to harvest and prepare meals. Instead, I write about that…I work on a different sort of harvest.

My granddaddy built furniture as a side job, and mostly, he made tables and lamp holders for family members. He noticed craft and took pride in the different forms of craftsmanship. He was my first example of giving in to his desires in life and refusing to allow others to define what his limitations should be. From him, I learned to make my own way, to be different than my family or anyone expected, and to take risks. From his example, I knew that I had to name my publishing company after his little furniture business, Thorncraft. I wouldn’t allow others in my craft to limit my potential. I would learn and make my own way. My granddaddy’s father left the town where his family’s name dominated the telephone book and moved to another one, where he had no relatives, and stripped tobacco, started a family, and died young. My granddaddy was his only son, and he grew up with a mother who dipped snuff and refused to put a bathroom into her house, choosing the outhouse instead. I was the first to believe that I could go to college and write and teach. I took the doors that opened and never worried about the ones that didn’t, the ones that kept me out due to my lack of connections, my innocence and naivety, and lack of experience. I learned to create it on my own, refusing to be ashamed of my family, my place, and my history. Any perception of lack within those entities is only a perception by those who don’t understand an individual’s happiness.

Maybe there is a magical time of peak ripeness, and many people believe that they can see those moments and that potential fruit better than others. However, we have to take a bite and trust that the fruit is ready, feel our way forward while holding on, while drifting out into the water slowly, and ultimately, alone.


I never published this blog entry, but I think it’s time, 10 years later, even though I have touched on some of these topics in other writings over the years, and especially as I think about death, divinity, letting go, and creativity over the past few years. I won’t finish this, or try to wrap up the metaphors and themes neatly, but I’ll leave it unfinished just as I had it in 2012.

Ripe for the Pickin’ Book Launch March 5, 2022

Today, my new novel, Ripe for the Pickin’, is out and for sale through all major booksellers! I have worked many years on this book, rewriting it a few times. Reworking it. Taking chances. Waiting for answers. Listening for stories. Checking its pulse. Cultivating experience.

When you step back, you think, “Yeah,” and nod and sense the magic. Okay, it’s ready. Later, you take it in again and wonder, “Did it work out alright?” The creative impulse and familiarity feels as if its traveling away with the work–a stranger when you meet it again.

I’ll meet it again at the book launch and read from the book, sign copies, and look forward to talking with the people who come out.

1-3 p.m. Saturday, 5 March, 2022, at Journey’s Eye Studio in Clarksville, TN.

Here’s the press release about the event:

Local Author Celebrates New Book & 10 Years at Journey’s Eye Studio

Local author and publisher, Shana Thornton’s new book, Ripe for the Pickin’, releases this weekend with a book launch at Journey’s Eye Studio on Saturday, March 5, from 1-3 p.m. Thornton will celebrate ten years in the book business this year. She will read from her work and sign books on Saturday. The event is free and open to the public. Books is be available for purchase,

Set in Tennessee, Thornton’s new novel, Ripe for the Pickin’, received advanced praise from award-winning author Barry Kitterman, who is also a retired Austin Peay State University professor of creative writing: “It’s been a few years since we saw these characters in the first of Shana Thornton’s Poke Sallet stories. This time, as I read the opening pages, I feel like I’m running down a country road holding onto the tailgate of a friend’s pickup, and that friend is Thornton herself. The thought occurs to me that I should not have got out of the pickup in the first place, and would be wise to hang on, to follow wherever she takes me. The story is several stories: a road trip, a food and herb meditation, a hymn to Tennessee, an earth spiritual. There’s the continuation of a treasure hunt, and poetry, and song lyrics, all spanning several generations, at times passing over the threshold from this world to earlier worlds. It’s worth reading, and worth reading twice.”—Barry Kitterman

Thornton has written four fictional novels, including Ripe for the Pickin’, and co-authored a mindfulness journal. She is the series editor and publisher of the yoga book series, BreatheYourOMBalance, which has featured the work of many Clarksville authors and yoga practitioners. This year, Thorncraft Publishing, her publishing company, celebrates ten years in business. Within that time, the company has published the books of local Clarksville authors and/or authors who are Austin Peay graduates. 

Thorncraft Publishing books, including Ripe for the Pickin’, are available for purchase through all major booksellers, including Hudubam (locally), Parnassus Books in Nashville, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon. 

Books will be available for purchase at Journey’s Eye Studio. The author will sign copies at the event on Saturday. Journey’s Eye Studio is the only place in Clarksville to buy autographed copies.

For more information, visit thorncraftpublishing.com


Journey’s Eye Studio

Franklin Street

Clarksville, TN

1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Book: Ripe for the Pickin’ 

238 pages paperback

Suggested retail price: $17.99

ISBN-13: 978-0-9979687-5-0

Publication date: March 4, 2022

In Appreciation of Trees

I’ve missed my favorite trees from the past the way you might recall a friend who moved away and wish for their company. I’ll never see some of the trees again. They’ve been chopped down, they’ve fallen, been struck by lightning, or they are somewhere else I’ll never return to, or they’re on private property—trees that were my secret escape when I was growing up. I ran to them, sitting on their roots, my back resting on their trunks, and I’d tell them my frustrations. I’d ask where to go and what to do. Tulip poplars mainly. I followed the wind on a few occasions. I still love the flowers and the wonder of such a flower falling so far from the tops. 

Self portrait: Originally taken for an Instagram yoga challenge in 2016. #AsanArts
Tulip poplar flower. All nature photos by me. All yoga photos by Terry Morris.

There are trees that I knew only for a short time in my life—like a fun neighbor. We had a huge weeping willow, the largest I’ve still ever seen, and I could disappear underneath it. The canopy towered to the ground, as if Cousin It was a tree, and I loved it underneath there as much as I loved watching the Addams Family. This was my own special hideaway, and then we moved. I pass by that location every so often through my life on my way to visit my nana, and the tree is gone. There’s not even a stump that I can see from the road. I don’t recall when it wasn’t there on my drive—maybe in my twenties. 

I’ve never met a more gorgeous magnolia than one in my friends’ yard in Knoxville. It was impressive, old and large, uninhibited—the branches stretched low, medium, and high, filled with flowers and the tree held them up as candles. I picked my way through and underneath it until I reached an opening near the trunk—a circle of space, pristine for watching the birds flit up and around, for seeing the glowing yellow of the flower centers and taking in their fragrance, witnessing the tiniest insects and particles dance in the sunlight. I reached the trunk, straddling branches. 

Behind our last home, a small cluster of walnut trees grew with a hackberry. I watched a marsh hawk routinely perch and survey the ground. She flew down and grabbed lizards and small snakes. A gang of crows threatened to attack her one day. They showed up one by one. I don’t know how many there were in the end. Loudly, they cawed. They pressed around her, toward her, and they tried to take her branch. She defended by threatening her talon and hopping toward the crows as if in a joust. Eventually, she flew away. They could not catch her, though they pursued her. She returned the next day. 

Another Instagram yoga challenge photo. I enjoyed going out into nature for the yoga challenges.

Trees were my escape on playgrounds. If there wasn’t a tree, I felt exposed and anxious. The presence of a tree is calming to me.

The sycamore tree with the elephant’s face and trunk extending away from the riverbank. The roots that I walked upon, where I sat, and pools gathered between them, holding squiggly slimy life. The tree shedding as a snake, whorls of bark floating on the water. 

In college, the ginkgo behind Harned Hall that shines golden in the autumn. Looking out the window and daydreaming during class, seeing the leaves dance toward the football stadium. The band played, and the music drifted inside the classroom—ah, brass. Bright out there with a heavy discussion in here. 

After beginning our family, we leave behind the Japanese maple planted by the sidewalk of our first home. I watched it grow from knee-high to taller than me in five years, after my friend brought it as a gift. I was surprised and flattered by such a beautiful tree. The rich brown of the tree’s mahogany leaves tinted red and tipped yellow sometimes. I didn’t want to leave the tree, but it was happy. 

The sprawling oak with a hulking trunk—guardian tree watching the field and the barn where the mules emerge and trot up to the fence. Fat acorns beneath my feet, between the blades of grass crushed shells over the years as if pounded from beach waves. The seashells sprang to my mind—those under the mossy oak while the sea breeze blew the grey Spanish moss as beards on the beach. The trails alongside, leading away, but this tree, here, by the coquina quarry, how did it survive so? 

Holly leaves needled into my bare feet, one stuck there so I waddled on the side of my foot, limping to get to the trunk, to sit under its evergreen, but it defied friendship in my grandmother’s yard. No other trees were near it, but a whippoorwill called every evening from the cedar trees across the farm road. 

The sounds from the trees are often soothing. The creaking reminds me of hardwood floors or of rocking chairs and porch swings, again, sounds that I enjoy. The knocking of woodpeckers, tapping branches, scratching leaves, rustling limbs—all quite pleasant sounds in nature. 

The tinkling chimes in the tree, little bells ringing in the forest, dangling from maples and hemlocks, an invitation. Chirps and calls, screech owls and hoots, hawk cry, wren scolding, dove coo, wild turkey laugh, gobbling above, flapping, leaves drifting down. 

“What kind is this?” I asked, touching its bark. I knuckle bump my favorite grapevines when I run on the trails. I pat the trunk of a burr oak and keep going. I feel a tap on my shoulder sometimes when I move through a cluster of young trees. My toes dance on the old roots, up, up, up as stairs—roots bigger than the young trees’ trunks. And tumbling down into creeks, cooling the feet in the summertime. We wade into the sunlit patches where trees with hairy roots drip into pools. Quick rush and cool down and on the move again, looking up into the branches, telling the motion of storms to come, of oceans far away delivering buckets of waves. The shelter of the trees from the blinding rain, the cove of dry, huddling very close to a big base, where there’s an almost steamy space to wait it out when no rock enclosures are nearby, feeling thankful for the tree while resting there. They host so many lifeforms–vines and moss, fungi, insects… us…

I could continue to write about favorite trees…