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:



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’

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


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

Finally—Pre-Orders on Ripe for the Pickin’

My new book is finally available for pre-sale here!

This novel is past, present, and future—a road trip and musical journey inspired by nature, family, and storytelling. Years in the making, I am surprised when a book is finished. Usually, I’m in editing and revision mode so deeply that I don’t see the end of the process clearly. I sense that it’s coming, but I don’t finalize books based on schedules. There’s not one action that says, this book is complete now. Combinations finish books. I hope that you’ll check out my book, Ripe for the Pickin’, inspired by places I love in Tennessee and Tennessee stories, plants, and music. Here’s the book cover, designed by Erica Trout Creative. You can read all about the book on the Thorncraft Publishing website.

Ripe for the Pickin’ by Shana Thornton. Book two in the Family Medicine Wheel series. Available March 4, 2022, through all major booksellers.

Foraging for Plants, Music, & Family

We toted the guitar out in the summer heat, after our beach vacation, while we picked blackberries. Silvia’s dress snagged on the thorns. I was writing about a heartache that constantly pulses reminders because of the realization that there’s no way to make up for a past that’s never coming back. I felt the pull of my characters, especially Robin, her confusion over both memory loss and memory resurfacIng, her dreams to rise above her family’s addictions, and the fire in her heart and her pen to write folk songs.

Image Title: Snagged Pickin’. Photos by Zoe Morris and Shana Thornton. Final image by Shana Thornton.

Foraging for plants and folklore, folk music, and family secrets are themes in the Family Medicine Wheel series, and they especially show up in my next book, Ripe for the Pickin’ (Forthcoming March 2022). In the first book, Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel (2015), young Robin learns to forage for plants from her dad and other relatives. She also meets the friends who become her bandmates. In the next book, Ripe for the Pickin’, Robin shares more about foraging when she was growing up, and she begins her songwriting partnerships. Robin also makes a remarkable discovery in this book and that allows her to learn about her ancestors.

For the past seven years, I’ve been actively researching plants for the book, Ripe for the Pickin’. The research is a big part of my life, and my family usually participates. While we were out picking plants one afternoon, I asked our younger daughter, Silvia, if we could take photos for the book. I wanted them for inspiration. I also asked our older daughter, Zoe, if she would take some of the photos, too. These images are some of the photos we took, and they have been layered, and some even look quilted together.

Title: Pickin’ Tea. Photos by Zoe Morris. Final image by Shana Thornton

Eerily similar to the best ideas in the book is the life that I live:

“Is this the peppery chickweed?” Silvia asks me. A fluffy type grows by the river and has a stronger flavor than the more straggly plants nearer to our house.

She and I pick wild violets for tea every spring. This became the inspiration for a chapter of the book called “Backyard Spring,” and then it inspired a song. I crafted one like Robin might for her band, and I added it to the book. Writing songs was fun, and so different from narrative that I wanted to do it again. I tried. Ohhhhhhhh, I like Robin Ballard and her songwriting journals. I helped her to fill them up.

Silvia eats wood sorrel year round where it stays warm and green close to the house. This became the inspiration for a chapter called “Cowbird Blues” and another song.

We pick the creeping charlie leaves that grow under blackberry canes, and then we pick blackberry leaves for tea, too. And, you might have guessed already…another chapter called “Blackberry Winter Whistlin’ Tune” and another song…

This got us on a songwriting streak. And, I’m in love with it…

I was daydreaming one afternoon while placing images together. I don’t know what compelled me to choose the images or arrange them, but I liked the final result when I stopped my creative daydreaming. This final image contains four photographs with three of them placed on an image of the interior of the Frist Art Museum.

Image Title: Plant Music Pickin’ Compilation. Photos by Shana Thornton, Zoe Morris, and Terry Morris.
Final image by Shana Thornton

I enjoy the creativity that the books inspire in my family’s everyday life. We have a cabinet full of tea, a drying rack overflowing with leaves and flowers, and an experimental garden of wild plants, heirlooms, and seeds given to me by family and friends. We water the plants. We drink the tea. We sing.

Right now, as I finish this blog, someone is playing the piano and trying to write a song in the living room, probably Terry. I can hear Silvia singing from upstairs, her voice drifting off while she makes up words and when she finds them, it rises again. From the kitchen, I can hear the water boiling in the kettle for someone’s tea, probably Zoe’s.

Read more about the books here.