When Daydreams Build Foundations

Amazon Cover-01 Most of my ideas don’t materialize. Probably 85-95% of them are only daydreams and nothing more. I daydream constantly. This can be overwhelming for people who don’t know me well…I’ll start building immediately. That’s the way it goes with my writing, too. So, many stories never make it far until they are deleted or made into paper balls for the wastebasket.

My latest novel, just released, Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel, began as a short story in Barry Kitterman’s graduate fiction writing course. I was writing from my daydreaming head all of this surrealist drivel, trying to emulate writers I thought were considered cool by people who knew these things. Barry invited a guest author, and she asked, “How many of you are from Tennessee?” A few of us raised our hands. For the next assignment, she asked us to write about our place in the world–to consider what we have experienced, and then to write the fiction story for the next class session. I started “Family Medicine Wheel” with the main character, the country midwife Zona Ballard, who was mysterious, witchy, and creative. That was in 2003. Barry encouraged me to revise the story and put it through the workshop with the class. Instead of listening, as a student will who thinks they have a better plan, I chose a different story to put through the workshop, and experienced something like a battle with my peers over this new story. Later, my wounds healed. An experienced professor who works from awareness and kindness won’t let you down. Barry breathed life back into that story and submitted it to the Languages and Literature Department for consideration in the Dogwood Award. The story won Best Graduate Fiction in 2004.

I graduated, started a family, taught college classes in English, and then a friend recommended that I submit the story to a journal, The Round Table, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. To my complete surprise, not only did they publish it, but they also chose it as the winner of the Robert Penn Warren Award in Fiction. That was 2009.

In the meantime, I had other daydreams, and they were becoming another book. A book that I considered my first, as pieces of it were written in another creative writing course taught by Barry Kitterman. So, the book, Multiple Exposure, became Thorncraft’s publishing debut in 2012. I forgot about “Family Medicine Wheel.”

My daydreams for Thorncraft began to grow, and I wanted to help other women authors get their work out to the world. I learned about publishing from my experience as an Editor for Her Circle Ezine, an online magazine that focused on women’s arts and activism around the world with a heavy emphasis on literature and visual arts.

Thorncraft grew with Beverly Fisher’s novella Grace Among the Leavings (2013) and Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo’s novel, The Mosquito Hours (2014). A good daydream doesn’t remain in that realm–it leaves a paper trail.

My friends and family who read “Family Medicine Wheel” long ago, or knew about it, continued to ask if I would ever build anything substantial out of that daydream. Last year, I returned to that world and made a novel out of it by merging it with Poke Sallet Queen, a NaNoWriMo novel draft I wrote in 2011. From its beginnings on paper, that dream has taken 10 years to materialize. Finally, we are here, and I invite you all to celebrate with us at the book launch.

BOOK LAUNCH: FREE & open the public. PARNASSUS BOOKS, Nashville. May 9th, 2 p.m. Click here for Parnassus website: http://www.parnassusbooks.net/event/author-event-shana-thornton-author-poke-sallet-queen-family-medicine-wheel

Book will be available for purchase from Parnassus Books at the book launch. The author will read and sign copies. The author will also donate a minimum of 10% of her royalties from the book launch to Clarksville-based food bank and shelter, Manna Cafe Ministries. Also based in Clarksville, Thorncraft Publishing strives to consider our impact on the world and make it a better place.

Facebook Event page

Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel advanced praise:

“Reading Shana Thornton’s highly original novel will make you want to get your own family stories to the page. You’ll meet larger-than-life characters like Hoot and Zona, Aunt Cora and Jane, Miss Emy, and Nenny, the matriarch, who rolls her own cigarettes and knows all the secrets of the family medicine wheel. You may even find yourself signing up for a writing class like the one that sets the narrator, young Robin Ballard, to interviewing her aunts and grandmother, tracking down her homeless father, and digging out the family secrets, lost journals, and recipes that make Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel a most surprising and satisfying fictional family history. (At least, I think it’s fiction!)” –Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Turk and My Mother, and The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia

When Robin Ballard takes a writing course in college, she goes searching for answers about her homeless father and wanders into the secret lives of her relatives as they gradually reveal their personal histories. Set in Nashville and the surrounding rural towns, Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel offers a look into the superstitions and changes of a middle Tennessee family from the 1920s to the 21st century. Based on novel events, homework assignments, old magic recipes, drunken revelries, senile remembrances, midnight songs, some tall tales, some folk tales, and the lost journals, Robin Ballard tells a “true” Tennessee family history.

“When I’m given a book to review, I like to open it up at random and see if what’s on the happenstance page resonates at all. This time I found the heroine Robin Ballard singing Mother Maybelle Carter’s ‘Wildwood Flower’ at a beauty contest she does not expect to win. She is someone I recognize, who trips over a cord as she’s leaving the stage, whose family’s knowledge ‘comes from the dirt’ not from ‘parchment scrolls and crests that open doors.’ This character is humble and honest, and the book refreshingly natural and just different enough. I like it….” -Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming

“Vibrant in detail! Meet and fall in love with the characters of Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel and along the way, learn the secrets of great story-telling.” — Bud Willis, author of Marble Mountain: A Vietnam Memoir

“Shana Thornton has a fresh, unique voice and talent. Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel is a lyrical tale of love in the lush Tennessee hills, of generations gone by, of people appreciated for simple things as much as the passing on of their history. There is mystery, sorrow, laughter and knowledge in these unforgettable characters. Shana writes a magical story that stays with you long after the final page. As with one of the characters, ‘She knows real magic.'” -Virginia Brown, author of Dark River Road and the Dixie Diva mystery series

Visit Thorncraft Publishing to read more advanced praise and to browse all of our titles and events.

Dreams, Shame, Perseverance, & Sharing the Story

The first (and only) teaching job I took for secondary education ended abruptly for a variety of reasons, but mainly, I knew that teaching junior high and high school wasn’t for me. I knew it before I ever stepped foot in the classroom when I was discouraged from choosing female-based narratives that were in the curriculum. I was told quite bluntly by the chair of the department, “No one relates to stories told by a woman or a girl. Not even the girls relate.” She (yes, that’s right, the chair was a woman) went on to say that the students just sit there–no one talks–so I should pick from the male authors.

I now stand in the middle of this publishing endeavor I’ve begun and try to steady my feet. Most of the time, I’m literally running and setting ideas in motion, all of which relate to female-based narratives. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my orbits more than usual, watching how quickly they manifest into more orbits, and analyzing how my patterns affect the creativity of other authors and artists, editors and graphic artists… and now, a sound engineer.

On the eve of the Southern Festival of Books, I took a long look back at the women who inspired the courage and tenacity, the fighting spirit to create outside of the industry’s model. And, this work definitely requires tough skin. I don’t have it, really…I just won’t be stopped. I keep going no matter what because I believe in the mission to make the work of women authors available, to give those authors fair royalties, and to create a partnership with them that gives voice to their work in the way that they envision.

My voice was damaged during junior high by a humiliating experience of religious and social bullying that spilled into my education–completely shamed and denigrated, I promised myself that I would never do that to someone else, that I would strive to empower my friends and family members, and that I would support them in their dreams whenever possible. Of course, this promise I made wasn’t always reciprocated or even appreciated, but I wasn’t going to stop trying. I seek out opportunities that allow me to fulfill my promise to my previously wounded self.

Luckily, I found unbelievable partners and teammates in Terry Morris (my husband and now, business manager), Beverly Fisher (the first author to publish under Thorncraft’s imprint), and Kitty Madden (Thorncraft’s editor). These three people put their trust in my talents and vision, as I sought to show the world our work.

Moments of complete exasperation and desperation have plagued my emotions during the tasks that felt particularly sweaty and even bloody (metaphorical paper cuts will getcha & can turn into all-out paperwork warfare). Yet, I have persevered until we are taking new steps–recording audio books for our titles, getting Lightning Source distribution in motion, and signing another author.

All of this causes a wash of gratitude for the women in my past who read & appreciated books and shared that with me. The influences of these women motivate me even today–my Mom who tried to purchase enough books to satisfy me from the time I was a child through college; my aunt Nancy & her love of biographies; my aunt Julie and her joy for Emily Dickinson (yes, joy for Dickinson–I know, right? joy is a tough sell for Emily, but that is exactly what my aunt has always expressed); my high school friends who skipped some kind of senior class meeting with me to read “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” and talk about poetry for English class; Ms. Mallernee and her love of English literature, her contagious penmanship, and her demand for recitation; Jill Eichhorn & her knowledge of literature by and about women; Dr. Christian who became my teaching mentor & allowed me to enjoy teaching adults, & she taught me to savor the short story; Christy O’Brien and her penchant for both creepy books and self-help titles; Diane McLain & her encouragement to be a rebel all while reading science fiction; and last, but certainly not least, Rita Yerrington, who reads more library books than anyone I know, and her unwavering faith in the power of pure determination. (<–I adore that long, stringy sentence dedicated to women) These women are intelligent and unique. I'm so grateful for the inspiration they provided to me, for it continues to manifest in the lives of so many other women.

I'm eager to continue creating new work and look forward to telling you about our new author and new title in the coming days.
Don’t miss it:
We’ll be at the Southern Festival of Books this weekend, October 11-13, in Downtown Nashville at the War Memorial Plaza. Free event.
Friday: noon-6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: noon-5 p.m.

Visit us at the Thorncraft Publishing booth. Both Beverly and I will be signing books.