3 Question Interview -- SHANNA SILVA
I'm happy that Shanna Silva and I are both "Book Meshuggenahs" - a group of Jewish women writing Jewish-themed children's books. I finally met Shanna in person at the Jewish Book Council Children's Book Writing Seminar this year. Shanna's wonderful new book, HANNAH'S HANUKKAH HICCUPS, illustrated by Bob McMahon (Apples & Honey Press, 2018), arrived just in time for Hanukkah! I'm delighted to feature this children's author and theater producer on the blog today, sharing about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Inspiration is everywhere. It’s in an overheard conversation, a news article, an experience, a memory, or a dream. If you pay attention, there are ideas all around. Every idea has potential. It’s like a seed, and if it is properly tended, it can grow into something special.
I’m not the most disciplined writer. I don’t write everyday, and I can’t sit for hours writing. After working for an hour or so, I have to step away. While I’m doing my next activity, I’m still thinking about my story and working through the plot and problems. My subconscious is always busy. I’m writing even when I’m not writing.
Like every writer, I often get stuck. I lose objectivity about the work and can be very critical of myself. When this happens, I go back to the last line that I like, and begin there.
Currently, I’m promoting my new picture book, Hannah’s Hanukkah Hiccups. I’m also working on a couple of Jewish-themed picture books, a middle grade novel, and some high/low books for an educational publisher. In my spare time, I am a Broadway Producer. Currently, I’m producing two shows on Broadway: Anastasia and Once On This Island, as well as the domestic tour of Anastasia. In the spring, I will have a couple of new shows opening. As you can probably tell, I like being very busy and juggling multiple projects. They all fuel my creative side.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
My favorite thing is to surround myself with talented, creative people. Being around artists of any kind is nourishing to my creative soul, and helps me to connect with my own need to explore storytelling through diverse eyes.
On the writing side, I can best describe the need to write as an itch that needs to be scratched. A character, story, phrase, or title comes to me, and I have to write it down. I have scraps of paper everywhere containing some thread of an idea that I may or may not use, but has beckoned me to be catalogued.
On the theater side, I want to foster telling great stories, evoking emotion, and having audience members leave the theater thinking about what they’ve experienced for days after. Music reaches into the basest of our universal emotions, and through watching stories about others, helps us to make connections in our own lives. When I choose a piece of theater to produce, it has already proven its artistic merit to me. I want to help shape the storytelling so that others can experience the piece and hopefully appreciate the craft that has gone into every aspect of the production.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I do a fair amount of classroom visits to read my books, conduct a workshop, and to answer kids’ questions about writing and the publishing process. When I read my picture books to young kids, I can see firsthand how they connect to the story. An engaged listener, who laughs in the right spots, scans the art, and who is already guessing about where the story will go is very rewarding to me. People have told me that they’ve incorporated my book, Passover Scavenger Hunt, into their own Passover seders, and have created new family traditions. How great is that? And with Hannah’s Hanukkah Hiccups, kids tell me they relate the story to their own lives, which tells me that I’ve hit on some important universal themes.
I am a long-time member of SCBWI and regularly attend their conferences, as well as those of the Jewish Book Council. I participate in an online critique group, and have a trusted cadre of fellow writers that I can discuss my work with. Using social media, and following writers, agents, and publishers is a great way to stay current and engaged. The other thing I do is read books in the genres that I write so that I have a better understanding of the current marketplace.
Shanna Silva is an author, freelance writer and Producer. She has written for the parenting blog, Kveller, Bella Magazine, Twins Magazine, and her essays can be found in the anthologies Multiples IlluminatedI and II, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. In addition, she has written two children’s picture books, Passover Scavenger Hunt and Hannah’s Hanukkah Hiccups. Shanna is also the author of more than ten high/low books for the educational market. Shanna graduated from New York University (Phi Beta Kappa) with a BA in Psychology, and has taken Masters Level writing classes at Hofstra University. In addition to her writing career, she is also a Tony Award winning Broadway Producer. Shanna lives in Long Island, NY with her husband and three sons.
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