December 10, 2012

The Writer's Process: An Interview with Shanny Jean Maney

The PCCC Writing Center Blog welcomes guest blogger Sarah Dolan, the Assistant Director of Residential and Student Life at Lincoln College Normal. Sarah travels, writes, and creates various forms of art in her spare time.  The PCCC Blog, in addition to sharing writing best practices, is also a space for readers to learn more about writers and their process. This blog introduces an interview with poet Shanny Jean Maney.

Shanny Jean Maney, poet.
Shanny Jean Maney lives in a house that looks like it belongs to a poet, a composer, and two dogs named Cricket and Wembley.  Art adorns the walls, books fill the shelves, and a piano is nestled into an impossibly small room.  It is in this home that Shanny smiths words into images as real as our own memories.  Throughout her book, I Love Science, Shanny whisks the reader away in a chicken limo navigated by Jeff Goldblum, and her awkward 11 year old self recounting events of a childhood that seems distant but familiar.  It is in her home that Shanny, dogs in tow, answered questions about her writing.  When asked about her childhood, Shanny recounts that she read too much. “I would often hide in the closet to read.  My parents used reading as a reward.  I couldn’t read my book until I practiced my violin.” 

 Even though Shanny always had a love affair with books, she never thought that she would eventually write one.  “If you asked me 8, no 5, years ago, I would have never thought that I would ever make a living writing.”  Initially, Shanny’s creativity was expressed through performance.  She competed in speech tournaments and performed slam poetry.  According to Shanny, “Writing something that is going to be said is different than writing something that is meant to be read.” 
Because of this, the transition from spoken word to written word came with some challenges.  Shanny entered Write Bloody’s open book contest.  In the second round she had to submit 40 poems.  During that time, Shanny quit her job as a waitress and wrote constantly while coaching speech.  When asked about her initial writing, Shanny laughed, “It was not all good.  I had a few trusted friends who I would send my work to.  Often they thought it didn’t fit with my overall theme.  It’s hard to not take it personally, but it also gave me the opportunity to defend my work and see what was really important and how to express that idea.”
I Love Science by Shanny Jean Maney.
What happened next still seems impossible to Shanny.  She won and became published, but the hard work did not end there.  The next phase was promoting her book.  “People think that getting a book published means a lot of money and riding in limos.  What they don’t realize is that it means sleeping on friends’ couches and hoping that your last gig will pay for the gas money to get you to your next one.  You are extremely lucky if you make money let alone break even."
But being published has its perks.  Shanny has traveled the country reading her work.  Most recently she presented at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to a class that had read her book.  She expected them to hate it, proving that she is always her toughest critic, but was met with a group of students eager to hear her read.  It is no wonder.  Through her writing, the reader cannot help but feel that they have known Shanny her whole life.  For aspiring writers, Shanny has these words of wisdom, “My husband once told me that as an adult no one tells you what to do, in college somewhat, but after you need to do it.  No one is going to care if you don’t write or create art, so you have to care.”  I Love Science is meant to be read out loud amongst friends.  It can be bought at or on Amazon.