Friday, July 1, 2011

BOOK BIRTHDAY with Debut Author Shannon Wiersbitzky

Dear Readers,

It's always exciting to introduce a debut author and her first book. To help celebrate her extra special day, Shannon has generously donated an autographed, hardcover copy of her gorgeous book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, to one very lucky reader who leaves a comment (see jacket and link below). Please give Shannon a warm welcome! She's written a post filled with writing gems just for you!

A brief bio: Shannon Wiersbitzky was born in North Dakota, but grew up in West Virginia, Florida, and Minnesota before her parents finally settled down on the East Coast. Her days have three clear parts, writing, “regular” work, and family. Shannon lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young sons. This is her first novel. Learn more about Shannon at

My first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, officially launches today.  Hooray!  If we were all together, I’d be sure to offer you a drink and an appetizer.

The book tells the story of a young girl, Delia, and a summer that starts off about as bad as any summer could. An inspector threatens to condemn her house and her Mama is struck by lightning. To make matters worse, with no other family to speak of, Delia is forced to move in with her neighbor, Tommy "as-dense-as-a-stump" Parker.

With her best friend, Mae, and Tommy (but only because he seems handy), Delia resolves to tackle the long list of repairs, one by one. What she discovers is that it takes more than energy and willingness to handle some problems. When things go from bad to worse, Delia has to take another tack, one that starts with admitting she just can't do what needs to be done without a lot more help.

I started writing the book back in 2007. Driving home from the SCBWI Pocono Conference, full of vim and vigor and inspiration, I realized there was this voice in my head. Now keep in mind that when I drive alone I usually have the radio on full-blast and can often be spotted singing at the top of my lungs, so this voice had to work hard to be heard. The voice was Delia’s, the main character.

So there I was, driving down the highway, with all these poorly behaved words pushing and shoving, trying to get out and I began saying them aloud. I was fearful of forgetting them before I got home, so I simply repeated them over and over, adding a new sentence at the end each time, then repeating again. I became so engaged with this voice that I completely missed my exit home. The first chapter as you’ll read it today is very close to the way it came to me on that drive. 

Easy, you say! Piece of cake!

Not exactly.

I’m a big believer that most authors are collectors.  Hoarders really. Over the course of a lifetime, we gather up words, phrases, expressions, habits, experiences, signs, stories, outfits, and anything else that strikes us as interesting, and we store them away in the deep recesses of our brain. Sometimes we don’t even know we’ve boxed them up until we begin to write and then there they come, unpacking themselves and clamoring to be put on a shelf, or in a chapter as the case may be.
The Summer of Hammers and Angels, is the result of some of my collecting. Since middle-school, I’ve been involved with Habitat for Humanity. I was maybe fourteen when I took a trip to upstate New York with my church. As we spent our days fixing and building, several women from the community made us these huge lunches, fried chicken and baked beans, collard greens with bacon, and macaroni and cheese. I remember saying thank you to one of the women and she responded, “Oh no, thank you! I could never do what you’re doing. All I know how to do is cook fried chicken.” 

I can’t recall if I answered her or not, I was so struck by what she said. It was shocking to me, and sad, but I could see that she wasn’t sad. That little bit, is tucked into one of my supporting characters, Miss Martha. 

Although the beginning of the story came easily, and I had a clear vision of the end, the middle was a struggle. I had a dad in the story at one point...he got tossed. I had some Habitat-type volunteers in at another point....they got tossed. There were spiritual angels...they got tossed.

The art of writing is the revising. My editor, Stephen Roxburgh, calls it re-visioning, and I think he’s right. Revising implies tweaking words that already exist, but for many drafts, something more dramatic is needed. What if this entire scene wasn’t here? How could my characters learn what they need to know in a different way? What if this person were gone? How could the main character interact with others to still accomplish what they need to?

These aren’t easy questions. Re-visioning takes work, an open mind, and maybe even a doze in the sun or a glass of red wine by the couch. It also requires that an author give up something they thought worked, or words they’ve grown attached to, and try something new.
At its core, The Summer of Hammers and Angels is a story about hope. About hope and  faith, family and community.

Because the book was inspired in part by my community work, I’ve committed to giving back a portion of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. When you read the book (and I hope you will!) you’ll see this noted near the copyright information.

Thanks so much, Clara, for letting me blog today. I do hope your readers enjoy the book!

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing wonderful insights and the wisdom that went into your writing and revision process. Those questions raised by your editor, Stephen Roxburgh, namelos, are priceless.   

Please take a moment to congratulate Shannon on the release of her book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels                  
And be sure to visit Shannon here:

The Lucky Winner of  The Summer of Hammers and Angels will be announced in one week! 

       !!!!! Congratulations, Shannon!!!!! 


  1. Congrats on your first book, Shannon. I love those revision questions -- I've already made a note of them for my next revision.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Laurie Calkhoven

  2. The first book is always so exciting, so enjoy the excitement. I wish you the very best of luck.

    From one hoarder of words to another.

  3. Congratulations, Shannon! I loved reading about how some things that were in your book got tossed. Also the inspiration on how the voice came to you and how your first chapter was born are wonderful. I've missed my exit a few times too, due to being too deep in thought.

  4. Shannon--Congratulations! I know how excited I was just to hear of a publisher that was interested in my work. To be able to hold your book in your hands, knowing all that went into bringing it into exciting!

    Your advice about "revisioning" was great. We can't be married to parts that need to be discarded.

  5. Laurie, C.Lee, Christie, and Sioux, Thanks for joining Shannon's BOOK BIRTHDAY BASH! Your comments are so appreciated! Happy 4th!

  6. Congratulations, Shannon, and I am *all* about wanting this book! I can't wait to read. It sounds super fabulous. (My dad is involved in a local Habitat group. :) LOVE them and their purpose!) And re-visioning makes my head hurt, but it is necessary.

    P.S. That fried chicken line is great. . . we all have distinct callings, no?

    Thanks so much, Clara, for introducing me to Shannon.

  7. Kristen, How terrific that you have a Habitat connection. That absolutely makes you and Shannon friends--right? Thanks for celebrating the BOOK BIRTHDAY with us!

  8. Congratulations, Shannon! I love the title, I loved your blog post, and I know I'm going to love the book. :)

  9. Such a happy day for you, Shannon! I love it when the voice speaks to me clearly, & I want to embrace it & get it all down before it escapes, so I know what that drive must have been like for you. And now all the work that followed the voice's first visit has come to fruition! Congratulations!
    Kathy cannon Wiechman

  10. Hi Claudia and Kathy, Thanks so much for joining the Book Birthday celebration!

    Claudia, I'm glad you loved the post!

    Kathy, We do love the VOICE speaks to us!

  11. Great blog post, Clara.
    What a wonderful accomplishment and way to celebrate. Congratulations. I love your explanation of re-visioning.
    Donna v.

  12. Congrats, I bet who ever likes adventures you'll like this book.

  13. Shannon, Thanks for sharing your Book Birthday with us! It was interesting to read your book "birthing" journey and fascinating to read about your characters speaking to you on your trip home from the conference. You can be sure your book will soon be on my TBR pile. Happy Book Birthday and congratulations!
    Clara, Thank you for the great post and welcome back!

  14. Congratulations Shannon! It sounds like you have some very interesting characters in your book. Nice to see that part of your childhood was spent in WV

  15. Shannon,
    I always find the writing process fascinating, and I love to hear how authors get their ideas. Congratulations on your first book. I have done work for a similar organization, VOlunteers in Mission, and we built houses in Juarez. I think it is amazing that part of your proceeds are going to Habitat.

    margodll (at)

  16. Happy Book Birthday Shannon! Thanks for the wonderful insight on revision and your writing process.

    Best wishes.

  17. Mallory, Nice to see you again! Hope you're having a great vacation off from school!

    Lorrie, Janet, Margo,and Suzanne, Thank you for stopping by to join the celebration, and thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  18. Happy Book Birthday! What an exciting time.

  19. Shannon, this sounds like a great book. Can't wait to read it! Clara...great subject. Thanks.