By Faran Fagen
No class this Tuesday, so enjoy this profile on local author Shutta Crum:
In 2005, she was invited to read her one of her 15 published children’s books at The White House. She’s also a public speaker, a librarian for 26 years, and taught English and creative writing. Several of her articles about teaching and writing have appeared in professional journals.
For Shutta Crum (pronounced shut-ta, not shoot-a, which she gets a lot), life was “shaped by the written word”. And she couldn’t be more grateful.
“I like sharing my stories with the world,” said the 65-year-old Greenacres resident. “When kids love my books, it makes me feel immortal. Hopefully, the books will continue to exist after I am gone, in the hearts of readers, and in libraries.”
Crum’s schedule is full of school and library visits as well as book festivals, and writing workshops for all ages. She’s done free talks for the schools her grandchildren attend in Palm Beach County (Crum has two children and four grandchildren). Her schedule and history can be found at her website, www.shutta.com.
On Feb. 18, she spoke at the West Boynton Beach Library as part of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators) monthly author series.
Crum’s workshop, titled “Sound, Shape, Sense: The Work of our Words”, reviewed and discussed techniques that can be used in any genre or format (verse or prose).
Crum feels storytelling is in her blood. Born in the mountains of Kentucky, telling “whoppers” and listening to tall tales long into the night was part of her Appalachian heritage.
“In those dark and scrawny hollers I’d cling to my father’s tall legs and stare wide-eyed as I listened to the hair-raising tales my relatives told.”
Her journey reached its peak when she was invited to the White House’s Easter Egg Roll.
Crum met a number of George Bush’s cabinet. Unfortunately, there was a lightning storm on Easter that year. Although there were many families waiting in the rain, the festivities for that morning were cancelled, so she did not actually get a chance to read her book, Bravest of the Brave, to the crowds.
But in her vast career, Crum has reached a multitude of families through her writing. Her latest, William and the Witch’s Riddle, is about a boy who must solve a witch’s riddle in order to save his family and end a centuries-long curse.
“My books, and the books of others, give young readers a safe space within which to think and to dream,” Crum said. “What I want is for children to come into that space and to see themselves, others, and the wonders that lay before them.”
Q & A:
Who is your hero? My husband, Gerald Clark, always. How he puts up with me, I’ll never understand.
What is your favorite movie? I’m not sure I have an absolute favorite movie. But two of the top ones are: “Young Frankenstein” and “Raising Arizona”. Both are dark, but over-the-top fun. Similar to many of the books I like to read.
What’s your favorite author/book and why? As a librarian, an avid reader and a writer, I have a ton of favorite books—at many different reading levels. So I will only say that right now I am in love with two 2016 picture books; “Frank and Lucky Get Schooled” by Lynne Rae Perkins, and “I Am a Story” by Dan Yaccarino.
If you could meet any person in history, who would it be and why? As a writer, I’ve often thought about the whole puzzle of Shakespeare. Did he really write those plays, or did someone else? I’d like to solve that riddle. But I suspect he’d be a more boring conversationalist than Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s fellow playwright, who has been described as a spy, a brawler and a “rakehell.” Have you ever met a rakehell?
What are your hobbies? I quilt and do other “crafty” things like make tiles. I’m absolutely enamored by color. And I often wish I was, also, an illustrator.
What do you do to get away or take a break? I really don’t need to take a break from writing. I usually write for about three hours a day, three to four days a week. But we do enjoy traveling, hiking, and canoeing around Florida.