I am off to watch the solar eclipse, but before I go, I wanted to share this wonderful author with you.
Katrina Shawver wrote hundreds of newspaper columns over eleven years for The Arizona Republic, holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona in English/Political Science and has excelled at the School of Trial and Error. In addition to variety of previous careers in software support, the paralegal profession, tax preparation, and answering phones for a forensic psychiatrist, she has presented at the community college level on Poland Under Hitler and Stalin. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and still wishes sweet potato fries counted as a vegetable. Don't we all?
Welcome to An Angell's Life, Katrina!
What is the current book you are promoting?
My debut nonfiction biography Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America is the true story of a Polish swimmer who survived three years in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and then lived the American dream. The book has been thoroughly researched and includes more than 75 original photos and documents not seen elsewhere. The official release date is November 1, 2017 and it is available now worldwide for preorder.
What inspired this book?
When I met Henry Zguda in November 2002 I wrote for the Arizona Republic, the daily newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona which I’ve called home for more than forty years. The only reason our paths even crossed was a random phone call for a possible lead on a new column. From the beginning, he possessed an exceptional memory, a surprising cache of original documents and photos, and a knack for meeting the right people at the right time. I still can’t explain why, after a single 600-word column, I impulsively and naively called him and suggested we collaborate on his story. I knew nothing of Poland and had never written a book before. But we “clicked”, he trusted me, and he had no one else to leave his story and documents to.
One of the powerful messages contained in this book is a reminder that no single class of
people was safe from Hitler’s reach or imprisonment, and no country suffered more under Hitler and Stalin than Poland. Especially in today’s world, it’s a dangerous thing to hate any group of people simply for who they are or the label society places on them.
For many reasons, his story touched me, has stayed with me, and for whatever reason fate led me to him, I believe it was entrusted to me for a reason. I did not seek this story, the story chose me unexpectedly, providentially, and I believe, as the right person to carry it forward. The entire path to completion has been filled with the right doors opening at the right time to to help propel the story forward, I’m know I’m following a higher power in finishing this book.
Wow, and there couldn't be a better time for it, for sure, with everything happening here and now. What inspires your writing?
I have always been drawn to nonfiction since I was a young girl, especially those stories that combine biographies and history. After writing for the newspaper, I respect solid journalism. People fascinate me, and for me, are far more intriguing than characters I might invent. Just look at today’s news. From the newspaper I became passionate about the power of the written word, not only to transport us to imaginary worlds, but to influence opinion, provoke discussion and inform the community about interesting people and organizations who deserve credit. I like books that make me think. As to history, I found a quote by A Whitney Brown that I included in the front of my book: :”The past actually happened, but history is only what someone wrote down.” If my writing influences how we think about history, that’s the power of the written word.
Such a good point. We need to preserve as many stories as possible, not just history. Otherwise all we will learn about is the people who "won" which isn't always the best story. Who is your favorite author?
While I follow certain authors, I’m drawn more to individual works. Books that come to mind include Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I also like to try different genres. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was fun. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984 are in my growing TBR stack. I also keep both volumes of This I Believe, Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women in a prominent place on my bookshelf. It’s an incredible challenge to write out your personal beliefs in 300 words or less, and everyone has a different angle. We can learn so much if we first stop and listen to each other’s wisdom.
Yes! We should always be forever students! What is your next project?
Currently my full energy is on launching Henry to as many readers as possible. I would love to write a similar story of someone unknown but who is worthy of being remembered. I do have someone in mind who I met a year ago, but until I reach out again, and she would agree, I don’t know if that will happen.
What is one place you would like to visit and why?
I keep adding places to my bucket list. I traveled Poland and Germany in 2013 to research this story, retrace Henry’s footsteps, and visit Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are many other beautiful places in Poland I would love to experience. For my husband it’s a tie between Machu Pichu in Peru and the pyramids in Egypt. This past spring I visited Ethiopia on a sponsor tour with Compassion International, a fabulous organization through which I sponsor two young women. Meeting them was a chance in a lifetime. So now my dreams are even bigger. I want to say I’ve visited all seven continents in my lifetime. I have four more to go. My husband has assured me he has no interest in Antartica.
Ha, ha, a wandering spirit, much like myself! Though, I might be with your husband. The penguins would be cool to see, though!