Sunday, July 15 , 2018, 7:52 pm | Fair 71º


Noozhawk Columnist Tracy Shawn Releases First Novel

Tracy Shawn never thought she could write a book.

While she has a master's degree in clinical psychology, she said she has always been fascinated with writing. Throughout her career, not only has she worked in the counseling field, but she has also compiled a substantial portfolio of health and living related writing for women's magazines, professional journals and news platforms, including Noozhawk.

Because of her successful freelance career, the thought of writing a book hadn't occurred to Shawn until a friend suggested it. Now, she's preparing for a book-signing for her new novel, The Grace of Crows, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chaucer's Bookstore.

Shawn said that while she never considered a novel before, she already had a plot for her book in mind. She remembers thinking to herself, "I'm gonna write a book about a woman who struggles with anxiety." 

And she did. The Grace of Crows is a story about Saylor Crawmore, a woman who has tried everything to alleviate her struggles with anxiety. After discovering a troubled childhood friend who is now homeless, Saylor is able to deepen her understanding of her fears. 

While Shawn knew she wanted to write about anxiety, she didn't know how to go about it. 

"It took eight years to write this," Shawn said.

In those eight years, Shawn took Adult Education creative writing courses with local teacher Duane Unkefer, went to several writing conferences in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Las Vegas, and worked with two editors. Cherokee McGhee then picked up the novel for publishing.   

"I didn't know I had it in me," Shawn said.

While the novel is a complete work of fiction, Shawn incorporated her own experiences into the novel. She suffers from anxiety and was determined to write a novel for those who are plagued with anxiety.  

"I would have loved to have read a book like this," she says. "I wanted to tell the story I wanted to tell in a way that would reach out to other people so that people with anxiety know that they're not alone."  

While there are many autobiographies that re-tell the story of how one overcomes their struggles, Shawn wanted to write about Saylor's journey. 

"I am not Saylor — Saylor's anxieties are different from mine," Shawn said. "But the emotion behind the anxiety is similar, so I understood her."

Along with her own experiences of anxiety, Shawn incorporates her experience as a California native into the novel. She writes about a fictionalized town called Breaker's Point, which she says is a mash-up of "Santa Barbara and northern California beach towns, like Avila Beach."

"It is very California-based," she says. "A lot of [the inspiration] came from these very cool towns."

It might have helped that she wrote mostly from her home in Santa Barbara — more specifically, on her couch with her laptop.

While Shawn plans to continue her career as a freelance writer, it is apparent that this will not be her last venture with fiction writing. 

"I like reading fiction more than nonfiction," she says. "It takes you out of yourself more." 

While The Grace of Crows will take you to places you've never heard before, Shawn hopes people will "be more understanding of others and themselves."

Noozhawk intern Frankie Victoria can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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