We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrina Shawver and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrina, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD. This inspirational classic was first published in 1959, and addresses the very issue of finding meaning in life, and the difference between those who do, and those who don’t. Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist in Vienna prior to World War II, established suicide-prevention centers for teenagers, trying to help them find their unique meaning in life. It’s hard to argue with a book that has 12 million copies in print. The book is genuine, not preachy, and introspective. He writes of his time and observations in Auschwitz, where he saw the worst of life, and still some people who chose to live. ” . . . everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” No matter how difficult our circumstances, this book encourages the reader to find meaning in their lives. Given he wrote this in part on his reflections in Auschwitz, those experiences dwarf any difficulties most of us would ever face.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I wrote a narrative true story of someone I met by pure chance. Henry Zguda lived a mile from my house, had survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, and was Polish. My initial goal was not a career as an author, but simply to make sure his story was not forgotten to history. I am proud that I finished. That may seem like a minor thing, but there are lots of writers, but not as many authors. Why? Authors finish what they started. Writing is hard work, especially historical nonfiction, and writing this book is perhaps one of the hardest things I have every done. I wrote in the newspaper for eleven years. There, I often focused on other people’s stories. I am definitely a people person, and find nonfiction to be sometimes more amazing than anything I could imagine or created. I believe everyone has a story, that history is based not on battles and dates, but on the experience of one person at a time. I am especially proud that my book, HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America is now published in three languages: English, Polish, and Czech. Additionally, the Polish-American community has been extremely supportive of this story. I am especially proud to be in most libraries in metropolitan Phoenix. The Arizona Talking Book Library chose to produce Henry for the blind and physically disabled who qualify for the program. They invited me to their studio to record the preface and author’s notes. They are a wonderful program and valuable service to all of Arizona.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I have to qualify my answer by saying I am writing this five weeks into quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus. My answers respond to businesses that were open prior to restaurants and businesses being ordered to close. I do believe it is more critical than ever to support our local businesses and to help them survive and thrive again. Shop local. I live in Ahwatukee in close proximity to South Mountain. If someone is physically able, I love to take them on a hike there, both to experience the sense of desert in a big city, and to climb high for a panoramic view of Phoenix. Thereafter, we would go for breakfast to a nearby local restaurant, such as Biscuits or the Hillside Spot Cafe. I believe in shopping local. Later that day, we would explore the Desert Botanical Gardens, and of course visit the gift shop afterwards for unique gifts. Depending on my friend’s interests, other must-see destinations in Phoenix include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum, and find some great local Mexican food. I am also a theater geek, so I would have checked out the event calendars for great venues like the Mesa Arts Center, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the Orpheum Theater, and the Herberger Theater. In downtown Phoenix, there is the El Charro Hipster Bar & Café on Grand Avenue, a family-run small cafe that hosts literary events. I have an affinity for Flagstaff as a two-day destination. There is Lowell Observatory for star-gazing, the Riordan mansion for a look back in early Arizona history, and for even earlier history, a hike down Walnut Canyon. Downtown Flagstaff offers a small-town feeling with lots of local shops and unique restaurants. There are also fabulous bed and breakfasts in town, several within walking distance in town.
One of the best places in town by far is my back patio. I love to cook, and have friends over, so we can enjoy the great Arizona weather as we dine and chat for hours. Whatever someone’s tastes, Arizona has much to offer any visitors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
For a writer, one of the most essential pillars of support is my writing critique group. These friends helped, through honest criticism and ideas, to shape my story into a final, compelling read that garnered numerous awards and recognition. I
give a shout out to my developmental editor, Ann Videan, who gave my manuscript the professional polish it needed before I submitted it to publishers. Every writer needs a top editor in their army of supporters.
Other: Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Katrina-Shawver/e/B0746QY5HR
All photos are credit to Katrina Shawver, except, in the green dress –
Photos by Elena and Jim Thornton. At the book fair, Tim Moore.