Episode 7

Writing That Connects is Key for Author Shawna Rodrigues

On today’s episode we get to chat with Shawna Rodrigues, a Women’s Fiction author with a laugh you will not easily forget. You may also recognize her as one of our hosts! After twenty+ years as a leader in the public and non-profit sector, Shawna transitioned to work as a consultant, all so she could finally finish the novel she always dreamed of writing. It was a joyous and arduous journey, but less than a year after leaving her career, she penned the final words of her debut novel, Beyond the Pear Blossoms. The jubilation was quickly eclipsed, as days later her hometown succumbed to unimaginable tragedy. The Almeda Wildfire hit the Rogue Valley in September 2020 and in less than 24 hours, they had lost over 2600 homes, including the home of her niece, fiancé, and her future mother-in-law. After seeing the way the community mobilized to address this tragedy, she dedicated her novel to the resilience of the residents in this community and half of the author’s proceeds are being donated to the Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity as they continue to build affordable homes alongside individuals displaced by the fire.

By interweaving life lessons with endearing characters and transformative experiences, Shawna creates Women’s Fiction that helps us see how universal our experiences are and what a gift of escape reading can be. Boldly chasing her writing dream also unlocked other creative adventures and Shawna credits it for making her podcast, The Grit Show possible. This path also led to her creating the Authentic Connections Network, a podcasting network with a primary goal of amplifying women’s voices in podcasting and increasing the abysmal 27% of podcasts hosted by women by 10% in 5 years; 37 by 27. This audacious goal and focus make it harder to find time for writing, but she will release the short story, "Every Mother's Peanut Butter" as part of a Women's Fiction anthology A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood in the Spring of 2023 - the pre-order is now available at https://bookshop.org/a/. She also continues to make slow and steady progress on her narrative non-fiction Daughter of the Accused. This is a story that will take time to bring out into the world.

You can learn more about her on her website www.ShawnaRodrigues.com and follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/shawnabospdx -which will be the best place to be kept up to date on her next release!


Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of Beyond the Pear Blossoms at https://bookshop.org/a/


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Kathleen Basi 0:03

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Basi. I'm an award winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and of course, storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.

Kathleen Basi 0:26

c and nonprofit sector and in:

Shawna Rodrigues 1:47

Thank you, Kathleen. I'm excited to be here and get interviewed by you.

Kathleen Basi 1:51

It's lovely to have you here. So, tell me the most interesting thing about where you are from.

Shawna Rodrigues 1:58

I think the most interesting thing about where I'm from is, its focus on hairs. And that's partly the reason why the title of my book is Beyong the Pear Blossoms that kind of all tied together. There's the Pear Blossom parade, there's a big celebration every spring for the pears and the pear blossoms. And if you've heard of Harry and David, they're actually based out of the rock valley where I'm from. And I was actually a pear blossom princess when I graduated from high school. So, there's a big focus of pears on where I am from. In a small town in southern Oregon.

Kathleen Basi 2:33

Very fun. So, tell me then, if you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would they be? What would you chat about? And what would you have for dessert? And I'll bet I know that it would have something to do with pears.

Shawna Rodrigues 2:44

Oh, that's a hard one. Yeah, especially, four people and dessert because I want, there's so many good desserts, I actually, I have a lemon dessert that I make that I absolutely love. And it takes a long time to make it. It's like, this lemon layered pie. And so, because there's so many layers, it takes a long time to make. So, it's a labor of love. So, that's probably,

Kathleen Basi 3:02

okay, you got to stop right there. Because talk to me about layers. How does that work? Because I'm a food person.

Shawna Rodrigues 3:08

Well, the first layer is actually crushed up lemon cookies. And then there's the next layer is two different layers. You have like, a lemon curd layer that it's kind of like, if you have a lemon curd pie, that curd layer, that's really good, because you actually use like, lots of lemon juice and stuff to make it. So, it's really thick and very lemony, and the next one is cream and stuff. And so, it's like a creamy, lemony layer. And then you have like, twisted lemons on top, and then with creamy layer that's just like, whipped cream and you have, like, the lemons around the edges of it, it is, it is just amazing. So, like, this lemon layered pie is just to die for. So, I think that, if I've made it for you, if you've worked with me, and you've had it, and I've brought it to special occasion, like, you remember that lemon dessert. So, that would be the dessert. I always start with the dessert and not with the people.

Kathleen Basi 3:49

I mean, people, whatever. It's really about the food.

Shawna Rodrigues 3:52

It's really about the food. I think the hard part is deciding on four people because there were so many people I would love to have at that table and share that meal with. That's the harder part of the decision. But desserts, I know, that's a go to. That's the easy decision. So, four people that are living or are not, Oprah is one of those iconic individuals that has been iconic for so long. And I feel like, she has so much wisdom to offer and sitting at a table with her and garnering that wisdom would be such an incredible opportunity. And I think that growing up, my mom had always wanted to go to her show or see her in person. So, there's that piece too that reminds me of my mom. And so, of the four people, I would want to have Oprah be one of them. I would also want my partner, my fiance, Robbie to be one of them. Just because I love sharing experiences with him and having him there with me. So, I would have him be one of those people also. And I think, I would probably want one of my writing icons and I'm trying to think of which writing icon that I would want to have there to kind of, pick their brain about their writing. And

Kathleen Basi 4:59

that could be a hard one to, to decide without thinking about it. There are so many writers, so many writing icons in that, like, everybody just default to Jane Austen, but I'll bet there are other people that I'd really like to know in the here and now. That way, you know,

Shawna Rodrigues 5:15

yes, yeah, that would be hard. I think, I would write down like, a list of authors. And I would have like, five of them, and I would just draw the names,

Kathleen Basi 5:24

that's a good,

Shawna Rodrigues 5:24

just see who would end up being the ones that I would end up having there, right? And something interesting. So, don't get like, Andy Weir, or somebody who's modern, who write something very different as an independent author, kind of found his way. And then somebody like, Elizabeth Gilbert, you know, what I mean? So, you'd have like, these very different authors. So, if I did it really randomly, I would get a really fun selection like that. So, I think I would, I would write down a bunch of random author names that I would be really intrigued to have conversations with, like, Brene Brown. I would put them all into a mix and just see who I drew out. That'd be kind of fun.

Kathleen Basi 5:52

That does sound like fun. Why don't we move forward into talking about your writing a little bit? Shall we?

Shawna Rodrigues 5:59


Kathleen Basi 5:59

So, tell me a little bit about your book. Who do you think will connect with your book? What kind of reader, who were you thinking of when you wrote it?

Shawna Rodrigues 6:10

I really think that my book is largely about women making decisions in their early mid 20s. And I feel like, that women, women of multiple ages, but I really feel that who's who would connect with it most is women who are making decisions about their life and their relationships and where they want to be and who they want to be, would be the ones that would connect with the most because it is wrestling with those life decisions and who you want to be and what you want to become. And so, I feel like, people that are in that place to try and decide who they are and how they define themselves and their relationships are in and the relationships they want to be in, and the person they want to be and what their priorities are, are the ones that would like, find the most connection and meaning in it, and feel that the strongest. And so, I feel that's the people that would probably connect with it the most.

Kathleen Basi 6:59

You know, in that time in my life, I am a person who really likes my routines. And I really like consistency and certainty. And I remember calling that period, the transition period. And it was so hard for me to feel so unsettled all the time. So, I definitely understand, that's a very specific group of people who are facing a very particular set of life challenges.

Shawna Rodrigues 7:21

Yet one of the people who connected with me after reading my book is somebody who I would have to guess at her age, and I would actually guess she's in her mid 40s. Maybe it was late 40s, because she had kids that were in college, actually. And her reading it and her reading some of the things that the character was grappling with about their relationships and what they were trying to figure out resonated with her. She was saying, like, oh, my gosh, did you mean me? Did you write this person that I'm trying to connect with and figure things out with? And so, it was really interesting that somebody that was in their mid to late 40s, like, felt that I was writing them and their place in life and their decisions as well. Interesting that like, even though it's very much written with that point in time for the characters, that those themes can be very recurrent in our lives, as well as we're trying to grapple with those decisions.

Kathleen Basi 8:09

Yeah, for sure. That makes so much sense. And that's really cool to have those kind of reader interactions that just make you really feel like, you're connecting with people and making a difference.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:18

Yes, that's the best. If you're a reader, and you're listening to this, like, whatever book you've read, you don't know how much it means to an author. If something's really connected with you, to find them and tell them like, what's connected with you. I think that people think that the authors get that all the time. And maybe other authors do. But I know that every time I hear from someone, and they tell me something like that, it means so much. And I feel like, the feelings that

Shawna Rodrigues 8:40

oh, for sure.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:40

I have, is the same for them.

Kathleen Basi 8:42

I think most authors, I would say anyway, everyone that I know would really like people to reach out to them. We are not unapproachable up in the heavens and starry skies somewhere. We are real people with messy houses and kids who are or not kids, jobs, whatever it is. And yeah, that's, that's very cool to have those moments to connect with people.

Shawna Rodrigues 9:04

Yes, these are labors of love and effort. We love people to connect with us on them.

Kathleen Basi 9:09

Yes. So, tell me what part of writing brings you the most joy?

Shawna Rodrigues 9:16

Probably, what we just talked about, actually. The, the finished product and the connecting, like, I get excited when I'm in the moment, like, when I find something that really resonates with me. And I feel I'm really able to connect it with an emotion and with a situation and to be able to convey it. But when I hear from somebody that I was able to convey something, and for the short story, Every Mother's Peanut Butter, that is coming out an anthology, one of the beta readers had come back and said that it made her cry towards the end of it and for me when my writing really connects and impact somebody like that and evokes emotion which, you know, tears aren't always the emotion you want to evoke, but that's part of being connected to a story that it really meant a lot to me. That when a beta reader's felt to that and really connected with the story I was trying to convey with them. And so, really be able to connect to human emotion when I'm writing, but then to hear from readers, it's really connected with them, I think is my favorite part.

Kathleen Basi:

Can you tell us a little bit about that anthology?

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes, I'm so excited about this. It's a women's fiction anthology that's focused on motherhood, which is such a broad topic. And it's so exciting as I'm getting to see some of the different stories that people are contributing to have it all come together. It's short stories. And so, it's ones that can be read quickly, which for me, it's kind of fun to do that, because it is definitely about the journey, and the emotions and the connecting with the characters in women's fiction. So, it's kind of hard sometimes to put that into short stories. So, I'm really excited about this anthology. And they've been able to do that. And it focus for Mother's Day as a Mother's Day gift to give to people and for you to have as a gift to yourself to read through that. And it's about 10 to 12 women's fiction authors. It was a hard thing to squeeze in with everything going on right now. But I was so excited about this opportunity that I did it.

Kathleen Basi:

That's very cool. So, tell us as we start to wrap up, what's the best place for people to find you?

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes, I have a website, shawnarodrigues.com. And so, it's SHAWNA, and Rodrigues is RODRIGUES. But really finding me on Facebook, under my name as well. And finding me on Instagram, Shawna podcasts, @shawnapodcasts, because again, I have a podcast network, and I co-host the Author Express here and I have The Grit Show. Those are the best places to find me and to be able to connect with me. And I love to respond to people and hear from folks.

Kathleen Basi:

Wonderful. Thank you. So, let's wrap up by asking, what book or story inspires you the most?

Shawna Rodrigues:

So, interestingly, Educated by Tara Westover, a more recent book, but I was so impressed at her ability to really tell her story, and tell it in a way that was respectful for those involved. It's really hard to do memoir of narrative nonfiction and tell it in a way that really is authentic to the experience and respectful to those involved. And it was just beautiful. And she really told her story, and then kind of stepped out of the limelight. Like, she's not somebody you hear her speaking and doing all the things and going around and building a career off of it. She just knew it was a story that had to be told and told her story, which is just amazing to me. And it's such a powerful story and really inspires and connects with me because I have a story, Daughter of the Accused that I am working on. And we'll be working on. It'll take a while before that comes out. It's a hard story to write. And so, I think that really looking at somebody who's done that well, and she did a beautiful job that that's really touched me and I appreciate the work she does.

Kathleen Basi:

Sounds great.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Thank you so much for having me.

Kathleen Basi:

Thank you. Thanks for joining us. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday. And in the meantime, follow us on Instagram, at Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express. But keep it interesting.

About the Podcast

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About your host

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://bit.ly/AuthorExpressPod) and coming in 2024- Authenticity Amplified. Shawna is a Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant.
Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.