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Oxford grad's book shows evolution through struggle



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April 17, 2013 - "Sometimes we need to risk something we value to transform ourselves and our lives."

That's what Alonna Shaw hopes readers will learn from her new novel "Eleven Sundays."

"The heart of the story is about how a person evolves through life's struggles," said the 1982 graduate of Oxford High School.

"Eleven Sundays" is about a young woman who suffers a series of losses, shifts into denial and drives across San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to the fog-capped Drake's Valley.

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There she encounters a mysterious souplady, a green-eyed cat and three curious boys looking for bones, all of whom not only change the direction of her life, but the woman within.

"The characters in this story are very special to me," Shaw said. "Knowing I communicated some of their words with others means so much to me, like I succeeded."

The souplady character was inspired by Shaw's great-grandmother.

"She always had this sense when people were coming over and would have a pot of soup ready," said Shaw, who now lives in northern California.

However, Shaw made it clear that "the souplady is her own character – different from my great-grandmother."

"The souplady has gone through her own tragedies and has found a way to cope with life on her own," she explained. "There is a rhythm to the souplady in her words, yet a solidness.

"Her words are her own. I don't feel I created them. They just came to me while I was doing two-minute meditations throughout each day."

Shaw noted how the inspiration for fictional characters can strike anywhere.

"It's funny how you might stand in line behind someone at the grocery store and there's something about the way the person stands, breathes or loads the conveyor (at the checkout)," she said. "Inspiration comes in tiny blips at times."

"Eleven Sundays" represents Shaw's first completed novel.

"I've got a drawer full of screenplays. They represent years of practicing storytelling," she said. "I have started many stories. I think I finished this one because the end came to me first, making the structural part of the process easier."

Shaw explained how Rod Serling, creator of the classic "Twilight Zone" television series, "preferred to have the dramatic climax that comes at the end of the story before beginning his writing process, too."

It took Shaw three years to write her novel.

"The first rough draft took a year, then two more for polishing and editing," she said.

So far, the reception to "Eleven Sundays" has been quite good.

"I've been getting a lot of reader feedback wanting to know when the sequel will be ready," Shaw said. "My favorite is when readers tell me they cried at certain points."

Will there be a sequel? Although she wasn't really planning to write one, Shaw said she's been "compiling plot and character notes for how Annie, (the) main character, deals with the next chapter of her life."

Shaw credited former Oxford English teacher Dolores Porter with helping her become the writer she is today.

"Her teaching style was relaxed and genuine, allowing me to absorb lessons that contributed to (the) foundation I rely on today," she said. "I felt like she was rooting for this shy student. I always felt inspired in her class."

Although she's living her dreams in California, Shaw indicated that "Oxford holds many memories for her."

"I scooped ice cream at Kessler's Korner," she said. "I used to get my Wrangler jeans at the Covered Wagon Saddlery, played video games next to the park, then grabbed a pizza across the street. I loved going to the movies (at the Oxford Cinema). I wanted to be both versions of Sandy in 'Grease' and had to walk out of 'Alien' when the cat was in danger."

To purchase a copy of "Eleven Sundays" or learn more about Shaw, please visit www.alonnashaw.com/op.

"I think the heartwarming message and plot of 'Eleven Sundays' will appeal to a broad audience as well as (make) for a great Mother's Day gift," Shaw said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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