Welcome to Writers4Higher
This issue, Writers4Higher features
Author and Educator Taj Shotwell
Hi, Taj. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!
1. Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.
Born as Theresa Ann James, I use the acronym, “TAJ”, as my pseudo. I’m the middle child of eleven children, raised by a strict career-military father and a God-fearing-homemaker mother. Reading fictional stories allowed me to escape from the realities of my then dysfunctional environment. I learned strong morals and hard work ethics, early on. Parental guidance was stressed on behavior, cleanliness, and leaving home by age 18. Yet, special family gathering included my mother’s angelic singing, dancing, and poetry. This later inspired me to write songs & stories, and choreograph dance. I enjoy family drama films, plays, and TV shows, including action, suspense, and mysteries.
Asking anyone for anything, including help, has always been difficult. Having to ask, caused me to feel weak and powerless. Even today, I feel I must earn my way and is reluctant to accept gifts. I’ve always had to have a “Plan”-- backed up with “Plan-B”, and believe in going above and beyond.
In 1979, when I lived in San Francisco and a single mom, I earned a MBA. That summer, I wrote my first play called “Black Snow”, but had no idea what to do with it- so, I filed it away. Years later, I decided to return to college to earn a doctorate degree in education. I wrote my dissertation on the outcomes of the performing arts on students’ learning. Immediately after graduating, I wrote a concept report for a performing arts boarding school (7th-12th grades) with a unique curriculum and program, and imagined someday its actual existence.
In 1993, I moved to Tallahassee to accept a position as a full-time university professor. During my down-time, I wrote a family drama play called “Maggie: Never Bitter”, inspired by my mother, Maggie. Years later, in 2006, the play was presented in a public reading at the university-- under the direction of the university’s Theater department. I received helpful critiques and made adjustments accordingly. However, shortly after that event, my mother became seriously ill. I set the play aside—delaying a full stage production--- and for several years dedicated any extra time I had commuting 10-hours to Memphis from Tallahassee to care for my mother. After my mother’s death and my retirement from the university, I worked full-time on the play and the boarding school plans. Hoping the play landed on “Broadway”, my vision expanded to film, therefore, I converted it to a screenplay and submitted to agents and producers. An emotional incident occurred with a relative that triggered me to start writing fictional drama novels (based on my life, from the mid-1950s): "Middle Child: Build a Fence All Around Me" was launched in December 2014, and "Middle Child 2: Better Than Good," was launched in June 2015.
International traveling and a healthy life-style play an essential part of my being. My feet have touched the soils of many continents. Yet, I plan to compete the bucket-list. To maintain fitness, I eat healthy foods-- and have volunteered as a certified aerobic dance instructor at various centers and schools, since 2004- domestically and internationally; including Costa Rica, India, China, and cruising down the Rhine River in Europe.
One of my greatest fears is to become a burden to anyone. Maybe it’s because of the possible act or expression of disappointment and inconveniences that I’ve witnessed some caregivers develop, especially a family member. I believe that the best gift we can give our children is our independence and to make less importance on leaving behind financial rewards.
Divorced for many years, I have a well-educated and liberated daughter, and two young adult grandchildren (a male and female). All of whom are good people and I love dearly, yet I definitely believe they are from another planet.
2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?
My vision/purpose is to share my work with the public and entertainment world, and perhaps, leave behind a small contribution or legacy for future artists, educators and readers. Writing novels, stage and screen plays, and educational resources have been truly fulfilling. Each day, I awake thinking about my work; rationalizing the joy, entertainment and knowledge that I will bring to others; envisioning my work on the stage or film; and about the prospects the work will bring to skilled artists. Furthermore, my educational resources will be used in many classrooms for student’s professional development.
3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?
I’m an educator first and I cherish my accomplishments. However, I’m in the position to give back to a profession (performing arts), that I admire and one that helped me throughout my life endeavors. I’m the founder of “The Business of Arts Academy, Inc.” (BAA), a 501c3 year round boarding and day school – (in development). BAA will provide a comprehensive college-preparatory academic in arts and business for co-ed students in grades 7th through 12th. The academy will be located in the Tallahassee, Florida, area -- serving local, national, and international students. All proceeds from my literary work are contributed to the development of the school and I volunteer my efforts.
Would you like to find Taj?
Check out the links to this talented author:
Goodreads: Taj Shotwell on Goodreads
Goodreads: Taj Shotwell on Goodreads
Fiction with a Southern Twist