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About Shannon: The making of a storyteller

Spring of my third grade year, I looked my teacher in the eye and said, “My brother died” and she believed me. A few days later, I tried telling my parents that surely Sr. Terence had gotten me confused with someone else in the classroom. After all, there were fifty of us in those big Catholic family days of the early 60s. My parents didn’t buy it.

In fourth grade, I forgot to memorize a poem for our weekly recitation. I made up my own.

In fifth grade, I gave a book report on a non-existent book, complete with information about the author and his other books.

Somewhere along the line, probably soon after reading Little Women, I figured out there could be a good side to the lies. Storyteller? Storycatcher? Why not?

I wrote fan fiction in junior high, a forgettable story about the Monkees coming to my school for a dance. My best friend and I were the chief characters. I didn’t quite know what to do with Davy’s interest in me.

In my adult life, I’ve embarked on jobs that kept me engaged with people and tied up in their stories. From the classroom to the parish to prison work, there’s always someone with a story. And there are many ways to tell the stories. I discover connections that play out in poetry, short stories, essays, blogs, and books. I’m a collector of stories, reshaping them to suit the occasion, mining truth in unlikely places.

I live in the Northwest where Mount Rainier anchors the horizon. I’ve tried living elsewhere, but this geography shapes my being. The sight of mountains to the east and west, the nearness of water, the bright spots of color in forests and gardens, all these serve to ground my connection to the world. I am never too isolated in this place.

Shannon O'Donnell

Shannon O'Donnell
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