AUTHOR INTERVIEW 20

ELI SHAW

Vermont, United States

Age 72

Eli Shaw was born in 1948 and grew up West Warwick, RI as Robert Eli Kershaw Jr.
His parents and his Grandfather, Arthur Kershaw Sr. had a profound influence on who he was to become.

His grandfather told him once, „If you come upon an opportunity, look at it, study everything about it, chew it up and spit it out. If it still looks good, do it. If you do it you will know if you will succeed or not, and you will have learned something either way. If you don’t you will never know.” In his book you will understand better why it worked for him.

My mission in life is to enjoy it, learn from it and leave it better than how we found it.







As a student he was challenged with failing eyesight, a brain he often said would talk to him, and a thing we call today, ADHD, ADD but was known more as a slow child. After his Guidance counselor helped him to find a new way to take tests he went from a straight D student to an A student with more energy than he could handle at times.

His caregiving experience throughout his life was very diverse. But much of his work with kids and people with disabilities and illnesses such as AIDS was a direct result of the professionals who taught him how to function in a world where he was different.
As a caregiver he worked professional and on a personal basis.

Like most kids of that time, he joined the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, church youth groups and 4-H. In his Senior year, and he was selected as one of eight out of thousands nationwide to represent the youth of America in the Canadian National 4-H Congress. This was not for his academic excellence but for his community work and stamina. Later on in life he would be told that he was a man who took his own advice and won.
Eli was encouraged to join the 4-H clubs which would make a huge difference in his life. Eli volunteered to help with kids with disabilities in a youth group called STAR and went to RISD High School Art Program for six years, later experiencing College for 4 years. His experience as a US delegate to the Canadian National 4-H Convention at 17 would foster interest in international programs later in life.
At 19 he founded Camp Happyness and volunteered later in life as a Photographer at a Camp for kids with Cancer and one for Families affected by HIV. His ability to jump on the opportunity bandwagon served him well and would steer him to great heights. He hosted hundreds of foreign exchange students for many years, fostering long and strong friendships around the world.



After being nominated for the Outstanding Young Men of America Award at Twenty, it was a natural jump to go global and live in Brazil on an IFYE exchange.
It all began in 1958 when I was ten. A young family had just moved into the neighborhood. One sunny summer day while I was sitting on the steps to my house, a young boy came up to me and rolled his ball to my feet. With the sun in my face I said
hi and rolled it back. He ran off. A few days later he did it again.
I eventually became friends with him. I told my mom that a Chinese family had moved into the neighborhood and their son, Charlie, was my new friend. She said, bring him over for supper.
I did and after supper he left and my mom told me a story about people who have something called „Mongoloidism”, now Down Syndrome. I became his mentor to protect him from the bullies and I got beat up more than he did. He suddenly left and I vowed that I would do something in my life that would change that bullying attitude.
This book is about the sixty years since that time where I made good on my vows. It is a group of chapters that comprise the
ah ha moments in my journey as a caregiver all over the world.
I hope you enjoy and are enlightened by my story.

I have an African American son who says he adopted me when he was 9 who is the best thing that has happened to me in my life. I have three more books in the works and my son has one he is writing.

Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS?

Eli Shaw: I had ADHD when it did not exist when I grew up and now it is more like add and more of a nuisance.  Being a writer of nonfiction I find it time consuming to write about my experiences and philosophy in a way that keeps its truth and yet is entertaining or inspiring enough to keep the reader interested.  Now with the covid pandemic I find it difficult to create time slots to dedicate to writing without getting distracted by losing my relatives and 17 friends from the virus.  It is a challenge and yet a thrill to be able to immerse myself into it so deep I find it hard to come back from it.

Romelia: DOES YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER?

Eli Shaw: I have just recently found out that my son has put me on such a high pedestal and calls me his mentor and hero, I fear I will fall hard.  My sister was thrilled with the book and said, “I thought I knew my brother as I knew he did many things in nyc and the camps etc., but it was not until I really read the book that I can say now I know my brother now”.  Yes my family loves and supports my work as a writer. 

Romelia: IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY AS A CHILD OR TEENAGER TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER AS AN ADULT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Eli Shaw: I don’t think I would change anything as it all made me who I am today.  I do wish I had met the mentors who helped me gain the courage to write, a bit earlier.  I am the sum of everything I have been through in my life.  “This is me”.

Romelia: HOW LONG ON AVERAGE DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?

Eli Shaw: Seeing that I have only written one, 25 years.  The next ones will, I hope, take less time. Seeing I am 72, I would be 97 when it came out if I repeated the timeline of my first one.

Romelia: DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?

Eli Shaw: Not only I believe in it I seem to thrive on it.   When it hits it is bad but while I am going through it I speak into my phone, ideas that fly by my mind and when it is over I have a lot of material.  

Romelia: AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?

Eli Shaw: The minute they put something on paper that makes sense and would inspire someone else in some way.   I used to write little essays and blurbs to explain to someone about how important what I was doing was to me and hope that it is as important to them.

Romelia: WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?

Eli Shaw: Writers come in many forms but to author something means to me that it can be given to someone physically or digitally or sold.

Romelia: HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?

Eli Shaw: I like and hate them but need them to get the perspective of my piece of work from where someone else stands.   If I am looking at the sky from the top of the house and you are looking at it from the ground, you will see different thing or perspectives of the same thing.   

Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?

Eli Shaw: Time and getting it out of my head the way I want to see it on paper before I lose the thought.

Romelia: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?

Eli Shaw: Many of my pieces which are lost now came from my writing in school and classes.   It was always about real things or emotions or humanity.  I absorbed the heart of my grandfather, dad and mom.  Three of the most giving people I have ever known.

Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?

Eli Shaw: Dig deep into your heart and soul.  It does not move you when you read it, keep writing. It will happen.

Romelia: WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?

Eli Shaw: Being true to yourself and who you are and if you are ashamed or embarrassed to have someone read your work, slow down and rewrite.

Romelia: WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU – THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS – AND WHY?

Eli Shaw: My characters are already there and the plot already happened but when I want to write a piece to explain, the plot and the story can not survive until you know who the characters are.  Santa writing an acceptance speech?  Maybe to please the elves. 

Romelia: HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?

Eli Shaw: I need to know who my characters are and what their personalities are so the plot can be developed.  New characters can pop up often but if you wanted to write about a family, your family, you need to know them first.

Romelia: WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?

Eli Shaw: I am not sure I have yet.  Seriously, I am very conscious of my flaws and shortcomings as a writer.  

Romelia: HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR?

Eli Shaw: Any way I can.  I talk about my book any time I can.  No one can explain my book better than I can.  If they can not see it, they can not buy it.

Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?  

Eli Shaw: The best is meeting people, the worst is the cost.

Romelia: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?

Eli Shaw: Go for it but let others show you what they can do.

Romelia: HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Eli Shaw: Only one, that one is my favorite.

Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK DID YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WRITING?

Eli Shaw: Talking about death in a way that was enlightening and inspiring.  

Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK WAS THE MOST FUN TO WRITE?

Eli Shaw: Poetry  and the successes.

Romelia: WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AND WHY?

Eli Shaw: Me but most of the others inspire me the most.   

Romelia: IF YOU’RE PLANNING A SEQUEL. CAN YOU SHARE A TINY BIT ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR IT?

Eli Shaw: I created a program for people who were dying with AIDS and felt they did not want to be known as a number, statistic or the one who died of AIDS.  The program will be the subject of my next book and will give anyone the inspiration to create the legacy they wished to live and leave.  The book is called “Legacy, create it live it and leave it.”  Just for an example, I am leaving computer generated videos for my grandchildren who I most likely will not see graduate or marry and if I do, I am not sure my faculties will be good enough to realize what they are doing.  I am talking to them directly about the pandemic, my feelings about things, my likes, my philosophy about things, what I learned in Brazil and in the 60s and what it was like to experience president Kennedy get shot and die and see my mother die.  It is a way to leave something of myself to them.  I would give my right arm to find a video of my dad talking to me about anything. Just to hear his voice. My son who is african-american, is leaving some for his son, in case things get difficult.  Legacy is one of the most precious things anyone could do for those who come after us.  Using the tools we have these day it should be a no brainer.  

Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR ADULT LIFE.

Eli Shaw: One of my clients I work with in mental health, loves farts and talking about them.  When he is in a bad mood, I ask him if he could imagine how big an elephant fart would be.  Then I go to wales and then dinosaurs. He does not speak much but I get to talk about farts and remind myself how funny they are.  We even wrote a poem about them. I thank God every day for creating farts and allowing me to see the humor with a wonderful soul with a great sense of humor.  He once told me, in his own way with the few words he could say, that if I did not feed the dogs they would not fart.  That was after I told him one of my dogs likes to cuddle under the covers and sometimes farts.

Romelia: DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

Eli Shaw: I am a fragile creature among fragile creatures.  I delight in the simple things and thrive in my ignorance as everyone is ignorant about everything at some point in their life and we must learn everything we know.  I relish the chance to learn what I do not know or feel.  My time on this fragile earth is short and my impatience, though a tool to move on is but a barrier to the true destiny ahead.  Music is my most sacred experience especially when in makes me cry with the movie in my head that accompanies it.  I judge myself harder than I judge others but my weakness is not judging myself enough to become perfect in my eyes.

I live with my flaws and hate them.  The thing I hate most in the world is the tribalism that is going on between our communities and making each other wrong.  I fear for the future of my grandchildren and my son.   I only hope my legacy with shine bright enough for them to over shadow the pain, hate and divisiveness ahead.  When I watch the apocalyptic movies and see how it has to get to the worst and the most destructive to get to the better world, I hope others do not take them as blueprints of what is to come.

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