Brooklyn author pieces together, publishes late grandmother’s novella
Brooklyn Launch Event Slated for Oct. 19
Talent often runs in the family. Author and Brooklynite Amy Shearn’s family is no exception.
Shearn’s grandmother Frances Schutze has just come out with a novella. But because Schutze died 12 years ago, this project is a little out of the ordinary.
After her grandmother’s death, Shearn and her mother and aunt found — among many other lifetime treasures such as family photo albums and old documents — drafts of a short story describing life in a St. Louis public housing system, and several letters from famous writer Martha Gellhorn to Schutze.
“[We found] radio plays, a couple of different stories, and letters from Martha Gellhorn, who my grandmother happened to know at the time, and they were sort of all these treasures that nobody really knew what to do with,” Shearn told the Eagle. “Recently I found the time to go back and reread the work that was there…and once I did, I started thinking about how to find a way to share it.”
Now, several years later after piecing together multiple type written drafts with abundant ink pen edits covering them, Shearn is publishing her grandmother’s book, “The Little Bastard” (Anchor & Plume), which includes an introduction by Shearn and cover art by Peggy Schutze Shearn (Amy’s mother and Frances’s daughter).
On Oct. 19, Shearn will be hosting a book party to celebrate the launch of the book at LARK café in Brooklyn, where she hopes the family affair will continue, including new fans of the book as well.
Shearn recalls that when she was a child, her grandmother regularly gave her grandchildren handmade books, and as they got older asked for their advice on story ideas. Shearn said this is one of the things that “planted the seed” within her to begin writing.
Because the creation is such a family affair, with three generations of Schutze women behind it, Shearn said she was able to find connections between her writing and her grandmother’s after working on the project.
“After I had written my second book, I realized there were all of these connections, like how the two narrators are similar, the focus is neighborhood life, and there are connections between the idea of close-knit community,” she said. “At the time [when she wrote the book] the community was everyone looking out for each other and being nosey, which I think is really similar to parenting in Brooklyn today.”
Shearn told the Eagle that she hopes her introduction will give the reader context into her grandmother’s life. Schutze desired to be a writer throughout her life, but her path simply did not go that way in the end. Still, she continued to write in leisure and for her family for her entire life, and wrote about her love for writing in her correspondence with Gellhorn.
“I wanted people to know [writing] was her life ambition,” Shearn said. “When most women didn’t go to college, she went to journalism school. In various ways she always worked this creativity into her life. A lot of people and mothers have all these creative ambitions [but] have to work and provide, so creative work gets pushed to the side. I think a lot of people will understand.”
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The Oct. 19 event begins at 5 p.m. Lark Café is located at 1007 Church Ave., between Coney Island Avenue and Stratford Road in Kensington/Ditmas Park. Books are available for purchase at http://anchorandplume.bigcartel.com/product/the-little-bastard and will be available at the Oct. 19 launch event. Select bookstores in Chicago, Dallas and Paris will also carry the book.
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