May 11, 2020
She comes from a family of educators, is an avid walker and bike rider, and you might catch a glimpse of her in the background of an episode of Locked Up! We recently caught up with Shannon Slocum, one of our AmeriCorps VISTA members, to learn more about her life outside of work and her fateful encounter with a group of 826 volunteers that led her to now serve at 826 Boston.
You spent a few years working in the publishing field before coming to 826 Boston as an AmeriCorps VISTA. What do you love about publishing?
Yes, I was very fortunate to get a job in the publishing industry and work with people who love books as much as I do – even textbooks! It was worthwhile to see how much thought goes into every decision, from designing the book cover to formatting the interior. My favorite author preferred to send hard copies of his drafts and I loved being able to hold the pages. There’s something so special about having a tangible connection between yourself and the author. It’s even more special when you get to see your name and your words in print, especially when you’re young and learning that your voice is important, too. I love being a part of that process.
Why did you decide to join 826 Boston as the AmeriCorps VISTA K-8 Publishing and Programs Specialist?
My first experience with 826 Boston was volunteering as an illustrator on a storytelling field trip. I remember leaving and being so jealous of everyone who led the event. That was their job! They were getting paid to do that! I hadn’t realized how much I missed working with students. So I kept tabs and signed up for every volunteer opportunity I could until I saw that fateful AmeriCorps posting. It really felt like fate. My then-job was going through lay-offs and there were only a few things keeping me sane, one of them being a volunteer illustrator for 826 Boston…and here I am, ready to apply for another year!
Now you’re helping lead the creation of the new Young Authors Book Project that’ll be released in June. Any specific moment from this process that’s stuck with you?
It’s been amazing to witness the students’ growth, and not just their skills, but their confidence in their work. At first, they were hesitant to share their writing because their answers weren’t “right.” The best moments were when they realized that we weren’t looking for the right answers, that we were interested in their perspectives. One afternoon, I was working with a student who was stuck on the first draft of her report – she didn’t know which facts to choose or which parts to describe. I could tell she was getting frustrated and just wanted me to tell her what to write, but I ended up blurting: “Yo quiero su palabras. I want your words.” If we were in a movie, that moment would have been followed by a montage of feverish writing, but we talked a little more and I got to see it sink in. My words are important. Not the internet’s. Not my classmate’s. Mine. By the end of class, I could tell that she was proud of her draft and that’s the true goal of the project.
When you’re not at 826 Boston, what do you like to do?
I like to get outside and walk around or ride bikes, even if it’s rainy. Seaport is peaceful, especially inside the ICA and along the harbor. Castle Island has a great loop that runs along the beach and across a jetty. I also keep an eye out for readings at Harvard Book Store or Brookline Booksmith. Caitlin Moran was hilarious and Lauren Groff’s prose punched me right in the heart. If you’re in a reading rut, Harvard Book Store is sending personalized suggestions!
What is one thing that you believe most people do not know about you?
I lived in California for a little while after college. A college alumni helped me get a job with a post-production company that edited reality shows like Wahlburgers and Pit Bulls & Parolees. It wasn’t for me, but you could see me in the background of an episode of Locked Up…
Do you have a favorite quote or personal mantra?
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” by Pablo Picasso usually does the trick. Or 30 Rock quotes like “Live every week like it’s shark week.”
If you wrote an autobiography, what would be its title?
Hm. If This Was a Movie or something like that? I say that a lot (see example above). I like re-imagining moments as movie moments. Like, if Nora Ephron was writing this scene, this would happen…[cue Meg Ryan walking down a shining city street]…but I would definitely be an unreliable narrator. I would have too much fun writing different versions of memories.
Finally, what’s your favorite thing to read?
I will always say Tana French. I read In the Woods in one sitting and continue to devour her books as soon as they come out.