Columnists

‘Clueless’ Old Town Author Says New Book Helps Us Learn About Each Other

(The Times photo courtesy of Betsy Reason)
Old Town Noblesville resident Amy Thornton Shankland was found at the new Barnes and Noble bookstore, where she will sign copies of her new book, “Interviews by a Clueless White Woman,” at noon Saturday.

When I visited the newly reopened and redesigned Barnes and Noble booksellers in Noblesville, I ran into longtime acquaintance Amy Shankland.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised to see her in a bookstore, because she loves to read and is a published author. And the new bookstore promotes local authors.

She shared with me the news of her latest book, “Interviews by a Clueless White Woman,” penned under the name, Amy Thornton Shankland, and she was excited to be lining up book signings.

And in fact, her next book signing is from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at that very Barnes and Noble re-opened store in Noblesville.

“I decided to write this book because I am clueless. I wanted to learn about other struggles, people of color, people of different sexual orientations, people of different religions and abilities. I thought if I talk to these people, I would learn a lot about their struggles and open up my eyes. Not only would I learn a lot, I hoped to publish this book and help others learn a lot, because we’re not talking to one another. If we have differences, these walls go up, and I want my story, my book, to hopefully bring those walls down and invite more conversation and better understanding between people who are different from one another.”

She started researching for her book at the end of December 2020, and reached out and conducted Zoom interviews, one-on-one, over the next four months, then created the draft and submitted last summer to Warren Publishing and “Here I am a year later,” Shankland said.. “They chose it, and I was shocked. They only accept 20 percent of their submissions.”

The book has 16 third-person stories, written from the interviews, and more than 300 pages, and is suggested for teens and older. “There are some very sensitive subjects,” she said, including “homophobia, stories about rape, it’s not a light book.”

The book is written using first names only but some names have changed.

Why read the book? “To increase understanding of others…. Diversity, equity and inclusion is not just something where you set a goal and learn everything and you stop. This is something that I hope helps all of us on our journeys to understand people better.”

(Illustration provided by Amy Thornton Shankland)
“Interviews by a Clueless White Woman” book by Amy Thornton Shankland, a resident of Old Town Noblesville.

Shankland, who was born in Cincinnati and raised in Mishawaka, moved here in 1998 after falling in love with Old Town Noblesville while visiting her brother.

“I convinced my husband (John) that we’ve got to live here. And I’ve been thrilled ever since,” Shankland told me three years ago. She and her husband have two sons, Jonathon, 21, senior at IUPUI, studying video game design, and Jacob, 20, junior at Ball State University, studying video and film.

When I first met Shankland many years before that, she was hoop dancing; sometimes I’d see her hoop dancing, with hula hoops, at Forest Park. She even self-published a book called “Hoop Mama,” released in 2013. She still does hoop dancing to stay fit.

At the time, she was grant coordinator and Sustain Noblesville chairperson for the City of Noblesville. I would chat with her when I visited City Hall.

A fellow journalist, she earned a degree in Journalism and English from Indiana University.

But even before college, she was always obsessed with writing.

Shankland has written columns for The Noblesville Times in the past and now for the Reporter. She was a freelance writer for Indy’s Child and also was the editor of her church bulletin for nearly a dozen years.

When the City of Noblesville eliminated her position, she didn’t let it get her down, she wrote. But thought of the opportunity as a chance to become an author and a grant consultant.

She wrote another book called “Joy to You and Me (At Work!) about bringing joy to the workplace. Then she became office coordinator for Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District in 2016.

The new book is No. 4 for Shankland. Her first book, “Hoop Mama,” was self-published. The second two books (Joy in the Workplace and How to Lighten Your Mental Load) were written for women and published by Tell Tale Publishing.

The author and grant consultant became involved with Noblesville Main Street after being recruited to help with grant writing. She then went on to be named Main Street’s 2018 Board Member of the Year award. “By serving on Noblesville Main Street’s board, it’s helping me make a difference for that downtown,” she said.

She’s now a grant consultant full time for six years. She got started learning about how to write grants when she worked for Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources in Cicero 21 years ago and they sent her to IUPUI School of Philanthropy on her second day to learn how to do grant proposals. “Grants are so competitive, if you don’t know what you are doing, you need to get training … If you can’t get training, or don’t have time or ability, you can turn to a grant consultant … who can help you rise to the top of the pile.”

As far as her new book, she said, “I hope, with all my heart, that this can be a tool for many of us to learn about others and start talking to other people and learning about other people’s stories. Because I think the more we do that, the more that we’re doing to stop being so hostile toward each other and our eyes are going to be open and hopefully we’ll have a more peaceful world.”

Shankland is donating 10 percent of proceeds from her book to Agape.

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com