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Meet Shana Targosz, 2021 Oregon Literary Fellow

We’re thrilled to introduce the 2021 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients with individual features on our blog! Out-of-state judges spent several months evaluating the 400+ applications we received, and selected eleven writers and two publishers to receive grants of $3,500 each.  Literary Arts also awarded two Oregon Literary Career Fellowships of $10,000 each. The 2022 OLF applications will be posted in July 2021, and the deadline to apply will be in September 2021.

2021 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient
Shana Targosz

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Category
Young Adult

Bio
Shana Targosz is a MG/YA/PB author who writes about magical girls, budding friendships, ghosts who may or may not be friendly, and fiercely-held hope. She’s an active member of SCBWI and received an award at the 2017 Oregon Regional Conference. She’s an Author Mentor Match mentee, a Pitch Wars mentor, and has been a guest host on Grace Lin’s #kidlitwomen podcast.


Q&A with Literary Arts

What are your sources of inspiration?
For me, inspiration comes from a wide variety of things. Everyday objects, memories, myths and lore, wanderlust, nature and the hidden places of our world, creatures real or imaginary, visual arts, music, anime, plays, and books are some of the sources I draw inspiration from. I read widely and am heavily inspired by authors who immerse me in their made-up worlds and enthrall me with their storytelling. Ursula K. Le Guin, N.K. Jemisin, Terry Pratchett, Laini Taylor, Tamsyn Muir, and R.F. Kuang are a few of my favorites. Even when I think “I will never write as brilliantly as them,” their work lights a spark inside me to tell my own stories as only I can tell them.

My son is another constant source of inspiration. He reminds me to laugh, to be brave, to inspire greatness, to be creative, to ask questions and explore the whys and hows of the world around us, and to be respectful and empathetic to others. Every day he reminds me that life is precious, beautiful, wild, and full of the unexpected. I strive to weave these very real, very human experiences into everything I write.

I’m also heavily inspired by my close-knit community of writers and am constantly in awe of the stories my friends create. We challenge each other, brainstorm together, and provide support when needed—and it is always needed. They inspire me to keep working to share my stories with the world, too.

How would you describe your creative process?
It always begins with an idea that refuses to be ignored. This idea haunts me day and night, demanding I puzzle it out, ask questions, and examine it from each facet. From those questions and puzzlings, story elements, characters, and settings begin tumbling out, building and building into a vast world I can’t help but want to explore.

I always have a journal within reach, and I write down my questions along with every answer I can think of. This is when the story feels most magical and dream-like, because there are infinite possibilities and so many “what ifs” to brainstorm! Important moments and scenes are sketched out, as well the ending. All these elements are then shaped into a loose outline that focuses on the main character first and foremost—their emotional journey becomes the heartbeat of the story.

When it comes to drafting the story, it’s a bit like wandering a labyrinth with a fistful of matches and a half-formed map. I know what waits at the end, and I know some of the turns I must take to get there, but many paths in-between are still a mystery. The story elements that keep me engaged and excited for the next discovery are the matches illuminating the way. By the time I reach the end and look back, the path taken is filled with interesting twists and encounters I never would have dreamed up if I’d adhered to a rigid plan from the start.

What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?
Knowing that someone connected with my writing. This is a hard business to be in; one filled with rejection at every step. Having someone who doesn’t know me personally and who has never read my work before say, “Yes, this shows promise,” is a great honor.

Being awarded an Oregon Literary Fellowship has been a dream-goal of mine for many years. I’m deeply thankful to the judges for selecting my work—it has not only given me a major boost in confidence, it encourages me to keep working hard and continue sharing my stories. I’m grateful for Literary Arts and all they do for the writing community, and I’m honored to be a recipient of such a prestigious award.

What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on a new middle grade novel set in the Underworld. The themes I’m exploring are ones that hit a deep emotional nerve for me personally, so it is both terrifying to write and thrilling to reshape those experiences and set them in a magic-tinged world for a young audience.

The MG novel I’d been working on when I submitted my Fellowship application (excerpt below) is now complete! I’m excited to share it with editors and hope it will be picked up for publication. I also have a few picture books in the works and recently finished a fun, adventure-filled chapter book I hope will be published as a series for young readers.

What advice do you have for future applicants?
Don’t self-reject. It can be scary to share your work with others, and I acknowledge how much courage it takes to submit your writing to professionals. If you do apply next time and don’t hear back, try again, and again. Keep working on your craft and read widely. Be inspired. Allow your mind to play with new ideas, regardless if you write them into stories or not. Take in everything you can to strengthen your craft and apply it to your own work—this will help you grow as a writer.

Here’s some advice from other writing professionals that I take to heart with each project I begin: Write what ignites your passion, write the story you have to tell. There is only one you in the universe. When it comes to your story, you are the only person who can write it.


Excerpt from THE SPELLWORKER’S APPRENTICE

Ink wriggled across the spellbook’s pages, as if attempting to escape the candlelight’s glow.

Her wand poised over the worn-out book, Brix focused, the Manifestare spell pinning the Ink-sketched words in their places. The midnight colored Ink was still glistening-fresh, even though it had been scratched across the paper over three hundred years ago.

Flik, Brix’s ever-curious teacup dragon, stuck his snout close to the page. “What’s this spell supposed to do?”

“Not entirely sure yet,” Brix said. “It’d be easier to figure out if your head wasn’t in the way.”

“Sheesh, I’m just curious.” Flik sat, his tail curling around his paws. “Let me know when you have an idea. I’ll need time to hide before you test it out.”

Brix sighed. Flik didn’t have to be so dramatic, just because the last spell she crafted made the teapot explode. Her focus broken, the words fled to the corners of the pages. “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know.”

A huff of air flew over her shoulder, pulling her curls along with it. Fists on her hips, Brix addressed the room. “Alright, Bebe, you’ll also be the first to know.”

The workshop—Betwixt and Between, or Bebe for short—gave a sigh of content, and the window curtains fluttered like eyelashes.

Scratching the tip of her nose with her wand, Brix returned to studying the fragile pages of Agnes Dottynoggin’s Book of Fairly Eezee Spells. What this spell produced was still a mystery—Agnes Dottynoggin’s notes read like riddles.

She’d been given the task of going through this book to identify and update the spells for the modern age. This was her first official Spell Translation assignment as an Apprentice Spellworker, and it was the first Conclave-ordained test Brix must pass in order to continue her apprenticeship to Mistress Oatley. She was determined to not mess it up.


Judge’s Comments

“Shana Targosz’s The Spellworker’s Apprentice charmed me from the opening line: ‘Ink wriggled across the spellbook’s pages, as if attempting to escape the candlelight’s glow.’ Thus, the reader is drawn into a small, dim workshop full of vials and potions, where young Brix studies and practices her spellcraft, trying to overcome the mistakes she makes along the way. The voice and writing style are compelling from the start, and the tension and intrigue only build as the story unfolds. As Brix searches for the right ingredients for her magical spells, Targosz strikes the perfect blend of narrative elements: a charming but imperfect heroine with a purpose, her wise-cracking dragon sidekick, a magical mission in a fantastical environment, and the promise of high adventure in this unfamiliar world. I was still eager to turn the page at the end of the chapters I was given. Alas, I will have to wait to read more, but I’m sure it won’t be long before The Spellworker’s Apprentice finds its way to an equally eager audience of young readers, who will no doubt be enchanted by Brix’s tale, as I was.”

–  Judge Kekla Magoon

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