Shane Cashman, a professor at Manhattanville, has spent the past thirty-one young years of his life imagining, creating and listening. The writer has always been “impressed with the imagination,” and spent most of his early life hearing all of the spectacular stories his grandmother had told him many Christmases ago. While stuffed in her little ranch house, she entertained and hosted Shane’s vast amount of aunts, uncles and cousins. He remembers how beautiful her white quaffed hair was and that she was an incredible storyteller.
“I remembered this story she told when I was a little kid: Her dad had money and they lived in the city and she needed to get in touch with him…she was like, ‘I just hopped on a plane and I knew the pilot and they just landed it on the golf course where he was playing in NYC.’”
It was hearing stories such as these that planted the seed for Shane Cashman, and he went on to become a writer with remarkable ideas. He has published and blogged many short stories and poems, and has even written songs for his band back in high school. There is also a novel he has been working on for the past six years. As of now, the plot remains a mystery; however, he wishes to have finished it by the end of this past April.
These weren’t just some fairy tales that his grandmother told him, but he found himself seeing another world through her eyes filled with royalty and joy. Her essence and being filled him with love and imagination.
“She is like a Queen. She wore pencil skirts all the time ‘til the day she died and high heels. She’s very proper and always called me ‘boy,’” said Cashman, imitating the way her soft and sincere voice spoke words. “I was very enamored by her,” Cashman added. He also remembered the story about her first dance at a cotillion. It was with the mayor of the city who was also a pop singer.
These stories about his grandmother were very dear to him and led him to find interest in listening to his other grandparents and everyone in his life and environment. “It’s not about finding the full story but finding a certain detail that sticks with you. Something as simple as a word or a small memory from a stranger may flick that spark of ingenuity,” he said.
As a young boy, he lived differently than most of his classmates. His father strongly influenced him to read, which allowed him to grow a love for words. Authors like Robert Frost, Harper Lee, O. Henry, it was only the beginning for him. The words he read on the page had a more symbolic meaning to him than what an average child would see. He would always wonder about the underlying meaning of what each author was trying to convey. His imagination conducted a symphony onto the blank pages of his book and although he was far from the ordinary, he was constantly expanding his creativity in any way possible.
“I grew up on a farm in the middle of the woods… my sisters and I were forced to be in our brains a lot,” said Cashman. He paused for a second and anxiously tapped his pen that he had been holding in his right hand for most of the interview against his wrist.
“Um, I wouldn’t say we were outsiders but we were defiantly odd balls coming to school because we were the only kids who lived on a farm.”
Through high school and college, he played the keyboard and sang in a band with friends who he is still close with today. Like some upcoming writers he wrote poems, but in this case most of these poems transformed into song lyrics for his band. He was very passionate about the band and writing music for a while in his young career but realized his true passion for words.
“In many ways it has made me a better listener to people, to everyone. That is the most important thing of all, is to listen to people,” said Cashman.
Writing has taught him to have thicker skin and empathy for all types of characters. Not everyone in the world is a perfect person and by giving your character personality and flaws, only makes them seem more realistic. However, there are editors and readers who may not love your work but you can’t live in fear. Rejection is bound to haunt your art and it’s only normal.
“Even your favorite authors get rejected sometimes,” he admitted truthfully. What really matters is being happy with your work but the most important thing is to “keep your head down, and don’t stop writing,” said Cashman.