Filed under: Art Lessons, Lessons of an Artist, On My Mind, Shanda's Journey • June 15, 2017

So Much has happened … good AND bad and the reason for my posting gap …


I got an agent! – Very good.

November of 2015, I participated in a twitter pitch event called #PBPitch. Participants write up a VERY short pitch of their picture book work-in-progress and if an agent wants you to submit it to them, they “favorite” your post. I got 10 favorites that day! But one agent in particular took the time to email me separately and state that she really looked forward to seeing my work closer. That effort made me feel like she really liked it. She was the only agent I sent it to that week. And that’s how I found Erica Rand Silverman! Turns out, she’s the perfect agent for me! (She’s cool even if you cry which is MUST-have to be my agent :)


I got LASIK – Very very bad.

My life changed on February 19, 2016. Because I had LASIK. Yep. That “easy” surgery that’s a “miracle” called LASIK. Well, for most it is a miracle, but it was a tragedy for me. I haven’t even been able to write about it until now – over a year later – and I’m still not out of the woods. My eyes reacted unpredictably to the surgery, probably because of unknown underlying auto immunity in my body. My eyes were so dry for months, I could barely open them and when I did, the vision was a blurry mess. I can’t think of much worse for an artist aside of losing your drawing hand. Then as I was just starting to see some improvement in my sight, I suddenly was afflicted with HUNDREDS of floaters in my eyes that swirled around (and still do) at every eye movement.  I had developed uveitis which in my case is a chronic auto-immune inflammation of the uvea in the eyes. Without steroids, I would eventually go blind. But steroids have their own issues. As months passed, my clarity improved but it’ll never be as sharp as it once was before the surgery. I’ve seen so many eye doctors. And now I have developed cataracts from the steroids. And that’s where I stand now. My vision is starting to cloud up. Hopefully I can remove the cataracts safely with another surgery soon. And I’m hopeful that after that, I can be well enough to undergo a last surgery to remove the many many floaters. From this, I sprouted some scary anxiety that on one occasion landed me at the hospital. Anti-anxiety medicine was a life line, literally. And I’m still very reliant on it as I continue this health journey. The bad news is that I gained 30 pounds since starting this medication, but it’s life (and be bigger for now) or death. Sounds extreme, but it’s true unfortunately.

Also Erica held on, encouraged me, and waited for me to get better.


I got a book deal! – Very very good.

But in the middle of all this tragedy (early this year), something AMAZING happened. Erica submitted my book to a handful of publishers and 4 BIG publishers wanted it! It went to auction and sold to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in a 2 book deal! A. Dream. Come. True. I can’t even.


I did the job! – very very very good.

I was very nervous about illustrating my book through vision issues, but God stayed near me. There’s no other explanation. This very week I’m working through a final tweaks list and then it’ll be a done deal! I have been so honored to work with Andrea Spooner, Hallie Tibbetts, Jen Keenan, and Saho Fujii at Little, Brown!  I couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful first experience! (I think my medicine helped me deal with this good stress better too.)


I’m still standing! – very good!

I’ve never thought of myself as very strong, but I still can’t believe what I’ve gotten through this past year. Good and bad. I’ll continue to trust the Lord. I’m sure I’ll still mourn my loss of perfect vision for a long time, but I know God will deliver me to the other side of sorrow soon. He has already thrown me many lines of hope that I hold onto with all my strength.


I have the sweetest husband ever! – so good.

Through this, I’ve seen the love my husband has for me. I knew he loved me before, but I REALLY know now. He carried us when I couldn’t rise from the bed or take care of our girls from depression. He never got angry at me or asked me to “get it together” or “man up” or anything like that. He got it together and manned up in my place. He just loved me. He never lets go of our hope for normalcy again one day. He has tirelessly talked with me over and over reminding me of the hope I have in healing, good doctors, and a career ahead of me. He’s such a good man and daddy. He saved me.


Moving onward!

So now I’ve finally written this down. Whew. I hope to be posting happy updates soon. Until then, I’ll keep on truckin’.


They say the best story is when a character is faced with the most awful thing that could happen to them, and then we see them grow and overcome it. That’s my hope.

Life is NUTS!



P.S. My debut picture book Doll-E 1.0 publishes Spring 2018 by Little, Brown!

P.S.S. I don’t recommend LASIK :)


Comments: »

  • Shanda, what a warrior you have been through all of this. You have truly shown what it means to “push through” hard times, trust in God, trust in your family, stay committed to seeing your dreams come true. We are so very proud of you and I’m so glad to be part of your sweet family! Cannot wait to see what the future holds – your girls will grow up knowing what a strong and wonderful Mom and Dad they have. “Teamwork makes the dream work” as sweet Brooke always says! Love you so! Thanks so much for sharing your story with all of us.

    Comment by Pam Williams — June 15, 2017 @ 5:18 pm
  • Thanks, Aunt Pam! I’ve witnessed you push through your own struggles too! Love you!

    Comment by Shanda — June 15, 2017 @ 5:21 pm
  • Oh Shanda, I got to “know” you through #PBPitch just recently and this story breaks my heart. I am so sorry to hear about your health issues. I can’t imagine the fear and anxiety it would be for anyone with vision issues, much less for an artist. I loved to read about your strength and your support from your husband and have only good thoughts and prayers for you!

    Comment by Debra K Shumaker — June 15, 2017 @ 6:05 pm
  • Thank you, Debra! I know everybody struggles with some thing at some point, and this is mine. But I believe it’ll turn out ok. I have learned that the sour makes the sweet even sweeter. Thanks for your prayers!

    Comment by Shanda — June 15, 2017 @ 6:13 pm
  • You have been through so much this year Shanda. And I am so incredibly proud of you- to have been faced with so much and to be so strong. Your family and especially Ben has been amazing for you and I am incredibly grateful 4 your friendship.You are a hero to me and you’re on your way to being a famous author /illustrator with one of the most incredible stories ever!!I cannot wait to see how many lives you touch through your writing your illustrating and your story. Yes, God has been near you the whole time and He is making something beautiful out of your difficult story. Your daughters don’t need to look to the movies to meet Wonder Woman!! love you!! -Bon :)

    Comment by Bonnie Clark — June 15, 2017 @ 9:07 pm
  • Thank you, sweet Bonnie!!!

    Comment by Shanda — June 15, 2017 @ 9:09 pm
  • Wow,wow!! Quite some roller coaster experiences. I wish you, Ben and your girls God’s continued guidance and success (penned by – Ralph Waldo Emerson )as follows:
    To laugh often and much;
    to win the respect of intelligent people
    and the affection of children;
    to earn the appreciation of honest critics
    and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
    to leave the world a bit better,
    whether by a healthy child,
    a garden patch
    or a redeemed social condition;
    to know even one life has breathed easier
    because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.

    Comment by Norman Campbell — June 16, 2017 @ 7:00 am
  • Girrrrl, life IS nuts!!! I admire you & applaud you for sharing. I can imagine the anxiety this must have caused- I’ve been there with anxiety so bad you think you’re dying. I don’t wish those panic attacks on ANYone. Happy to hear good things have come your way! And, we all gain weight through different times! **raises hand**

    Comment by Kristen Tracey — June 16, 2017 @ 6:46 pm
  • You are one of my favorite people! I love your hilarious honest take on life that I get to see through Instagram!!!

    Comment by Shanda — June 16, 2017 @ 7:25 pm
  • Oh Shanda! I had NO idea. I am so very sorry for your loss and struggles that accompanied it. So incredibly happy and proud of you for your amazing accomplishments (I knew it was just a matter of time!) May I call you soon? Would love to catch up. Xoxo

    Comment by Lori — June 17, 2017 @ 6:23 pm
  • I would LOVE that!

    Comment by Shanda — June 17, 2017 @ 11:31 pm
  • Oh my goodness, Shanda! What a story! I am so sorry to hear of your trials and tribulations but how wonderful your testimony regarding both the Lord and your dear husband through it all. And fabulous news about the book deal!!!
    I can’t wait to see the first and anticipate the second!

    Comment by Jo S. Kittinger — June 17, 2017 @ 8:41 pm
  • Thank you, Jo!

    Comment by Shanda — June 17, 2017 @ 11:31 pm
  • Shanda,
    I know many people will be helped by reading your story. You are beautiful inside and out, and your talent always amazes me. Happy Father’s Day today to Ben. Your girls are lucky to have BOTH of you!

    Comment by Vaughan Dickson — June 18, 2017 @ 1:59 pm
  • Thanks, Vaughan!

    Comment by Shanda — June 18, 2017 @ 2:59 pm
  • What a crazy ride you have had. I am so glad you shared your story and seem to be coming out on top.

    Comment by Ginger — June 21, 2017 @ 2:25 am
  • Thank you, Ginger!

    Comment by Shanda — June 21, 2017 @ 5:26 am
  • Hi Shanda, I don’t know you, but your so happily sad story moved me. Congratulations on your first book and being on the way of getting well. I would like to recommend a book for you called “The Healing Code” by the authors Alex Lloyd and Ben Johnson, both doctors, one also a former patient of ALS . I recommend reading the book first before you come to the actual Healing Codes, but OMG do they work combined with prayer. Please give it a try. To your health!

    Comment by Antje — June 21, 2017 @ 11:50 pm
  • Thanks so much! I’ll check this book out!

    Comment by Shanda — June 23, 2017 @ 12:49 am
  • Shanda,

    What an inspiring story!! Congrats on persevering in the face of adversity – achieving your publication goal must feel even more amazing because of it!! I am querying too and have heard it said time and time again that it is so important to find the RIGHT agent. Happy you found your match!! Erica sounds wonderful!!

    Comment by Angel — June 22, 2017 @ 2:00 am
  • Thank you, Angel!

    Comment by Shanda — June 23, 2017 @ 12:49 am

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author