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May 2, 2010

Meet Shirley Schine Carlin, Mother of Cathleen Schine, Author of THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT

Posted by Anonymous

After some discouraging remarks from a teacher, Cathleen Schine thought her writing days were over. Mom knew better. Here Shirley Schine Carlin shares how she helped her daughter through a writing rough patch as well as the animal-themed stories that were a big hit in the household.

Cathleen-Schine_150x110.jpgDid you read to your daughter as a child? What did you read?

She loved a book about a little pig that was so messy he got sent to the laundry with the sheets. At the end, she would sob, “Piggy got sent to the laundry…” then beg to have it read again. I loved reading her OVER AND OVER by Charlotte Zolotov with illustrations by Garth Willams. I read her fairy tales --- because I liked them. And when she was a little older, around 10, we read Robert Frost out loud together. I also read her THE THREE BEARS in French. It was so satisfying to read in French to an audience that wouldn’t correct me.

How old was your daughter when she started reading?

I think she was five. It was the summer before kindergarten. I was a reading teacher, and I gave her the book I used, HEY WINGO, and taught her the basics and then she learned the rest on her own.

Did your child have a favorite series/author growing up?

She read books by Albert Payson Terhune about heroic collies.

Did you have any book or reading rituals in your house? (Examples would be: Going to the library or bookstore together, talking about the books you have read, sharing books, storytime)

When she was small, she had a story every night after supper, before she went to bed. Sometimes during the day after a nap. Later we used to read as an activity, everyone with their own book, in our den.

When did you know your daughter was going to be a writer?

When she was 9 or 10 years old, I just knew it, and I gave her a book called so you want to be a writer. When she was 12 she was discouraged by a teacher when she wrote an essay on Richard Wright and announced she would never write anything again. I gave her essay to a professor of mine, a pioneer in the field of reading named Gladys L. Persons, and to Nat Hentoff, an old friend. Nat said the teacher was an idiot and Miss Persons told Cathy she was a born writer, so she felt better after that.

Can you remember your daughter writing as a child?

Yes. She wrote stories about peculiar princes and princesses and illustrated them.

Do you read advance copies of your daughter’s work?

No. She never shows them to me until she’s done.

Do you have a favorite of your daughter’s books?

Yes. THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT, but I feel a great affection for all of them.

What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

Novels, short stories, essays, biographies --- I just enjoy good writing.

What authors, besides your daughter’s books, do you read?

I have just been reading a lot of Sybille Bedford, I loved Jane Gardam’s MAN IN A WOODEN HAT. I also like Donna Leon’s mysteries set in Venice and I love Alan Furst. I read David McCullough’s wonderful biography of John Adams recently. I read Colette, Dickens and I just discovered the poetry of Ilya Bernstein and Samuel Menashe at a reading. I also read catalogues when I can’t sleep.

Cathleen Schine is the author of the New York Times bestseller THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT.