By Brenda Sexton
Sheila Shannon threw a gratitude party and a book-launching celebration.
For Shannon the two went hand-in-hand. She’s a hairdresser and a writer, two professions she never dreamed would be attached to her moniker, and she has her friends, family and supportive customer base to thank for both.
“I’m blessed, I’m blessed,” said Enumclaw native Shannon, after signing her self-published memoir “Shear Determination: A View from Behind the Chair” for more than two-hours for hundreds of people at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Enumclaw Sept. 13.
“My community’s the best,” she said of her hometown. “I’m filled with the gift of incredible kindness.”
She opens her book with, “I am a listener, a counselor, a confident, a mind reader, a healer, a priest, a soothsayer, a matchmaker, a know it all, a sex therapist, a loan officer, a cheerleader, a magician, an adviser, a parent and a friend.”
She also explains how once, she was a reluctant stylist.
“I never wanted to be a hairdresser,” Shannon said. “I had this fun, adventurous life.”
That was until her heart was broken, and to move on with her life a friend suggested she join him at beauty school. Despite a self-described hair phobia and a lack of what she calls “talent,” she graduated.
When push came to shove later in life, the single mom turned reluctantly to hairdressing to make her way.
“I never thought I’d make it,” she said.
That was 20 years ago.
“Likeablity, that’s what kept me in the business,” she said, describing her first shop on McHugh Street and her current place Madison’s on Davis. “My customers supported me for 20 years.”
That’s the gratitude part.
“It was sheer determination that I succeeded in this business,” she said.
And a gift for telling a story.
The book is about Shannon, but it’s also about the people she’s encountered in those years and how they’ve changed her life. It’s filled with cut-up humor and two-hankie tear-jerkers.
“The people who have sat in this chair have enriched my life and made it so much better,” she said, “ordinary people who are not so ordinary.”
Telling a story and writing a book are two different worlds.
Shannon started honing her craft with smaller pieces. Two have appeared in Washington Thoroughbred magazine. Her humorous piece title “The Perfect Kentucky Derby Outfit” and another titled “Irish Pinch,” won her rave reviews and gave her the validation she needed to move forward with her dream of writing a book.
Shannon called upon friends to help her get her words down on paper.
“I can tell a story, but I’m not a grammar person,” she said, and apologizes for errors the trained eye might find in her book. For Shannon, a ghostwriter was not an option and self-publishing was a conscious choice.
“I didn’t want someone to tell me what I could and couldn’t write about,” she said. She also didn’t want her voice and razor-sharp wit to get lost in the telling of a story.
It’s about Shannon, but the book is really snippets of daily life in a hair salon and the friendships that have been formed during that time.
The book jacket and opening pages are filled with praise from clients and friends, some of whom have found themselves in the pages.
“For me, the best writing must pass the, ‘I laughed, I cried test,’ and Sheila Shannon passes with flying colors,’” wrote John Loftus on the jacket.
For Shannon, it’s more than just a good read, it’s the fulfillment of a dream.
“Next to raising my daughter,” she wrote in the dedication. “The finest and the most daunting thing I have ever done has been writing a book with a beginning, a middle and an end. This whole thing, the act of doing, has shown me that I am somebody I only dreamed I could be.”
She dedicates the book to everyone who’s stood behind the chair, everyone who sat in her chair, and anyone with the sheer determination to carry out a dream.
Sheila Shannon’s book “Shear Determination: A View from Behind the Chair” is available for $14.95 at sheardetermination.com. She’s also available to speak to book clubs.