Pictured: Author Katrina Shawver. (Left)
Pictured: Shawver's book  “HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America,” which was released last November. (RIght)
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The Power of the Written Word

03/21/18

Shea Stanfield
Author Katrina Shawver is “passionate about the power of the written word to influence opinion, provoke discussion, and inform the community.” 

Her “accidental” writing career began in 1996.  A mother of three children under the age of eight, she was frustrated with the Arizona Republic’s school coverage.  Shawver penned a letter to the editor pointing out she felt the parents’ perspective had been overlooked in their article.

“I’m a mom and have an English degree.  If you don’t find anyone else to write and offer another perspective on schools, then I will,” is how she ended her letter to the newspaper.

Well, six months later the Republic offered Shawver a regular column in a new community section.  She accepted, putting her on the path to a long, successful writing career and a date with history.

Shawver has called Phoenix home since the age of ten when her father was transferred from Philadelphia for his job.  She graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and it wasn’t long before Shawver landed a job in software support for a large state agency, where she also met her husband Rick.

Shawver and Rick decided to stay in Phoenix to raise their family, with the added bonus of all four grandparents living locally. 

“Being asked to write for the newspaper changed the direction of my life, improved my self-confidence, and taught me two lessons,” said Shawver reflecting on her decision to accept the Republic’s offer. “First, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it, secondly, you don’t get anything unless you ask for it,”

Working in journalism has lessons to teach as well; a deadline is a deadline; writer’s block is NOT an option; you will be edited, get over it; and check your sources and verify your facts.  As a result, Shawver has become empowered and bolder in her writing, leading to her most ambitious project to date.

The common threads of Shawver’s reading, writing and community preferences began to weave together.  Always a fan of biographies and non-fiction literature she was captivated by the stories of people’s lives. Then she met eighty-five-year-old Henry Zguda fifteen years ago and his life, and Shawver’s writing were about to walk on the main stage to take the spotlight. 

His story was a different perspective on the Holocaust, this time experienced through the Catholic Polish perspective.  Zguda (1917-2003) was born in Krakow, Poland.  He grew up to become skilled in languages, a competitive swimming champion and coach, as well as, a water polo player. 

In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland from the west and Russia invaded from the east.  By 1942 Henry was arrested by Germans and sent to Montelupich Prison.  From there he went on to survive Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Flossenburg and a death march, before being liberated at Dachau at the end of the World War II.  

When Shawver initially interviewed Zguda and found his story so compelling she went on to write “HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America,” released in November 2017 by Koehler Books.  

Zguda related his personal story to Shawver in interviews and with the use of his exceptional memory. He also had a surprising cache of original Holocaust-era documents, most were published for the first time in this book.

Shawver is presenting a writing workshop at the Desert Foothills Library
in Cave Creek, on Friday April 6, 2018 @ 1:00 pm for more information and registration visit www.desertfoothillslibrary.org. She will also be a featured presenter at the 2018 Genocide Awareness Conference in April at Scottsdale Community College during the week of April 9, 2018.

Shawver can be contacted at Katrina@Shawvershawver.com, visit her website at www. Katrinashawver.com. For further information on the Prescott talk visit www.peregrinebookcompany.com or call 928-445-9000.

Contact Arts Columnist, Shea Stanfield on flowingquill@yahoo.com.