Do You Know Sheila Black?

Sheila BlackSheila is the new Executive / Artistic Director at Gemini Ink, and is new to San Antonio. She was born in Minneapolis, but moved around quite a bit growing up, thanks to her father’s career in the Foreign Service. She lived in Newfoundland, Brazil (both Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo), the Bahamas, Washington DC, London Paris, and West Africa. After graduating from high school, she spent a year at Bennington College in Vermont, and then transferred to and graduated from Columbia in NYC. She majored in French, which she still speaks today, but admittedly doesn’t use very much.

After college she stayed in NYC for a while working for a book “packager” that specialized in high-end children’s books. She did a lot of editing for well known adult authors who were taking a stab at writing children’s books. Her employer asked her to write a book of her own, to which she readily agreed. She wrote The Story of the Easter Bunny, which became a best selling children’s book.

She met her husband — Duncan — in NYC. He was an Oregon boy, and they soon moved from NYC to Sisters Oregon, near Bend. Sisters had a population of approximately 600, so it was quite a change from her life in NYC! She continued her career in writing and editing as a freelancer. She worked on a number of books, both as a writer and an editor. One of her most significant accomplishments from that time in her life was A Treasury of Children’s Literature. She wrote all of the stories in it (which were a ‘re-telling’ of popular fairy tales). That book is still in print and has stayed in the top one hundred for bestselling children’s books on Amazon.

In 1996 she went to graduate school at the University of Montana in Missoula. Two years later, she received two graduate degrees… a Master of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and poetry. Soon after, she moved to New Mexico so Duncan could attend graduate school there. She began teaching at New Mexico State University in its MFA program.

It was during her time in New Mexico that she focused on her real passion — poetry. After writing over 40 books — mostly children’s books, young adult books, and some cook books and science fiction — she started her first book of poetry.

Of all her writing work, there are two particular accomplishments of which she is most proud:

First, she was a compiler and editor of Beauty as a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, which included poems and essays by writers with disabilities. This was a groundbreaking book that was chosen by the American Library Association as a Notable Book for 2012.

Second, earlier this year, she won a Witter Bynner Fellowship Award, chosen by Poet Laureate Phillip Levine.

In addition to writing and teaching, she also started a new career while in New Mexico: doing work for non-profit organizations. She took a job as director with an organization that provided support services to colonias, which are unincorporated communities of mostly impoverished residents. Her group assisted colonias in determining community needs (for example, roads, sources of water, electricity) and helped them put together plans and communicate with the government regarding their needs.

This work was significant for Sheila because it broadened her experience to include writing grants and doing non-profit programming. Her well-rounded background in literature, writing, and non-profit work made her a perfect candidate for her current position at Gemini Ink! She started her new job on August 1st.

Sheila and Duncan have three children. The oldest — Annabelle — is currently attending college in California. Their son Walker is 13 and very interested in computers and architecture. Their youngest — Eliza — is 12, plays the trombone, and has recently transitioned from a tomboy into being a teenage girl. Their family is rounded out by two dogs and two cats. The entire crew moved this summer from New Mexico to their new home in Monticello Park.

In her spare time, Sheila enjoys cooking, throwing dinner parties, reading for recreation, watching movies, and swimming.

While Sheila and her family live in Monticello Park, she works in Southtown and thinks it’s a fabulous neighborhood. She believes that the residents are lucky to live here because it’s a beautiful and historic area and the businesses are unique — not found on every main street USA. She’s also impressed that is hasn’t become gentrified or exclusive, but includes an amazing cross-section of people who give it a lot of character and energy. She also loves that it’s walkable!

In the short time that she’s been here, Sheila has been to multiple Happy Hour get-togethers at La Frite. Say hello the next time you see her there, and stop by Gemini Ink on Friday evening for its party to welcome Sheila to the Gemini Ink family!

Originally published September 5, 2012, in the Lavaca & Friends Happy Hour update.

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