The February See Jane Write Member of the Month is Mandy Shunnarah.

Mandy is the bibliophile behind the book blog Off the Beaten Shelf.  

“I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember,” Mandy says. But it was in fourth grade when she realized just how special her relationship with reading was.

“That was when I noticed that other kids who finished their work early would draw, talk, or pass notes, but I would always grab a book,” she says.

Mandy has been a part of See Jane Write for years, often volunteering to lend a helping hand at events and always being supportive of other members. Mandy recently moved to Ohio, but stays connected to her fellow Janes through the See Jane Write Facebook group.

Recently I had a chat with Mandy about books, blogging, and why she loves being a Jane.

Tell See Jane Write readers more about your blog. What can readers find there?

I write about books, reading, writing, and libraries. I share books I love, discuss diversity issues in publishing and the quirks of reading culture, and share my interactions with books, as they’re a huge part of my life. I feel like my life is made so much more complete because I get to vicariously live the lives of all these characters I read about, so my goal is to inspire people to read more.

What tips would you give for someone who wants to read more but just can’t find the time?

I would say to get really creative. Think about all the blocks of time during your day where you can multitask and fill them with audiobooks. Maybe you’ve got a commute to work, or there’s a line at the coffee shop, or all your co-workers are going out to eat at a restaurant you hate so you go somewhere else. Maybe you’ve got dishes to wash and laundry to fold. Maybe your partner is engrossed in something that you have no interest in whatsoever. These are all things that you can do while also listening to an audiobook. Reading doesn’t just have to mean curling up for hours in front of a fireplace with a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Sure, that’s fun, but few people have time to do that every day, so audiobooks can be a great option for putting a book in your head while doing other things. I’ve even started to enjoy tasks I previously hated, like doing the dishes, because I know it gives me a chance to listen to a book.

Tell us more about your Facebook community.

I started the Off the Beaten Shelf Book Nerds community on Facebook because I constantly run across book news on the internet and wanted a fun way to share it with the book lovers in my life. We share things that are both serious and funny, like the latest Pulitzer winners and funny pictures with #booknerdproblems. The group has people who read 50+ books a year and people who read 5. It’s a strictly no judgement zone, and everyone is super friendly. Anyone who loves books and wants to read more is welcome to join.

You’re in school studying library science? Tell us more about that and what you’d like to do with that degree.

Yes! What I love about library science is that it seamlessly blends the old and the new, the historical and the technological, the art and the science. That’s the intersection where I feel most at home and I’m drawn to the opportunities library science presents in this arena. My dream is to digitize a history museum’s 3D collections (like making digital renderings of things like sculptures). So I’ll be working with historic objects, parsing out the information from those objects that people want to know, then using technology to make that information accessible to them in innovative ways.

There may be people who can’t visit museums due to disabilities or classrooms of children across the world who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come to the museum, but if they can see the object online—zoom in, be able to click on different areas to see facts, have a mini library of online resources showing prior research on the object and the time period the object is from—they can still benefit from the museum’s work. Museums exist for the express purpose of public access, so I love the idea of making the museum accessible outside its physical walls.

mandy reads

What do you think it is about books that captivates you so?

Books captivate me because, with fiction, humans are building entire worlds based solely on their imaginations and creating people that in most cases don’t exist and articulating these really complex emotions. To me, that’s the closest to being a god that humans can ever hope to achieve.

Can you tell read why you choose to continue to be a part of See Jane Write even though you no longer live in Birmingham?

Because Javacia doesn’t make junk. Everything she does through See Jane Write is chocked full of value, practical tips and examples, and teachings that guarantee results. The level of care she puts into this group and the love and attention she gives her tribe astounds me. I’ve been a member of See Jane Write since I was 21 and I’m 25 now and don’t want to see a day when I don’t have this incredible woman and the community she’s built supporting my dreams. Even now that I’ve moved to Ohio, I still get the benefit of the Facebook group, her informative Periscopes, The Jane Jumpstart, virtual coaching sessions, her online courses, and recorded events. See Jane Write might be based in Birmingham, but women everywhere can benefit. I’m practically begging her to start a chapter in Columbus, Ohio!

Be sure to follow Mandy’s blog Off the Beaten Shelf