Email Samantha here.
Short Bio: Samantha Schutz is the author of the acclaimed memoir I Don't Want to Be Crazy, which was a New York Public Library Best Book for Teens and a Voices of Youth Advocates Poetry Pick. You Are Not Here was her first novel. Samantha lives and works in New York City as a children's book editor.
Long Bio: Queens, New York, December 1978. I was born too early and too small. Weighing just shy of four pounds, my father said I looked like a chicken. My mother said I looked like a china doll. I’m not sure what my three-year-old sister thought of me, but I’ve heard stories about toddlers trying to put their new siblings in the trash.
Elementary school started out okay. I have a few select memories from kindergarten: a student’s grandfather, an Italian chef, coming to our class to cook squid on a hot plate; building a toy car out of pieces of wood; and putting milk money into a very, very small brown envelope.
The next few years were mostly all right. The highs included: performing as Jackie and the Beanstalk in a third-grade play, reading Choose Your Own Adventure books (and always cheating), and getting up to “knee-zies” in Chinese jump rope. The lows included: hiding in the bathroom whenever math homework was collected in the fifth grade, frequent feelings of déjà vu, and being told I had “skeleton hands” by the boy I had a crush on.
Sixth grade was the beginning of a new era—private school—where the classes were small and my inability to do math was quickly discovered. This is also when I wrote my first short story. It was based on an old photograph of a woman standing in the woods with her back to the camera.
My teacher gave me an A, something I didn’t often get. My parents went crazy for the story, and my seeming maturity. The consensus was that I had talent. [You can see that story here and a book of poetry I created in maybe 6th or 7th grade here.]
At some point in high school I started keeping a journal. Every few months I’d go to the drug store to buy a new marble composition book. I’d spend a lot of time decorating the cover with stickers, drawings, photos, and cut outs from magazines. And when I thought the cover was sufficiently cool, I’d start writing in it.
When I was a senior in high school, I took AP Writing. Our teacher required us to write ten journal pages a week. I think I was one of the few students in the class that didn’t mind. But by then I was already a journal addict. I couldn’t go anywhere without it. And if I left my notebook at home by mistake, I would write on scraps of paper, napkins, my hand, anything. (This was also the year I discovered Anais Nin--the queen of journal writing.)
There were two things I loved most about having a journal. The first was that it filled my time. Waiting for a train? No problem. Stuck on the bus? All set. Trying to ignore my classmates during my free period? Super. The second thing I loved was how my journals felt. Not the weight of the book, but the pages. I loved running my hands over my writing, over the impressions made by my pen. It was like my own version of Braille.
After high school, I went to Skidmore College in upstate New York. I still kept journals at the time, but used them less and less. At school, I focused on creative writing and literature, but also took several art and dance classes. I had all sorts of jobs while in college. I worked in the school cafeteria and The Children’s Museum at Saratoga. I also assisted a genius English professor for three years.
Toward the end of college, I got my first taste of being published. Several of my poems (and one photograph) were included in the 1999 and 2000 editions of Folio, Skidmore’s literary Journal. I also spent a momentous semester abroad in Paris my junior year. (All this and so much more is covered in I Don’t Want to Be Crazy—a memoir based on my experiences from ages 17 to about 21.)
After college I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to do something that involved kids, art, and writing—I just wasn’t sure how to put it all together. Happily, by the end of the summer, I scored a job as an Editorial Assistant at major publisher. That was in the year 2000. I’ve worked in children’s publishing ever since and am currently the Publishing Director for Licensed Publishing at Little, Brown. As Publishing Director, I oversee a group of editors and strategically seek out new business relationships to ensure my team has a well-rounded and thriving portfolio for children and young adults based on the hottest TV shows, movies, video games, toys, and more.
I currently live in Brooklyn, NY and can often be found sitting on my porch (ok, this is just a really big fire escape), going to the farmers’ market, making pancakes, and listening to “This American Life Podcast” while on the subway. I also like to go to events like The Moth, Rooftop Films, and the Air Guitar Championships.
My first book, I Don’t Want to Be Crazy, is a memoir about anxiety disorder written in verse. I began writing it when I was 23 and it was published when I was 26. My second book, You Are Not Here, is a verse-novel about grief and loss.