In 2019 I found out what’s been wrong with me for 13 years. The Mystery Illness, the thing I knew was there but couldn’t prove or name.

At some point, quite possibly when my son was born, I aquired a tear in my spinal dura. It leaked for so long that it became fused with a spinal vein. For years and years, I was dumping spinal fluid into that vein, keeping my brain and nervous system in a constant state of starvation.

My thoughts & feelings toward the medical community will be a whole other series of posts, something to explore if and when I am finally on the other side of this illness. Unfortunately, receiving a diagnosis was only one part of the journey. Right now, I am still fighting to FIX it. I have had multiple procedures including two surgeries–one in North Carolina and one in Los Angeles. Despite this, my most recent imaging shows that I am in fact STILL LEAKING. Most likely because (although I have not officially got the say-so from the medical community, I am de facto quite sure) I have a very fragile spinal dura, on account of my polycystic kidney disease, which–I have since learned–is a disease of the connective tissue.

My last surgery restored much of the energy and functionality that i’ve lost over the last year and a half (I no longer have to walk with a cane, amd I can drive, read, type, and carry on a conversation), However, I’m still in extreme amounts of pain. It appears I may also have a degenerative spine condition.

I am in the process of filing for disability. I do not run workshops or get out to literary events in my local community. My online magazine is on hiatus, and i haven’t written creatively in months. I am perpetually in a state of waiting for results of a test or for someone to get back to me for something. This week, the wait is for a new MRI of my spine so that the surgeon in Califoria and his team can determine if one of my previously existing leaks (yes, actually there were two) appears to be active. There’s a lot riding on Yes or No. Or maybe not. IDK. We have to take these things one day at a time.

In the interim, I am doing my best to build up my strength and to process my grief. In the midst of what I can only describe as a major body / medical trauma, I lost my Mom–and I lost her in a way that fucking ripped my guts out. I was absolutely shredded. And then, after several months of poor recovery and trying to relearn my relationship with my father, who is suffering his own body horror and grief, I found out we’re about to lose my one surviving brother.

Although we had been estranged for many years before Mom’s death, my brother is one of the most precious people on this earth to me. I was closer to him than I ever was with Shawn, and as much as I hate things he has done and who he can be, I can’t bear the thought of him going… and the fact that my nuclear family now consists of two in the Summerlands and one (if not two) with one foot out the door. Assuming I survive my own illness, it realistically won’t be long before I’m the only one left. And I’m not fucking ready for that.

Needless to say, I’m a tempest of grief in the teapot of my own little world. And I’m so very tired, and even still dancing every day with unceasing physical pain. I’m very much afraid the latest reprieve from my worser symptoms is only temporary–I felt close to death myself this time last year. I can’t bear the thought of going back there. I’m too in love with life, and too full of ambition and ideas. I have too damn much to do.

The one thing that is keeping the balance for me is this mantra:

My grandmother (who also passed away 13 months ago) is my spirit animal. My little Polish totem. I think of her all the time, and how she kept herself busy and healthy (relatively) until she was 97 years old. She was a force of nature, a spitfire who saw what needed to be done and did it. I have my sights set on emulating her; I want to wring the very last bit out of this life that I was given, no matter how sad or tragic pieces of it may be. I want to live to be an old woman who has made a difference. I want to leave this world, and my family, better than I found it.

Likewise, I’m trying to be as strong as I have always seen my brother to be: a warrior. In his case, it’s always been him against the world–that’s the tragic thing about his story. As for me, I just want to overcome the slings and arrows so that I can do good, fight the good fight. For everyone. That’s always been what I come back to, this feeling of hope and righteousness. In either case, you have to be fierce to win.

As for Mom–I’m only just lately realizing what I inherited from her, really. The dramatic part of me, the witchiness, the love of being the center of attention. The lust and passion. That’s all her. All things I feel robbed of right now, like I was robbed of her. That, too, is a whole other chapter.

But that’s it. Where I am right now, as we cross into a new decade. Hoping for better changes this time around.

Freshly signed and enspelled, copies of my new book will be flying out from the Newark post office forthwith.

If you too would like a signed copy (complete with personalized spell), you can purchase one here (use the Buy Now button).

Local folks can also pick up a copy from me in person at one of these upcoming events:

A Plague of Shadows Book Launch — Celebrate the publication of A Plague of Shadows with the Written Remains Writers Guild. Readings, Prizes (including a free copy of The Year of the Witch), Food and Drink, Music, Fun, and Dark Arts Gallery Exhibit! Newark Arts Alliance.
Saturday, October 6, 2018 ~ 6 – 9 PM

Spelling Our Voices: The Power of Writing Magic and Fiction Witches — A Written Remains Get Out and Write workshop featuring Shannon Connor Winward (me!) at Hockessin Public Library.
Saturday, October 27, 2018 ~ 1 – 3:30 PM

Hockessin Art & Book Fair —  A celebration of local indie authors and artists at the Hockessin Community Recreation Center.  Come visit “The Poets’ Corner” Shannon Connor Winward (also a featured reader), author of Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press) and The Year of the Witch (Sycorax Press) and Lisa Lutwyche, author of A Difficult Animal (Saddle Road Press).
Saturday, November 10, 2018 ~ 11 AM – 3 PM


Actually, there are more than thirteen ways to get nominated for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry’s Association’s Rhysling Award.  In fact this year there are 154 individual and unique poems up for consideration (which, if I’m not mistaken, is a record high).  Here are two, which happen to be mine, which I am posting so you can read them, as they are featured today on SpecPo, the SFPA’s official blog.

“Terran Mythology” first appeared in Analog Science Fiction & Fact (October 2016).  It is nominated for the 2017 Rhysling Award, Short Poem Category.

Terran Mythology

This talk of Old Earth is conflated,
it is—always was—a death garden
trash planet—
tree spines, titan turtle backs
native gutter talk.

No buried forests there, no vaulted mansions
tiered roadway arpeggios
beneath the dump-yards
no fish in those oceans
no thirteen stars in the sky.

It’s all folklore
piquant escape
from the firefields, factories
the appeal
of more than fortified water rations
in these populated ovens.

(As if deserts ever
birthed rivers
sustained “agrow-cultures”.
as if life evolved from mothers
from monkeys, was ever
but science spew.)

—Shannon Connor Winward

“Thirteen Ways to See a Ghost” won second place the SFPA’s 2016 Poetry Contest in the Long Poem catgory.  It is nominated for the 2017 Rhysling Award, Long Poem Category.

Thirteen Ways to See a Ghost

As a young woman, your mother finds a dead uncle watching her sleep. The chair is no longer wedged against the door.

Neighbors tell her the couple who owned this house first lost a child. Your mother found him. The crayon marks in her closet could have come from her own, but she sees him, not much taller than the mattress, circumnavigating the bed, as children do, while your father and the boys are sleeping.

You make a joke of it, but he bit her once, left marks, and how would you explain that?

There’s a closet under the basement stairs, a perfect Bat Cave and hiding place. Not-it once, your brother hears, distinctly, Hi. He forfeits the game.

You never found him, but you’ve lost enough in that closet.

Your mother cleans the Hazard house, a squat yellow colonial leftover spitting distance from the old capitol with roots under the New Castle cobblestone. It reeks of piss and centuries. The basement stairs are narrow, dank. She prefers to leave it to the cats until one she’s never seen before climbs out and growls, Get out. After that, she makes the owner leave the Mop-n-Glo upstairs.

“I’m supposed to be here,” she spits back. “You get out.”

You do the Garrett mansion by the Pennsylvania border, too, when it’s still a school. Your job is to flip chairs for the boys, collect bits too big for the vacuum mouth. You visit the animals, nose to their cedar-lined cages, and the human skull, and play outside on the hill alone. You don’t remember the house, just the trees and open sky, the town of Yorklyn sleepy and rustling below, but Mom says those basements go deeper than any should. There are three, one under the next, and no one is allowed to go past the first. Slaves slept down there. It’s darker than dark, and what breathes out at you is not about freedom.

Your grandfather slept in the basement until your mother kicked him out for whoring, and then he died. You don’t remember him, either.

In second grade you start a ghost club. You hold hands over the drainage grates at recess (because the dead prefer damp, dark places) and tell lost souls to move on. The other girls swear they can see them too.

In the basement of your parents’ house, your bags are packed. You are used to things sitting on the mattress, tugging the sheets, but that is no Casper-friendly child. That is man-sized. It is an absence of light, still there when you click on the lamp, but not after you scream. It doesn’t want you to go.

You worked nights at the old school below where the Garrett house burned down. A caretaker haunts it, walking the halls, rustling papers, shutting doors—but this story is not about you.

When they escort your parents to the room where your brother’s body lies waiting, your mother stammers, “I’ve never met anyone who died,” which, by any definition, just isn’t true.

—Shannon Connor Winward

UNDOING WINTER is the winner of the
for Best Speculative Poetry Chapbook!!


Thank you, thank you, thank you

to the members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Winter has officially melted.  I feel warm and tingly in all kinds of places!


July, 2016

ETTT logo

Eye to the Telescope Issue #22


edited by Shannon Connor Winward

As guest editor for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s online magazine, Eye to the Telescope, I chose a theme close to my heart (and fitting for the month of October).

For this issue I am looking for more than thumps in the attic and pretty dead girls on a moonlit road. I want the unexpected, the unmeasured—I want poems that belie the limits of life and afterlife and what we think a ghost story should be. Give me phantoms and poltergeists, yes, bean-sidhe and È Guǐ, pathos or parody, space ship specters or transmigrating alien souls—I want any and all of it, as long the poem has meat on its bones.

No restrictions on genre or form (though “speculative” is a must). Graphic violence or gore will be a hard sell. More than anything, I want to be moved.

Full guidelines here. Be sure to check out the current and back issues or visit to get a feel for what we mean by “speculative”.

SFPA logo

Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2016.

Dear Friends,

Winward_Shannon_Connor_CovAs you may have heard, my first collection of poetry was selected for publication through the New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition from Finishing Line Press.  The collection, titled UNDOING WINTER, will be released as a limited edition chapbook (short book) on June 21, 2014.

UNDOING WINTER contains some previously published poems along with others debuted especially for this collection.  With subjects ranging from romantic love to motherhood, fantasy to history, death to resurrection, UNDOING WINTER represents nearly twenty years of writing, and is an exciting milestone in my creative journey. 

UNDOING WINTER includes original, color cover art, “Moon Shadows”, by my long-time friend and mentor, Lisa Lutwyche.  Poet, playwright, watercolorist, and actor, Lisa has published in the US and the UK, and has taught Creative Writing and Watercolor at community arts centers for over twenty years.  

The press run for UNDOING WINTER will depend on the number of sales made during a special, pre-publication period that is going on NOW through APRIL 25th.  If you would like a copy, please don’t wait – you can reserve a copy online at Finishing Line Press.

The cost of the book is $14.00, with a special discounted shipping cost of $2.99 for orders placed by April 25th.

Please do pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.  I encourage you to place all orders by April 25th, as this will help determine the ultimate press run. 

All orders will be shipped after June 21, 2014. 

I want to give heartfelt thanks to my family and colleagues for your enthusiastic support, both personal and professional.  This has been an amazing year.


UNDOING WINTER – coming June 2014

Brigid's Brambles mod

“Brigid’s Brambles” by Shannon Connor Winward


Also very exciting: My first  poetry collection, UNDOING WINTER, has been contracted for publication by FINISHING LINE PRESS.

UNDOING WINTER is a mix of previously published poems and new work, in chapbook form.  The collection deals with speculative and mythological themes as well as biographical (or semi-biographical) material.

The release date is tentatively scheduled for June 21st, 2014, with advance copies and pre-publication sales beginning in mid-March.

I will, of course, post updates as they become available.  Watch this space!

Last week I promised some exciting news.  As the heading suggests, I have THREE very important announcements, the first of which is:


Emerging Artist Fellowship, Honorable Mention



This year I was thrilled to learn that I have been awarded Honorable Mention for the 2014 Emerging Artist Fellowship, sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts.  My application was in the Literature:Fiction category, and included excerpts from my novels TO THE TOUCH (currently in submissions) and COVENANT (in progress).  My work was recognized from among 115 participating artists from my home state.

The Delaware Division of the Arts is an agency of the State of Delaware. Together with its advisory body, the Delaware State Arts Council, the Division administers grants and programs that support artists and arts organizations, educate the public, increase awareness of the arts, and integrate the arts into all facets of Delaware life. Funding for Division programs is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware State Legislature, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.