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South Jordan Journal

Author Shares Inspiration with Elk Meadows Students

Jun 01, 2016 12:56PM ● By Julie Slama

Middle-grade author Lisel Shurtiff and Elk Meadows students act out part of one of her popular re-told fairytales.

Julie Slama | [email protected]

About 360 Elk Meadows fourth- through sixth-grade students learned that middle grade author Lisel Shurtiff painted the walls of her childhood home with Vaseline and used scissors to creatively cut people’s hair.
This was part of the introduction that her mother, school dance teacher Marlene Kay, shared with students on May 3.
“I knew she wrote in a journal, but none of us knew she’d be a writer,” Kay said. “I always told her, what I tell you all, do whatever you want, but give it your best.”
Shurtiff, who wrote the popular re-told fairytales of “Rump,” “Jack,” and “Red,” that recently was released and after two weeks, made the New York Times Best Seller List, said she hadn’t planned to become a writer.
“I struggled to get words on a page,” she said. “I struggled to find a book I wanted to read. It wasn’t until I found “The Boxcar Children” until I learned reading can be fun and adventurous.”
Shurtiff said she still owns that first book of the series to this day.
Her first story, “Tortie’s Wish,” won her first place at her elementary school in the Reflections contest.
“You all have ideas, great ideas, The ideas take time, energy and can grow into a story, invention or a company. Your ideas can change the world, but you have to give them time and energy,” she told the students.
Shurtluff wrote several stories, many going unpublished before she wrote “Rump.”
“I once threw out an entire manuscript I spent a year on. Sometimes, not all ideas are the right answers and even when you can find the right idea, it can take a lot of rewriting, just as your teachers have you do here at school. I used to not like revisions, but now I love it. It’s like realizing there is a diamond in the lump of coal,” she said.
It was her name that helped inspire her to write “Rump.”
“I got teased when I was younger. I was called ‘Liesl the Diesel’ or ‘Liesl the Weasel.’ Names are important,” she said, adding that she’d had to spell her last name as she’s been asked if it’s “Shirtless?” “So when I got to think of it, it inspired me to look at Rumpelstiltskin’s name and what if our names are our destiny? There’s a lot of his story we don’t know. We don’t know why he is named Rumpelstiltskin, where he came from, how he knows the miller’s daughter is in trouble, how he knows how to turn straw into gold and what he wants to do with her first born child. The more I thought of it, the more I realized I could write the story where Rumpelstiltskin could be the hero, but what if he didn’t know all of his name or his destiny?”
In her book, “Jack,” she loosely bases his character off of her brother.
“It’s revenge for all that teasing he gave me when I was younger. He really was a rascal,” she said.
In the story, it’s just not a retold “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but it’s the story of where the giant steals from Jack’s family and village and then, takes his father and others away. Jack goes off in search of his dad, but didn’t realize his sister followed him into the adventure.
The retold story of “Red” was one that was a challenge to Shurtliff.
“I knew I wanted to write the story. They had met in Rump and I like story of Little Red Riding Hood, but I couldn’t get it right. It was my grandmother who was the inspiration for granny. Red loves her granny just as much as I loved mine, so more than anything else, she realizes she needs to go on a journey to save her.
Her next book will be “Grump,” based on a character in the “Snow White and Seven Dwarves,” although Shurtliff warns it is not the same character as in the Disney story. Then, she will branch out to write a time travel series.
Throughout her writing, she still uses the journal her mom mentioned to express herself.
“Sometimes, I can’t figure out my thoughts until I write it down,” she said. “I’ve learned how to express myself and become a better person, friend and communicator because of wri