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Mary Shaw
Profile by Dave Jenkinson.

Mary Shaw

Although Canada's women's and men's national hockey teams may have won gold at the Winter Olympics, another hockey team is also grabbing the nation's attention, especially that of its younger hockey fans. They are the Icehogs, a team captained by a delightful little guy known as Brady Brady. The double given name resulted from Brady's single-minded focus on hockey which required that he be called at least twice before his attention would be gained. Brady Brady's creative mother, in a double sense, is Mary Shaw.
    That Mary writes hockey-based books should not be a surprise given her long, continuing relationship with the game. "My brothers both played hockey, and I loved to skate, but I grew up playing ringette because they didn't really have girls' hockey then. I followed my brothers as they were growing up and got dragged to their games everywhere." Mary's connection with hockey has continued first through her husband, Brad, and now via her children.
    Mary was born in Oshawa, ON, on March 20, 1965, but, because her father worked for Bell Canada, she lived in many places until she was in grade four when the family finally settled in Waterloo. However, moving from city to city, even country to country, came back into Mary's life when she married Brad, a professional hockey player.
    "When I met Brad, I actually didn't know he was a hockey player until we had dated for about a week, and then he told me. I met him in the summer of 1982 when I was 17 and he was 18. A Kitchener native, Brad was then playing junior hockey here in Ottawa where we now live. We dated about a month before he hopped into his car to make the trip back to Ottawa to play junior. For two years, I would jump on the Greyhound bus and visit him in Ottawa, or I'd go with his parents to catch his games in Belleville, London, Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener, Guelph, Peterborough, wherever he was playing. I love watching him play, and when he retired from the National Hockey League three years ago, I was sad too because even now I miss watching him play. He's such a really good skater, fluid and smart. You can just see the wheels spinning when he's playing. I miss watching him though I'm having a ball watching my two older children, Taylore and Brady, play now."
    Mary has an Arts degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, but that is not the campus where she began her university studies. "I started at the University of Guelph and put in two years there. I loved that campus. It's so beautiful, but then I switched to Wilfrid Laurier in my third year because I'd gotten a job in Waterloo. I actually made the trek back and forth between Waterloo and Guelph for about the first two weeks before thinking, 'This is crazy. I might as well just move back home and switch to Laurier.'"
    "When I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. My grandfather and one of my uncles were veterinarians. It's funny now, Taylore, my oldest, who's 12, wants to be a veterinarian too. I think I reached a point where I realized, 'Oh, too much school,' and I didn't have the marks, and so I gave up that dream." In her Arts degree, Mary majored in history and English with the intention of teaching high school. "I was still dating Brad at the time, and he was playing for the Hartford Whalers farm team, and so he was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a bit and then he was in Binghamton, New York. When Brad signed his first NHL contract, he bought a car with his signing bonus, and he left the car with me in Guelph so that I could come see him in Binghamton. Whenever I had breaks at school, I'd jump in the car and go visit him. I put on a lot of miles."
    "After three or four years of playing in the minors, Brad decided that he wasn't going to play in the NHL and said, 'This is crazy. I'm not going to make it. I'm going to go over to Europe.' At the time, even now, you could make a lot of tax free money in Europe. They'd pay for your apartment and your car. In June of 1988, we got married, and Brad left for Italy in August. I joined him in September, and so we kind of had an extended honeymoon in Italy. He played in Varese, an hour north of Milan. I think I cried for the first three weeks I was there I was so homesick. As well, even though the Italians drove on the same side of the road as we do, I was afraid to drive. It was just every man for himself, and I was afraid to get behind the wheel. Now, everybody's afraid to get into my car. I think my present driving habits are so bad because I drove in Italy. Seriously."
    "At the end of that season, we ended up in Hartford where we spent four years. There I was in the United States, a Canadian hockey wife with no green card, and so I couldn't work. One day I was flipping through a magazine and saw an ad for the Institute of Children's Literature in Redding, Connecticut. I wrote to them and started this correspondence course which took me about two years. In the meantime, I had Taylore, my oldest. I would just write my children's pieces and send them off to my instructor, and she would send them back. I remember writing a piece on zebra mussels which I thought was real interesting, but I never sent it off anywhere. Then, all of a sudden, everything you read was about zebra mussels because that's when there was sort of an epidemic of them. And I thought, 'Oh, I missed the boat. I should have sent the article out.'"
    After the 1991-92 NHL season, Brad was traded to the Ottawa Senators, a move that delighted Mary in some ways. "When Brad and I were dating back in his junior days with the Ottawa 67's, I always said to him, 'I would love to settle in Ottawa one day. I love this city.' When he got traded to the Senators, we bought a house and decided to call this home. We rented the house out while Brad was playing in other cities. While we were in Ottawa, I kind of put my writing aside because I had Brady. With a newborn child and a two and a half year-old Taylore at home and with my involvement in the Ottawa Senators' wives charities, I was just too busy to write."
    "Then in 1995, we ended up in the United States again this time with the Detroit Vipers. Both kids were in kindergarten or first or second grade by then, and so once more I picked up my pen. I wrote a story that I wanted to write because of an incident that occurred when the kids and I were driving down the 401 highway one day on our way to Detroit from Waterloo where I'd been visiting my parents. Brady, who had stuck gum to his face, was sitting in his car seat, and he had rolled down the window. I remember Taylore and I saying to him, 'You better roll that window up because a bird's going to come in, or a newspaper's going to be stuck all over your face.'"
    "When I got back to Detroit, I started putting the stuff on paper, and 'Brady Brady Gum Face' came about. I sent it to a few publishers, Canadian first and then American, and got some rejection letters. Dave Chilton, who wrote The Wealthy Barber, is a friend of mine from back home, and I remember telling him about the story. He said, 'Listen, I know an illustrator who wants to get into kids books. Why don't I show him the manuscript and see if he can draw some pictures. Then maybe you can send the manuscript and the drawings off together.' He introduced me to Chuck Temple, who had illustrated The Wealthy Barber calendar, and Chuck drew up some illustrations that were hilarious. I loved them right off the bat. Again I sent the story and the illustrations off to publishers, kept getting those rejection letters, and again I just kind of gave up a bit."
    "One day when Chuck, Dave and I were talking, Dave said. 'Let me take it into Stoddart.' Dave had read the manuscript to his kids, and they loved the story and the drawings. Dave said, 'We're not just going to let this thing go. A lot of these publishing houses get stacks of manuscripts, and maybe these people aren't actually reading the story and looking at the drawings. They're just sending you that token letter.'" Brady Brady and the Great Rink
    "Dave approached Stoddart, but by this time we had moved to Tampa Bay, Florida where Brad was with the Lightning. Stoddart called me there and said, 'You know, we love this little Brady Brady character; we love the illustrations; we love the writing. Would you be interested in doing a series based on hockey? We would have this little boy and his teammates, kind of like Charlie Brown and his gang.' They asked me to draw up a profile of Brady and a profile of the kids that were going to be on his team, and then we would go from there. It was funny because, before that earlier meeting that Chuck, Dave and I had, there had been a lot of negative media about hockey going on in the States. A couple of fathers got into a fight at a rink and one of them died when he got his head slammed against the cement floor. So Chuck and I were talking about,'We should write a book on how a parent should behave at games.' It was kind of ironic then when Stoddart asked me if I would write this series. So that's where Brady Brady began. Stoddart initially asked me for four books."
    "I was pregnant with Caroline when I got the Stoddart call. In about a two week span, I wrote Brady Brady and the Great Rink, had a baby, packed up a house in Tampa, and moved back to Ottawa. I still go, 'How did I do that?' While we had most of Brady Brady done, I wanted to get some finishing touches completed before the baby was born. That was a pretty crazy two weeks. We wanted the first book to be the introduction of the series and to introduce Brady and his love for hockey and obviously to show the pictures of his teammates. With the second book, Brady Brady and the Runaway Goalie, we introduced the goalie, Chester, and his fear. We're going to try and introduce one character at a time just so that people get to know them and what they're about so that, when they read book three, for example, they can go, 'Hey, there's Chester. I guess he's not afraid to play in net after all. Look he's back in there. Great!' The only little guy on the Icehogs I don't have nailed down is the one who looks like an ex-con, but I'll get to him. The team's multiracial nature was a mixture of Chuck, Stoddart and me." Brady Brady and the Rinaway Goalie
    "We do want to have a moral message behind each book. In the fourth title, Brady Brady and the Singing Tree, Elwood's dad is obsessed with Elwood's making the NHL. Obviously, just like a lot of hockey dads, it was the father's dream, and now that's his dream for Elwood. While the dad's obsessed with Elwood playing in an NHL game, all Elwood wants to do is sing the anthem at an NHL game. Obviously we want to speak to the kids, but we also want to speak to the parents too. Actually, that's really how the series kind of started, with our saying, 'We should write a book on how parents should and shouldn't behave at a rink.' However, we didn't want to start the series with a strong topic like that, and so that's why it didn't come out until book four. Stoddart have asked me to write four more, two for each of the publishing seasons. After that, I think we'll probably just go down to two a year because I don't want to come out with books and look like I've run out of ideas to write on." Brady Brady and the singing tree
    The third book, Brady Brady and the Twirlin' Torpedo, Mary dedicated to Taylore, her eldest child. "The first year we were in Detroit, Taylore was about seven-years-old, and she was the only girl in the whole Mite division, just not our team, the whole division. Some of the parents were like, 'What is she ...?' In fact, there were even a few parents on the team who questioned Taylore's presence, including one guy who was always saying, 'She's not going out there with my son.' When I was writing Brady Brady and the Twirlin' Torpedo, I thought about him. They totally warmed up to Taylore, especially when they found out that Brad was playing for the Vipers. We ended up taking the whole team and their parents to a couple of Vipers games and having a lot of fun. Taylore wasn't the strongest player on the team, but she wasn't the weakest either. She totally blended in, and so I think that's why they accepted her. When we moved to Tampa, she just didn't want play with the boys anymore, and now she's playing with girls." Brady Brady and the Twirlin Torpedo
    "We had fun trying to think of a team name. Chuck and I threw names back and forth. He'd fax me a list; I'd fax him a list, and we were chuckling. I don't know what made us decide on Icehogs, but when Chuck drew up the logo and I saw it, that was it. Chuck sends me stuff, and, if it makes me laugh and makes my kids laugh, I'll call him up and say, 'Bingo. Perfect.' I'd always thought that, if a person illustrated like Chuck does, that is, funny illustrations, then they'd have to be funny in person, but Chuck is not how he draws. He's kind of quiet, very serious. You'd think this guy must be a riot. Chuck doesn't have any children of his own, and so I think he's done a really good job at capturing how the kids look and how they might be feeling. Even just the way he captures the expressions on the kids' faces is perfect."
    Brady Brady's team, the Icehogs, even have their own hockey cards. Mary explains how they came into being. "There was the book convention at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre back in June, 2001, but we didn't have the books ready. The question became, 'What are we going to do?' And so Chuck came up with these hockey cards. It was a great idea, but we need to do more because, when Chuck drew them up, he was in such a hurry that he didn't even think to ask me about the players' positions. I know that Tes is listed as a winger on the cards, and I've got her as a defenseman in the book. There were just seven cards originally, including one for the coach and Brady Brady's dog, Hatrick. Elwood, who's featured in the fourth book, doesn't even have a card." Brady
    "We were thrilled to get Bobby Orr to give us a quote for the back of the books. He's Brad's idol. Bobby had been quite involved with the Hartford Whalers and was on the advisory board when Brad played there. Because we knew him from Hartford, Brad called him up first, and then Bobby called me back and I talked to him. Chuck had done mock-ups of the books, and I sent them to him."
    Each of the Brady Brady books also carries the endorsement of a significant hockey player like Steve Yzerman or Chris Pronger. Mary attributes that happening to a bout of brainstorming which occurred one day when she was with Chuck Temple and Dave Chilton. "Dave's great to brainstorm with because the guy's a walking idea. We thought, 'What if we got a player to endorse each book?' Steve Yzerman is actually from Ottawa, and so I called him up in Detroit and explained what I was doing. I sent him the manuscript and a few of the drawings, and he said, 'Sure.'" coach
    "Glenn Healy is on Brady Brady and the Runaway Goalie. I'd known Glenn, and he's one of the funniest men on earth. I was kind of bummed that he got let go by the Leafs just before the books came out. I was going, 'Oh, no. Couldn't you hang on to Glenn a little bit longer?' But it worked out great because Glenn signed on with the Hockey Night in Canada crew. Cassie Campbell, Captain of the Women's Olympic Hockey Team, gave us a quote for Brady Brady and the Twirlin' Torpedo. In his physical stature, Elwood aka Tree reminds me of Chris Pronger, the Captain of the St. Louis Blues. Brad played with Chris in St. Louis, and so Brad called Chris up and Chris gave us a quote for Brady Brady and the Singing Tree. Stoddart has told me that a few overseas publishers have picked up the rights, including one in Czechoslovakia. My job now is to go after a Czech player to try and get a quote for the Czech versions of the books."
    To date, the books have been selling very well. "The first printing for the initial two books was 10,000 each, and they're in their third printing now. The books are in WAL-MART and Costco. French Scholastic have picked them up. Brady's godfather is a police officer in Hartford, Connecticut. When were visiting down there and were talking about the books, he mentioned that he and some other policemen do a reading program where they go into the various schools and leave books behind. They ordered a hundred sets of the first two books from Stoddart to use in this program." chester
    Mary modestly ascribes a lot of the books' success to Chuck Temple's artwork. "As far as my end, the author end, I did an OK job, but Chuck's illustrations are what takes the books up to the next level. He compliments me on my writing, but his drawings are just phenomenal. A lot of authors never meet their illustrators, and so Chuck and I are very lucky. With the first book, we had a little bit of time and were able to go back and forth on the drawings. I would give him suggestions and he'd give me suggestions. We were trying to nail down the characters and what they looked like. With the second book, we were on such a tight deadline that I didn't see any of the drawings until the book was in print, but I was just thrilled when I looked through it."
    As noted earlier, the Brady Brady books' genesis was an incident involving Mary's son. Brady is now nine, and, as a visit to his bedroom will visibly attest, he is truly as hockey-obsessed as his cartoon character counterpart. Of Brady's newfound fame, Mary observes, "I think he thinks it's pretty neat. CBC did a piece on Canada Now where they followed Brady at hockey practice, filmed him playing road hockey, and up in his room reading. We took the segment and showed it to his teammates who thought it was neat because they were on it too. For his hockey team, we did a fund raiser involving the first two books. I would sign books for people, and a few of them asked Brady to sign them too. I thought he'd sign it 'Brady Shaw,' but the first one he signed 'Brady Brady.'" duncan
    "Last year, when we lived in Detroit, I volunteered in Brady's classroom on a regular basis, and so the kids in Brady's class pretty much got to see Brady Brady and the Great Rink from start to finish. I would read the kids the manuscript, and then when Chuck started faxing the drawings to me in black and white, I would take the drawings in too. Later, Chuck sent them to me in color, and then he did a mockup of the book, and I brought that in too. Brady's classmates never did get to see the finished product because we didn't get it until we had left Detroit, but I mailed a bunch of books back to the school so that they could finally see them."
    Finding time to write is a challenge for Mary at this point in her life. "I haven't been in my own home since 1994. It was just time just to stay put for a year. Taylore's been in a different school every year, and she's now in grade 6. Next year, depending on what Brad's doing, we'll go from there. Brad's presently coaching in Springfield, an eight hour drive away. The time's been flying by for me because Brady's playing competitive hockey. Taylore's playing house league hockey, and she's doing a soccer development program. I'm kind of finding it tough to be in the single mom mode, running the two older ones around. Really the only time I get anything done is if Caroline is sleeping for an hour and a half. The rest of the time, she is a whirlwind and will not sit and play with toys." hatrick
    "I always carry a little note pad, and I'm always listening for some little thing that I can include. I'll write stuff down about what's happening with Brady's team in the dressing room or when we're at tournaments. For instance, one of the boys on Brady's team will not put on his skates without these green and white tie-dyed socks. You should see them. One day at practice, he had forgotten them, and he made his dad go home and get them. It was a practice, not even a game, but he refused to put on his skates. I thought, 'That'll be good to tie into a storyline at some point. I'm always just kind of listening. I wrote Brady Brady and the Great Rink in the spring/summer, and so I always had the window open. Because we have a trampoline, every kid on the street's always in our back yard. I'd always listen for the phrases they use and the ideas they have. I'll flip through the newspapers too to see if there are any interesting hockey related occurrences that have happened. Because my kids and I spent so much time in the car driving to Waterloo to visit my parents, driving to hockey tournaments or driving to see Brad in Massachusetts, I'll ask them, 'What do you think about this idea?' or 'What character should we talk about next?'"
    As to her approach to writing, Mary is of the polish-as-I-go school. "I kind of do a paragraph at a time. I'll go back and say, 'That doesn't sound right.' With the third and fourth book, I didn't do that as much because I knew my editor would end up changing so much anyway. Of course, when you're a first time author and you're not used to the editor-author relationship, it takes some time to get used to it. I'm going, 'What do you mean you didn't like that line? I loved that line.' Actually, when I first started writing, I wanted to write more off the wall, like Robert Munsch, but Stoddart wants me to go a little bit more straight and narrow which is fine." raymond
    It was not just the editor's comments about text with which Mary had to deal. "There's a drawing in Brady Brady and the Great Rink that our editor didn't want us to include. It's the one where Brady is about to go out to the back yard to begin working on the rink. His sister is peeking around the corner while sticking out her tongue and giving him the 'loser' finger sign with the 'L' in front of her forehead. The editor thought there might be a little bit too much animosity between brother and sister. I said, "This is Taylore, and this is Brady, and she would definitely do that to Brady if he's going out in snow that deep. That illustration has to stay in because that is so brother and sister.' Actually, when Chuck faxed me the original drawing, I replied, 'Chuck, she's got to be more sinister,'and so he changed her a bit." tes
    "I'm still actually hoping that 'Gum Face' will get published because I love that story. My editor didn't think it would be a good book because it might encourage kids to stick gum on their faces. We'll probably have to change the Brady character, give him another name and make him look different or whatever. Chuck's drawings for that manuscript were just so funny I was howling with laughter. I love that story. I really do. Every once in a while, I say to Chuck, 'We're going to publish 'Gum Face' one day.'"
    Reflecting on the "Brady Brady" series, Mary says, "I love seeing the reactions of kids that are flipping through the books. I don't think they understand the moral message as much as the parents are looking for. The kids just love the drawings, and I just like seeing them chuckle at the drawings. It really makes me happy that these books are being received so well."

Books by Mary Shaw.

This article is based on an interview conducted in Ottawa, November 16, 2001.

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