Shauna Ahern throws her head back, laughing, the picture of joy.

Hi there!

My name’s Shauna. Lovely to meet you. 

Are you new around here? Let me introduce myself. 

I’m a storyteller, an editor, and a doula for other people’s stories.

Here’s one story about me. 

I’ve written and published 5 critically acclaimed books — a food memoir; 3 cookbooks filled with narrative essays; and a memoir thousands of women have loved.

I’m lucky enough to live on a small, rural island near Seattle,  with my husband, my daughter and son, 2 cats, and 2 bunnies. We’re surrounded by green forests and cool blue water. I’m loved. I love fiercely. And there is often laughter.

I’ve had a successful, productive life.

But how is my lived story different than the polished, public one? 

What is my heartbeat underneath that surface? 

I’m a writer because writing is one of the only ways I understand the world. 

I’ve always been a weirdo, not like other women around me. 

I grew up in a traumatic household. I didn’t live on my own until I was 27. 

I was diagnosed with celiac at 35 after a lifetime of feeling sick. My first impulse was to start writing about it to help other people feel not alone in it.

I fell in love for the first time at 39, had my first child at nearly 42,  endured months of worrying she wouldn’t live, and then became a mom again at 47, when our newborn son joined our family through adoption. 

I had a mini stroke at 49, a radical mastectomy without reconstruction at 52, was diagnosed with complex PTSD at 53, and was recently diagnosed with ADHD at 55. 

Nothing in my story is typical. That used to scare me and make me want to hide my imperfect self, for a long time. 

But now, when I look at my life, I can see how strong and resilient I am.  I never take for granted the joy of being alive. I thrive when I help other people discover and write their stories.  

I’m pretty fucking proud of myself. 

Here are 3 sets of

3 stories about me

and why I do this work.

When I was 3 years old, I learned to read.

When I learned that real human beings create the magic that is storytelling and the books that hold those stories, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Now I have 5 published books, with more on the way.

My husband and I produced 3 cookbooks between 2009 and 2015.

Our first cookbook was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by The New York Times. Our second cookbook won the James Beard award for excellence in 2014. Our third cookbook was nominated for an award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. We stopped writing cookbooks after that, for a variety of reasons. I’m still so proud of that trio of awards.

My cookbook career started as an outgrowth of my food blog, Gluten-Free Girl, which I founded in 2005.

That makes me one of the OG food bloggers, not only one of the first 150 or so people to take photos of my meals and share stories of what happened at the table, but also one of the very first gluten-free food bloggers in the world. What moved me then was the conversations, the community, and the friendships I made through my blog

I joined social media at its inception because I have always loved understanding why and how people communicate with each other.

Back in the late 2000s, Twitter was actually fun. At one point, I had 175,000 followers on Twitter. I quit it last year. There’s no joy for me there, only contention and acrimony. I also closed down the Facebook page for Gluten-Free Girl, which had 125,000 readers. I’m not compelled by fame or followers. I base every decision in my life now by how much joy something gives me and how much it will allow me to serve other people.

Over the course of my career, I’ve done the following:

taught high school English for a decade; worked as an SAT tutor on the Upper East Side of New York City; served as a ghostwriter for a gardening book imagined by the girlfriend of a famous actor; ran a screenplay-editing business in Manhattan; wrote a gluten-free blog that brought in over a million hits a month at one point; wrote and promoted cookbooks; created a pretty infallible gluten-free baguette recipe that was this close to being produced by a national baking company; worked part-time at my local grocery store, bagging groceries as I wrote my memoir in my head; wrote a thousand essays or more, for my blog, my freelance work, and for companies; wrote molecular gastronomy recipes and newsletters about those recipes; coached people on how to create a social media strategy that creates community and allows them to still be themselves; briefly wrote copy for Brené Brown; served as ghostwriter for other people’s business websites; coached people to cultivate more joy in their lives.

Every working experience I’ve had in the world has been about stories and other people.

Recently, I was diagnosed with ADHD. At 55. That might make sense to you if you read the list of work experiences I’ve cultivated. However, I definitely regard ADHD as my superpower — I’m deeply creative, not afraid of being different than other people, always coming up with new ideas, and truly moved by other people’s stories. On top of that, I became organized in my life through sheer determined force. Now that I’m on medication, I’m focused and clear.

There’s no stopping me now.

One of the strangest, most wonderful days of my life

started with a lovely breakfast in Prague. A few hours later, I was singing “Karma Chameleon,” boisterously, with my colleague, our hands waving in the air through the sunroof of a maroon Mercedes Benz limo, on our way to lunch in Paris. That evening, I had a late dinner at home in London. I’m not sure I’ll ever experience anything like this again. But I have the story. And it’s true.

I really do believe that three is the magic number.

My brain constructs structures, patterns, and stories automatically. I think often about what connects us as humans and how stories help us build empathy for other people in the world. After 30 years of writing, I’ve constructed two structures for stories that can create something compelling. 

Helping people to find their own story gives me enormous joy.

Listening is my superpower. I will listen to you, type while you talk, ask you questions to draw you out and feel heard, then pick up patterns in your narrative. I’ll be your guide and ally in discovering the power of your own story.

Now, I’m curious about your story.  

Some of my joys?

The physical delight of the first bite of dark chocolate. The sound of someone playing the guitar like an attack as she sings her story to the world. The sight of a baby finding their toes for the first time and giggling as they sway back and forth on their backs. The smell of fresh ginger just after it’s peeled. The feeling of my husband’s heart beating beneath my ears as we lay in bed together, still.

Neuroscience, and in particular the discoveries of different parts of the brain that are built for joy, fear, and making habits. The existence of neuroplasticity, the neural reward pathway in our brains, the frequency illusion, and knowing that the neurons that fire together wire together eventually.

Also? Ted Lasso, bell hooks, and Captain Marvel. Telling stories about my kids as they grow. Poems by Mary Oliver and Maggie Smith. Playlists of songs by the Beatles, the Linda Linda Lindas, Fleetwood Mac, Kendrick Lamar, and Joni Mitchell. The power and confusions of the ADHD mind in particular and neurodiversity in general. Doing everything in my power to ensure that every person I meet feels included and welcomed. Everyone. The authors who write the moving stories about the hard parts and the joys of being human. Feeding people butternut squash soup with a walnut gremolata topping, a radicchio salad with pickled red onions and feta, and a gluten-free huckleberry pie.

Or, a shared bag of Cheetos and a Dr. Pepper. Food is a wonderful way to connect us. It’s the connection with the people sitting at my table that matters, not the dishes on the table. 

Laughing. Dancing. Connecting with other humans.

Being alive.

If you’d like to learn more about my work, visit my Linkedin profile, my Instagram feed, or my subscription newsletter, Getting Curious About My Story.

Or, keep it simple. Email me. 

shauna@getcuriousaboutyourstory.com

 

Want to join my mailing list to receive stories from me every week? Subscribe today and I’ll send you a gift. 

 

Finally, remember this.

Your story matters.

We need to hear it.

Your joy matters too.

 

JOY!

Shauna