A longtime resident of Eastern Iowa, Catherine Schaff-Stump’s journey to becoming a published author and writing mentor started many moons ago with a picture drawn by her brother paired with her first poem put together as a Mother’s Day gift. Her mother, who died earlier this year, was delighted by the gift and loved Schaff-Stump’s poem. Her mother praised all of her writing attempts from that point forward. That encouragement guides Schaff-Stump to this day as she looks to the release of “The Vessel of Ra” (Curiosity Quills, September 2017).
Set in Venice and England, Schaff-Stump’s new series, “The Klaereon Scroll,” combines magic, Egyptian mythology and family secrets. It started out as “thinly veiled Harry Potter fan fiction,” she said.
Writing fan fiction after she completed her doctorate in 2001 was a way of testing the waters. After years of academic writing, Schaff-Stump wasn’t sure she could still do fiction. So the praise for her fan fiction was a complete surprise, and she took it as a sign she should keep writing fiction.
As her confidence grew, she said she started looking for avenues to continue learning about the craft.
“There is no substitute for learning,” said Schaff-Stump, coordinator of Kirkwood Community College’s English Language Acquisition Center, as she shared her adventures at Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox and most recently, the Writing Excuses Cruise. On the cruise, she toured the Baltic Sea stopping in places like Copenhagen and Stockholm while attending writing courses with Hugo Award-winning authors Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal and Wesley Chu.
Schaff-Stump doesn’t keep all this knowledge to herself. Since graduate school, she has been involved in the local fandom convention scene, starting with a student science fiction and fantasy group on the University of Iowa campus. Eventually she became president of the Mindbridge Foundation for a short time. The foundation funds three conventions, AnimeIowa, Gamicon and ICON. Schaff-Stump volunteers and participates in programming for AnimeIowa, Iowa’s largest anime convention, and ICON, Iowa’s longest-running fan-organized science fiction and fantasy convention.
Because of her experience at writing workshops, Schaff-Stump urged ICON staff to start a weekend-long writing workshop in conjunction with ICON called Paradise ICON. This workshop, with an enrollment of 10 writers, has become a close-knit community of people who spend the weekend honing their craft and sharing knowledge.
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“The idea that the writer is a ‘lone wolf’ is a lie,” Schaff-Stump said, pointing to the acknowledgments in “The Vessel of Ra” as an example. “There are 30 to 40 people who helped me write this book.”
What’s next for Schaff-Stump? She said she’s glowing from the positive buzz she received from early readers of “The Vessel of Ra.”
“(I’m) delighted people are enjoying the book,” she said. She balances her blossoming writing career with a full-time job and other hobbies.
Schaff-Stump is working on and hopes to finish two books this fall, the next book in “The Klaereon Scroll” so readers, like myself, don’t have to wait too long for the next adventure, as well as a new middle grade series featuring Abigail Rath and her encounter with a mad scientist.
“The Vessel of Ra” was released Sept. 12. Readers can meet Schaff-Stump and get a copy of her book during events connected with ICON, Friday to Oct. 1, including the multi-author signing event Thursday at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids. Visit iowa-icon.com for more details.
ICON42 Signing Event
l What: Catherine Schaff-Stump will sign copies of her book “The Vessel of Ra”
l When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
l Where: Barnes & Noble, 333 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids
l Cost: Free
l Details: Many fantasy and science fiction authors will be in attendance to sign copies of their books