Shirley Werner was born in a different place but grew up in the village of Trumansburg, New York, in the township of Ulysses, north of Ithaca. She acquired an education at Brandeis University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Yale University and holds a doctorate from Yale. She has taught Latin and Greek.
How did you come to publish on Smashwords?
Unexpectedly. When the time came for me to distribute the narrative I'd written, I realized that Smashwords was the ideal venue. The writing won't be lost and won't languish in some obscure place. Anyone can get access to an author's work, and it can be given away for free if the author wants. It's wonderful that readers can download the text in any format that suits them and can tweak their preferences so that the text looks the way they want it to. And Smashwords has excellent technical standards and quality requirements.
How did you come to write Mostly We Walked?
I wanted to preserve the extraordinary story of my grandfather's immigration to the United States, but I didn't simply want to gather and record the vague anecdotes that I probably misremembered from my childhood. So I set out to document what could be documented, to gather the facts that could be found, and to ask questions of people who knew. This quest put me in touch with some extraordinary people and scholarship and opened up a historical perspective that fascinated me and that answered many more questions than I had even thought to ask.
"We must have walked a thousand miles," wrote Ernst Oscar Werner about his family’s journey out of Siberia in 1918–1919. This ethnic German family, who had lived in Russia for three generations, survived war, exile, and typhus and immigrated to America to find a home in southern New Jersey. Their story is told against the background of the dramatic changes that were reshaping Russia and the world.