Merlene Davis: Local author's self-published books benefit charities, readers

Herald-Leader columnistJune 18, 2014 

  • Book signing

    A book signing for Shannon Barnes' children's books, Little Bird Gets His Wings and Evie Finds a Way.

    When: 1-3 p.m. July 26.

    Where: The Wild Fig Bookstore, 1439 Leestown Rd.

    To purchase a book: Visit or

The featherless little bird was alone and welcomed the nurturing offered by a group of ostriches. They attached some of their feathers to him to help him blend in with the group, to be more like them.

It worked out just fine. He was warm, he fit in, and he was loved.

It took a horrifying event, however, for the little bird to realize that all those borrowed feathers had hidden who he really was.

That is a synopsis of Little Bird Gets His Wings, a children's book by Shannon Barnes. It is also a synopsis of Barnes' life.

"It was a huge metaphor for my life," he said. "I remember seeing myself as a tree with no leaves on it and the environment around me gluing its leaves on me."

Barnes, 34 and an advertising account executive for the Lexington Herald-Leader, sought affirmation or definition from those around him, including his wife at that time and his employer.

Then he heard an audio of former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali saying, "I'm going to show you how great I am."

Barnes listened to that audio over and over again for weeks, he said, until he gathered the strength to set himself free from his reliance on the opinions others had of him.

"I was going to show me how great I am," he said. "The feeling I felt when I let go, I can't describe it."

Once he did that, once he shed the feathers that had been placed on him to reflect those around him, Barnes and the little bird discovered they had the wings to fly.

Barnes has designated some of the proceeds from Little Bird Gets His Wings, self-published in 2013, to victims of domestic violence.

Evie Finds a Way, his newest self-published children's book which will be released next month, is the story of Evie White of Lexington who was diagnosed with hemiplegia in 2008, the result of a stroke she suffered before she was born.

Barnes, who is always looking for new stories to tell and little-known causes to support, wrote the book after talking with Evie's mother, Jana Smoot White, the board president of the national Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association.

In the book, Evie struggles with every step because of paralysis and the brace she wears.

"Hemiplegia is the land

"That Evie has to cross.

"And getting to her dreams is twice as hard,

"While fighting Neon Foot Drop Moss.

"Because it grabs onto her legs,

"And tries its best to pull her down.

"It nags her with negative thoughts,

"Trying to turn her hope into a frown."

For the book's illustrations, Barnes connected with Herb Moore, a native of Cynthiana who is an illustrator and post-production director for Disney and a comic book artist.

Portions of the profits from the sale of Evie Finds a Way will benefit the hemiplegia association.

Barnes, who writes poetry for adults as well, has written four other children's books that may be published.

Born in Cynthiana but reared in Lexington, Barnes is divorced with two children, Abigail, 10, and Cameron, 7. He says he thinks a bit differently, seeing the vibe around him in patterns of movement and geometric forms, or cymatics.

"I see in cymatics, kind of, and translate it," he said. "When I feel love or anger coming from someone, I see it as a pattern. What I had to learn was that I would no longer let them change my pattern. I determine my frequency."

When he was a sophomore at Henry Clay High School, he was sent to the SAFE program for being tardy to class. He used that time to write a two-page letter to Diane Woods, the principal at that time, complaining. He signed his name and put it in her mailbox.

In his next class, Woods called him to her office.

"She said, 'You are going to change things one day because of the way you see things and your opinions and the bravery you had to do this,'" Barnes recalled.

He is free now to do that again and, through his books and his poetry, he is willing to take us along for the ride.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog:

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