Finnian Burnett

Author, Educator, Cat Person

Welcome to the 5 Minutes Series. Each week, I’ll ask five questions of some of my favorite authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals. This week I’m talking with Tara Shannon, creator, artist, and author of the wildly popular Rabbit and Bear.

I’m absolutely in love with Rabbit and Bear. Could you tell me a little bit about how you started
them and where the inspiration came from?

Thank you! I love them too. They saved me. I was at loose ends following several years where I found myself grieving the loss of my parents, a pregnancy… my own life. In 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer, lost my job, was in a new relationship following a divorce… It was a lot, but I didn’t realize it at the time and I wasn’t dealing with any of it in a healthy productive way. I was trying to through therapy but I was on the run from it all, thinking I could get ahead of the pain without actually having to deal with it. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work.

In the spring of 2019 I was battling anxiety and depression, which I have on and off all my life, but at this point I felt the urge to do something creative to help me deal with it. In the past, writing had always helped me process my thoughts, and drawing had a calming effect. Never before had I put the two together. This idea to draw a rabbit and a conversation it was having with some dandelions about a wish, became almost overwhelming.

So, I sat down and started to draw, and write. Bear came along a bit later but in that one afternoon, I felt a fog and a weight beginning to lift. I knew
I had to keep going.

You’re well over 250,000 followers on social media now? What’s that like and is there anything
weird that’s happened since you went viral?

It’s all a bit surreal to be honest. It’s certainly something I never anticipated happening. I’m very grateful for everyone who follows my adventures with Rabbit & Bear and my other writing. Since going viral in 2020, everyday has been an adventure.

I think because it all came about after going viral, and the surreal nature of that experience, nothing has really stood out as being weird after that… it’s all definitely been a learning curve. My skin is thicker because of it all, I’ve learned more about myself and others… my empathy has grown. Most of all I’m finding my voice. It’s growing louder and stronger. I’m finding my way, and that’s what I wanted from the start.

What advice would you give someone who is insecure about their writing talents or worried
they’ll never find a publisher?

First and foremost, write. Write everyday, at least a little something and everyday try to get in touch with your authentic voice — that vulnerable part of yourself. That’s where your truest most powerful writing will come from. Sharing that is going to be scary, but find some way to share it.

I first started sharing some of my most vulnerable work from an Instagram page that few of my friends knew about. Then I began sharing in a writing group online.

The main thing though, is to write. Get it out there, find your unique voice, grow stronger in that voice and then… step out into the world and share it. If being a writer is really what you want, you have to take that chance… that leap.

Okay, just between us… who is your favorite? Rabbit or bear?

Ha! That’s like asking who my favourite child is! I can’t do that!… but, okay. To start, they’re both me and I love them both. But, the answer is Bear. Here’s why. My
nickname as a child was Bear, and after a while I didn’t like it. It was childish and embarrassing. It was my nickname because I guess I’d called myself Bara once or twice as a very small child just learning to speak, instead of Tara, and it stuck for some members of my family who started calling me Bear. For a long time I looked at that nickname as a reminder of my inadequacies…my failures and my past. I was failed as a child in grade school for one, and in my family I was by far the youngest member for a long time. I didn’t feel heard a lot of the time, and being called Bear was a reminder of that. I fought against it. But, Bear is a part of me. I own that part of
me now. I am Bear. Together we’ve figured some things out… not always easy, but here we are.

I’m happy now to be Bear. We haven’t figured everything out, but we can try to help Rabbit out as best we can with their questions. And, who’s Rabbit? A plush toy rabbit was gifted to me when I was briefly pregnant in 2009. Rabbit is my, what if? …My could have been. In the form of Rabbit & Bear, we’re together.

What are you working on now?

I continue to write and share new Rabbit & Bear’s as inspiration strikes me. Along with poems and short stories. My publisher and I just released a book of my poems and short stories on Amazon called, Gather the Stars and Hang the Moon.

I have a couple works in progress that I really need to finish… and, with my agent I’m working on a new children’s story with brand new characters. But, that’s all I can say about that for now… Everyday is an adventure.

Tara can be found on social media on Facebook and Instagram @tarashannonwritesand through her website.

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