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Mama and Me


The following is an eight‐minute talk I gave at the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association spring meeting in St. Paul, MN on Monday, March 26th. Thanks to my publisher Harper Collins for signing me up for this event.


Thanks for having me. It’s so great to be surrounded by so many real people who sell real books. I live here in Minneapolis and I’m proud to be in such a rich community of indie bookstores. Over the past seven years, I’ve had the pleasure of doing several events at different stores and launching all my books at the extremely supportive Red Balloon Bookshop.

I can’t talk about Toad on the Road: Mama and Me without talking about the first book Toad on the Road: A Cautionary Tale which was on the 2017 Kid’s Indies Next list, thanks to Angela Whited at Red Balloon.

This book was dedicated to my mom and as you can see I included a lovely portrait of her in the back of the book. At first, she didn’t notice the striking resemblance, but the ladies in her book club noticed. Now she wears the label “Toad Mama” with pride.

I’m going to tell you a little about the force of nature that is my mom. Before the book was released, when I told my mom the book was dedicated to her, her response was, “We’ll see, I have to read it first.” So you can see that her unconditional love always had some conditions.
When we were kids, she would tell me and my sister to go play in traffic. We were 5 and 6. This is clearly the inspiration for Toad on the Road. And clearly why I learned sarcasm at a young age.

Growing up, clothes shopping with my mom was super fun. My mom has a loud voice and her favorite word is, “crotch.” So everyone in JCPenneys could hear her saying, “Stephen, those pants don’t fit you in the CROTCH.”

I grew up in Upstate New York. My mom grew up in New Jersey. My wife, Trisha Speed Shaskan, who is an amazing author and without her I wouldn’t be here or be able to put together a sentence properly, grew up in Winona, Minnesota. When my mom first talked to Trisha on the phone, she said to me, *“Bubbie, she sure has some kinda accent.” (*said with the thickest New Jersey accent)

My mom is 82 and on Facebook: a dangerous combination. She doesn’t quite understand all the rules. If I’ve commented on your post there’s a chance she has commented something like, “Stephen, you haven’t called me in a while.” If I post a photo, she might comment something like, “Stephen, you’re getting fat.”
The launch of the first Toad on the Road at the Red Balloon, was on my mom’s birthday. Many of you might know that I was a preschool teacher for several years, and I bring a guitar to most of my events and do sing‐a‐longs. I had the brilliant idea of calling my mom in Florida and having everyone in the store sing Happy Birthday. I was nervous because my mom can be a bit of a wild card, but it actually went great and my mom was in her own words, “tickled.” It could have been the meds, she had just gotten out of surgery a couple days prior.

This brings me to Toad on the Road: Mama and Me. My mom’s personality was clearly too big just be a cameo in a book, she needed to share the spotlight. While the first book was loud, mischievous, and full of car crashes, Toad on the Road: Mama and Me is about friends and helping, something I feel is needed right now, and is dedicated to all the moms for all that they do. Clearly my mom is the gift that keeps on giving.

All jokes aside: my mom always supported me doing art: taking me to museums, enrolling me into after school art classes, purchasing all of my art supplies growing up, and fully supporting me attending Rhode Island School of Design. She’s always had a good sense of humor, she introduced me to Saturday Night Live and Monty Python at a very young age, maybe too young. I was five years old when the first season of Saturday Night came out, but it was the one show I could stay up and watch. I know she’d find this talk amusing, although she might claim some of to be untrue (once again, she’s in her eighties and on medication).

Thanks again for having me and thanks to all the independent booksellers for all that they do.

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