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Swoon Author Shani Petroff: Based on a True Story

In My New Crush Gave to Me, the main character’s best friend Morgan loves holidays. She was also the one who really wanted to have a Secret Santa drawing and a holiday party.

Well, if you read the acknowledgements in the book, you may have discovered a few similarities with yours truly.

The last line read: “And to the cast of the theater tour I was on many years ago—thank you for humoring me when I really wanted to have a holiday party and do a Secret Santa. It not only helped inspire this book but also gave me a lot of great memories.”

I’m definitely not Morgan (although I wish I was a math prodigy with her baking skills), but we do share a couple of things in common—among them the excitement of celebrating the holidays.

Right after college I went on a theater tour. We traveled from state to state driving in a giant van with a trailer attached to it, where we went to numerous schools to perform. 

shani theatre post 1

If memory serves, we portrayed a bunch of students who had a big science test coming up. The main character falls asleep worrying about it, and dreams about science lessons. Her teacher, classmates (including me), and Einstein become part of those lessons.

I wound up portraying a student, Isaac Newton, an electron, a bug, among other things. (And in one performance, I was even Princess Leia and had an epic lightsaber battle—although that wasn’t in the script. It was a last minute improvisation after one of my castmates received lightsabers during the Secret Santa exchanges, and we couldn’t let them go unused.)

shani theatre post 2

The tour made for a lot of fun stories (which one day may be fodder for a different book), but I will always remember the fun I had searching for gifts in random cities, trying to figure out who drew which name, the inside jokes/gag gifts (I remember crafting a pair of shoes made of deli meats and duck tape), and choosing the perfect presents. I was a pretty good gift giver, if I do say so myself—meat shoes notwithstanding.

shani theatre post 3

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t about the presents, it was about the experience. We got to share some holiday magic and joy—and it was that feeling that helped inspire My New Crush Gave to Me.

So to my former castmates (you also inspired Cart-lympics in Romeo & What’s Her Name), the other tour groups we came in contact with, and the many others we encountered on our journey, thank you. You gave me memories that still make me smile to this day.

Author spotlight

Shani Petroff

Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. She's the author of the “Bedeviled” series, which includes Daddy’s …

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