Featured Contributor

Tanya Shaffer


in which an anonymous narrator
summarizes my professional accomplishments in laudatory terms

Tanya Shaffer is an award-winning playwright and author of the acclaimed travel memoir Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in AfricaHer plays Baby TajLet My Enemy Live Long!, Brigadista, and Miss America’s Daughters have been produced by major regional theatres such as Berkeley Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and ACT Theatre (Seattle); received Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Awards and been nominated for a National Theatre Critics’ Association Steinberg Award; and toured to more than forty cities in the U.S. and Canada. She now blogs on a range of topics, from parenting to Buddhism to creativity to travel. She is the host of the podcast Off-Leash Arts, in which she talks with artists from a range of disciplines about their creative process. She also teaches Off-Leash Writing Workshops, in which she helps participants to burn through to their authentic writing voices. She works with private clients on their writing projects as well.

Tanya’s musical The Fourth Messengera collaboration with composer Vienna Teng, enjoyed sold-out runs in Berkeley, Taiwan, and the New York Musical Festival (Check out the soundtrack album)She has also co-written two shows for the Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe. Her stories and essays have appeared on Salon.com and in numerous anthologies.


Over many years as a regional theatre actor, she was privileged to perform with companies such as the Old Globe Theatre, the California Shakespeare Theatre, TheatreWorks, and many others.  She is a former Playwrights Foundation Resident Playwright and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and Actors’ Equity Association.


in which I tell you a few things
about myself and what I’m up to now 

In the fall of 2017, I moved with my family from the San Francisco Bay Area to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I cut my hair short and dyed it shades of turquoise and blue to honor nearly thirty years of living by the ocean.


In addition to writing, I’m mom to two beautiful boys and three stunning dogs. One of my human children is on the autism spectrum. I explore some of the gifts and challenges of that journey, along with ruminations on creativity and more, in my blog.


Travel is a lifelong passion – I love roaming the earth and sinking into cultures other than my own. I’m also in a passionate, if complicated, long-term relationship with Buddhist philosophy and meditation. Since, as a parent, I don’t get to wander as much as I used to, I try to approach everyday life with the same wide-awake quality that travel inspires. Success varies, but I keep trying.  Writing helps. So does photography. (Check out A Winter’s Tale – my photographic exploration of the snowy Michigan winter.)


In January, 2017, I wandered into a workshop called Wild Writing, taught by the wonderful Laurie Wagner. I went because I thought it would be fun, and because my daily writing practice had fallen away. From the moment I walked into the room, which was filled with warm colors and light and smelled of coffee and cinnamon, I knew I’d stumbled across something truly special. Through this apparently simple process of listening, writing, reading, and bearing witness, I felt the full range of human experience enter the room. It was more than a writing practice—it was a living practice— and I was immediately hooked. I enrolled in the teacher training so that I could bring my own version of this extraordinary experience—Off-Leash Writing—to my community. Leading these workshops and having the opportunity to write with dozens of extraordinary people every week is now an integral part of my creative life.