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Tasha Schuh shows a copy of her new book, "My Last Step Backward." From an initial order of 570 copies of the book (20 boxes), Schuh had 5 ½ boxes left last week and was preparing to put in another order.

Book about Schuh's life selling fast

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For an inspirational speaker, a book is almost as important, as a wheelchair is to Tasha Schuh.

"I had seen a book would come in handy," said Schuh, explaining many of her speaking appearances have required her to leave out 80% of the information about her "journey," though she really wanted to share the whole story.

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That journey began in November of 1997 when, as the title of her new book indicates, Schuh took "My Last Step Backward."

The then-Ellsworth High School student was rehearsing for a school play, "The Wizard of Oz," at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing when she fell through an open trap door from a darkened stage to a lower level floor and her life changed forever.

Wheelchair-bound ever since, Schuh said she was often asked to share her experiences in a book.

"Someday I'm going to write a book," she told herself. But, despite trying many times, she found it to be more difficult than she imagined. "I'd get 20 pages in, then I'd want to throw it away."

On a cruise to the Caribbean, she ate dinner with a couple who encouraged her to write, she said. She balked, sharing her difficulties about the book with them, until they suggested using a "ghost" writer.

Her first such helper had written novels, but never personal stories, so they discontinued on good terms and that writer is mentioned in the book, besides having come up with its title. Another "ghost" was brought in before Ellsworth teacher Jan Pavloski eventually took over.

"We had so much fun...we both love to read," Schuh said about her teaming with Pavloski, who recorded Schuh as she spoke, then wrote from those recordings.

They would jointly review what Pavloski had written, Schuh said, finding most of the time it was exactly what she'd wanted to say. She agreed with the EHS teacher that it has been great there has been such a positive relationship between Schuh and the local school district -- "no hard feelings, bitterness or anger" -- considering her accident occurred during a school event.

In the process of compiling the book, which has been 2 1/2 years in the making, the pair applied for a contest which they didn't win, Schuh said, but was good because it forced them to finish the project.

They ended the writing late last spring, followed by editing in the summer. The book's publisher, "Inspiring Voices," is the self-publishing unit for "Guideposts" and was found through computer email.

They worked with a professional editor from that company, who had them check each of his edits, Schuh said. Pavloski had participated in the book's creation whenever her schedule would allow, but was involved as often as once or twice a week at the conclusion.

"I ordered 570 copies," Schuh said, noting that equals 20 boxes of the book.

Since holding book signings locally, she was down to 5 ½ boxes last week and planning another order, she said. The signings have been well-attended; she originally took materials along to keep her occupied over lull times, but there were few of those.

Her fiancé, Doug Michaels, a meteorologist for WQOW-TV, Channel 18, Eau Claire, has accompanied her to some of the signings and is pictured with her in one of the book's photos. They've set a wedding date for Aug. 17 of this year.

More signings are foreseen in the area, she said, with a hope Red Wing can be booked after her assistant returns from holiday break. Meantime, Schuh is scheduled to sign copies of the 21 chapter-plus-an-epilogue book at the Ellsworth Public Library 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9.

"I had signed 80 of them even before the first signing (event)," she said, indicating people have been calling and texting her as to where they can be purchased. Her website, www.tashaschuh.com, and on Amazon is her answer.

Her career as an inspirational speaker was fostered by one of her college professors, Schuh said. At Winona (Minn.) State University, she'd been trying to find a major and had psychology in mind over the first two years, yet decided against that. Having already given many speeches, she met with the prof, who suggested she was suited to deliver inspirational messages.

"I saw people had been touched by (my story)," she said, remembering the moment when she found her calling.

She completed two bachelor degrees, mailed out 500 brochures offering to speak (250 to schools and 250 to churches), and hasn't stopped since, she said, recognizing winter is her busiest time. Early last month, she delivered a talk in front of the staff at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport about the challenges of traveling for handicapped people.

For a high school girl who loved to perform (she'd been in an EHS production of "Grease"), Schuh has managed to go beyond entertaining audiences by helping people with her public appearances, too.

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Bill Kirk
Bill Kirk has been editor at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, Wisconsin, since 1988. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.
(715) 273-4334
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