Shawn Underwood (“Burien’s Erma Bombeck”) Publishes Her First Book

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by Scott Schaefer

You may know her as a friend, acquaintance, or perhaps as that wacky lady at the Normandy Park Starbucks who’s always smiling or laughing while working on her laptop.

You may also know her as a featured Humor Columnist for “B-Town Undercover” right here on The B-Town Blog.

But did you know that Burien’s own Shawn Underwood is now a published AUTHOR ?

That’s right, her first book, called “Mommy, Are We French Yet?” has been released, and is available for purchase as of today for just $14.95 (if you can’t wait you can buy one online right now here). The book is a humorous and oftentimes touching fish-out-of-water story of “an American family who decide to spend a year in the south of France.” Based on her own experiences spending a year in the south of France, Shawn tells true stories of language barriers, haircuts, buying food, children, and all sorts of other hilarious-but-true stories that only a wacky Burienite trying to live in France could pull off.

Shawn will be holding a book launch party on Saturday, June 5th from 4 – 7pm at Poggi Bonsi’s at The Landing in Renton (info here), so mark your calendars now:

I had a chance to sit down with Shawn recently at The Tin Room. Perhaps for her own safety, she brought along Lexi, her 16-year old daughter, who lived the events in this book in real life. I asked Lexi what was it like to have her Mom write a book.

“Mommy got taken away,” Lexi laughed. “Actually, toward the end when she was writing really hard she realized that it’d probably be best to have her own office, so she’d leave home and go to Starbucks.”

“I changed my office!” Shawn interrupted. “Now I go to Burien Press. And the library.”

The banter between Mother-Daughter was lively and humorous. It’s obvious that, despite Shawn’s focus and drive to become a published Author – she created her own Publishing Company to print this book (“5-Star Misadventures”) – she and her kids have a light, humorous chemistry.

Here’s my Q & A with her, with me as BTB and her as SU:

BTB: So, are you going to write a sequel?

SU: Well, I suppose if I move somewhere else I can certainly write a sequel.

BTB: Are you interested in selling this as a screenplay?

SU: Oh yes! (“Really?” interrupted Lexi).

BTB: Are you pursuing selling it as a screenplay?

SU: No, um…

BTB: Are you going to?

SU: I’m waiting…but don’t you think it’d be funny?

BTB: Yes!

SU: But you haven’t even read it yet!

BTB: But it feels, and smells funny (flipping pages and smelling the book)!

SU: Oh God!

BTB: Okay then, in the movie version – who would you see as playing you?

SU: I’ve already got it figured out…

BTB: Meg Ryan?

SU: Exactly!

BTB: I knew it! Okay, so who else would you cast? How about as Craig, your husband?

SU: I’ve only figured out myself really, since it’s all about me you know…

BTB: Of course. So Shawn, is this book the beginning of your career as an Author? Or was this just a whim, and now that you’ve got it our of your system…

SU: Well I suppose what I’m setting myself up is to become a travel writer.

BTB: How did you manage to get this book published?

SU: Well, what I did was call Bob Dugoni (read our coverage of Bob here)…my attorney happened to know his wife…so I called Bob, told him I had all this material that I didn’t know what to do…this was about a year-and-a-half ago…so he said to call Jennifer McCord, who’s a Publishing Consultant. And so I called her and she said ‘Send me the first 100 pages,’ and I did. She said ‘of course I think it needs work but I think it’s funny, so let’s meet.’ So then she said ‘here’s exactly what I can do for you’ (and this is what she did for Bob): ‘I can get you an agent, and the agent will help you find a Publisher…you can do Lulu (an online self-publishing service), or you can create your own publishing company. It took me about one second to decide – I didn’t want to wait for an agent, and I also did not want a boss. So I created my own company. And everything you see in the book, aside from the writing, is part of that – there’s an Interior Design person, there’s a Formatting person, there’s Layout, there’s an Illustrator – there were lots of things involved in doing it that I had no idea. And then of course there are contracts with all these people…

BTB: So it was a big project. Did it cost you a lot of money?

SU: Absolutely!

BTB: Are you going to tell us how much?

SU: No. But I have to sell 2,000 books to break even.

At this point, Lexi (LU) had to leave. I asked her:

BTB: What do you think of your Mom’s writing?

LU: Um…I haven’t read it yet.

BTB: You haven’t read it yet??? You’re in the book! You’re her daughter! Is she a funny Writer?

LU: I don’t know. The book isn’t out yet. Plus, she sent you something and you didn’t read it.

SU: Yeah Lexi!

BTB: But I’ve been busy…

At this point, Lexi and Mom fist-bump each other.

BTB: So did anyone else in your family read it? Did Craig?

SU: Not until it was all done and edited. And even then, he found a typo! And it was already being printed! I couldn’t believe it!

BTB: So there’s a hidden typo somewhere, huh? Has anyone else in your family ever published a book?

SU: No. But they could all do it.

BTB: Are you planning on publishing any other books through your new company?

SU: I don’t know. I’ll publish my sister’s – I’m making her do one, because she’s moving to Italy next year.

BTB: She’s doing a similar book? Is her’s going to be called “Mommy, Are We Italian Yet”?

SU: Probably!

BTB: You should do a whole series, for different countries, sort of like those “For Dummies” books.

SU: I should! I was really trying to convince Craig that we could move there next year, but, he said ‘Shawn, this is her junior year, this isn’t all about you!’ ‘But it’s perfect timing for me!’

BTB: So what’s your marketing plan?

SU: That’s up to my Publicist.

BTB: Are you going to do a book tour?

SU: I don’t know. He’s after print, radio, television (which I think is ridiculous).

BTB: Any other talent in your immediate family?

SU: Actually, my son Conner, who’s really funny. He’s going to Gonzaga, and he says that this book is going to launch his career. He doesn’t know how or what…

BTB: HIS career?

SU: Yes! HIS career!

BTB: Mom’s book is going to launch his career?

SU: Yeah!

At this point I forced Shawn to get her picture taken on the Tin Room’s back deck; despite much protest, she relented:

Shawn was gracious enough to let us post the following excerpt from her book, which will give you a taste of what to expect from Burien’s own Erma Bombeck:

Le Coupe de Cheveaux—The Haircut

I do admit the language barrier is becoming an increasing problem . . . for Craig. I, on the other hand, am getting along famously, when the French speaker talks SLOWLY. Today, for instance, and after much debate, the kids and I all agreed to brave the hair salon. Unfortunately, the head beautician in the male/female salon is a “fast talker,” my pleas of “lentemont s’il vous plait,” (slowly please) falls on deaf ears and disaster looms on the horizon.

Before driving to the hairdresser for the kid’s haircuts, I make a quick phone call to my sister, Shannon, who professes to have mastered the French language. I asked her for the appropriate phrases to use with the hairdresser. “I don’t know the word for hedgehog in French,” says Shannon. Too bad, the word, hedgehog is a perfect description of Conner’s spiky current haircut.

The kids fight on the way to the haircutter about who gets their hair cut first. They’re all nervous, I’m not sure if this is about the upcoming trimmings or their lack of faith in my language skills.

We mutually decided that Leslie is first, because her hair is difficult to destroy. I manage to convey my ideas to the beautician, and things go smoothly with Leslie. In the men’s section of the salon next door, Austin is about to get his new cut. I’m terribly worried about Austin’s hair because he attends his first “teen” party tonight and must look as cool as he believes he is. I greet the barber with a friendly “bonjour,” and attempt to give him ideas about Austin’s hair. With a combination of pantomime and cobbled together French/English language, I conveyed Austin’s hair must be “bref” (short or brief) with points on top. When I yanked and pulled on Austin’s hair so  it stood straight up, the barber nodded that he understood. Of course, Austin is nearly uprooted from his chair, but no matter, I apparently get my point across because Austin’s hair looked “tres bon” (very good) when the barber finished. Conner doesn’t have any problems with his hair either. Amazingly, all of the kids are pleased with their haircuts.

I breathe a sigh of relief and attempted to explain to my cranberry-haired beautician my preferred hairstyle. Thinking myself extremely clever, I showed her some likely pictures in a magazine. She ripped the magazine out of my hand and shouted at me in a near hysterical screech; “Je suis artiste,” (I’m an artist,) and things go from bad to worse. She’s an “artiste” all right, but not with the scissors!  She takes a large hunk of my hair (I have a lot of hair) and pulls it towards her, and opens the scissors in the manner as if she is curling a ribbon. She drags the scissors along my hair while pulling my hair straight out from my head. Yank, pull, drag, chop, it seems to go on forever.

I emerged from the salon looking like a Beatle from the sixty’s. I bear a striking resemblance to Paul on the cover of the Meet the Beatles record album. The haircut looks good on Paul, me—not so much. The boys exclaim at my ugliness when we leave the hair salon, I kindly let them know that mommy isn’t worried because her hair grows very quickly. Secretly, I regret my impulsive decision to go ahead with the “artiste/chopper” because my parents arrive tomorrow from the United States. I’m sure they’ll be so glad to see us, that my shearing will escape their notice. In hindsight, I should have overruled the hair butcher and her blathering about her prowess as an “artiste,” thusly avoiding the porcupine look-alike contest.

After the shearing, we arrive home in the usual haphazard manner, the kids are thrown hither and yon in the backseat as I dodge various potholes and chickens in the road. When we arrive home unscathed, (my children screaming with fear in the backseat), my supportive spouse greets me with hysterical laughter. He says he will “capture the moment for future reference.” I can only imagine what he’s up to; I put my foot down, (one picture only) thanking my lucky stars that my impulsive behavior doesn’t include, cranberry hair -color also.

Shawn grew up in Bellevue, and she holds a B.A. in Speech and a Graduate Degree in Audiology from Washington State University.  As our Readers know, Shawn is also a humor columnist for The B-Town Blog where she poses as “Underwood: Undercover.” She also contributes to, a website that reviews films, books and music. Her short stories are featured in the “Instant Gratification” humor column. Shawn also writes for the travel website,

For more information on Shawn and her writing, check out her website here.

Click below to buy her book online:

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One Response to “Shawn Underwood (“Burien’s Erma Bombeck”) Publishes Her First Book”
  1. Michael says:

    Congratulations! What fun! Thanks for the excerpt!

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