The Complete Package

Publishing maven Janice Shay negotiates contracts, art directs and does her fair share of ghost writing. In recent years, Her many talents have afforded her a few national awards, if you consider 33 a few. Spend a lunch hour with Janice Shay and you'll soon realize why she's quickly gaining status as a Southern Legend. As we sat for one such lunch last December at Savannah’s historic Crystal Beer Parlor, Shay, now definitively a local, cheerfully greeted the staff by name. She ordered the gumbo and smiled at the waiter, and then shared some of her other gumbo eating experiences from across the country. It was clear that she’s a Southerner through and through. As she ate and talked about the scope of her career, it came as no surprise that Shay, equipped with a streak of ambition a mile wide, is credited with producing stacks of Southern-inspired cookbooks, oozing with images of plump shrimp, chocolate cake and photos of the cooking queen herself, Paula Deen. It also was not shocking to hear that this genteel publishing professional helped create heaps of books with titles such as Manners that Sell, Texas Public Gardens and The Story of Silver in Savannah. What does come as a surprise is where her heart really lies. “My love is doing books about Southern heroes for African-American children. It expands their views of the South and makes them proud of their heritage. They’ve got a whole lot of heroes to look up to,” says Shay, book packager and owner of Savannah-based Pinafore Press, about her passion that has led to numerous national awards and accolades. Don’t get her wrong. She loves working with Deen and other large Southern personalities who have a need for someone to take the reins of their print projects, but the history she’s able to uncover and the personal satisfaction she gets from the children’s books are hard to trump.

Photography by Shawn Heifert