Off-Leash Writing




A Woman Wanderer in Africa

"It's my life, and if I want to run from it I can," quips Tanya Shaffer. An incorrigible wanderer, Shaffer has a habit of fleeing domesticity for the joys and rigors of the open road. This time her destination is Ghana, and what results is a transformative year spent roaming the African continent. Eager to transcend the limitations of tourism, Shaffer works as a volunteer, building schools and hospitals in remote villages. At the heart of her tale are the profound, complex, often challenging relationships she forms with those she meets along the way.

Whether recounting a perilous boat trip to Timbuktu, a night of impassioned political debate in Ghana, or a fumbled romance in Burkina Faso, Shaffer portrays the collision of African and North American cultures with self-deprecating humor and clear-eyed compassion. Filled with warmth, candor, and an exuberant sense of adventure, Somebody's Heart is Burning deftly explores themes of privilege, wealth, and the true meaning of friendship.

***One of the San Francisco Chronicle's Best Books of the Year***


"Perhaps the best of [recent] adventure books penned by women... These incredible characters...form a vivid pastiche."

- Vogue

 “[Shaffer] writes with knife-sharp perception…She captures the details that tell the larger story about Ghana and Africa, a place of stunning beauty, shocking poverty and loving people so often ravaged by violence and disease.”

- USA Today

" [Shaffer’s] observant recollections clarify her intimate, soul-searching journey and give texture to the narrative, with a candor and tenderness that render it immediately accessible."

- San Francisco Chronicle

“A natural storyteller. Readers will be enthralled by her tales.”

- Booklist

“A wonderful light touch... Shaffer walks through the world with the most delightful, open fluidity."

- Los Angeles Times

“Rich in visual and cultural explication...villages and hamlets too tiny for names come to hot, vibrant, scent-laden, insect-thrumming life.”

- Publisher's Weekly

MORE PRESS FOR Somebody's Heart is Burning


Many of my travel stories appeared in the now-defunct Wanderlust section of  These are a few of my favorites. The first titles are the ones Salon gave them; the parenthetical titles are the titles of the book chapters they eventually became.


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My work has appeared in the following anthologies: