Shirley was born in Syracuse, Kansas at the height of the dust bowl. She grew up in small prairie towns along the Kansas River in southeastern Colorado. After high school, she moved to the Los Angeles area and attended UCLA where she received a degree in Philosophy. She is married and has three children, two step-children and four grandchildren. Her poetry has been published in a number of literary journals, including The Spoon River Poetry Review, South Dakota Review, California Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, West/Word, and the anthologies The New Los Angeles Poets and Truth and Lies that Press for Life. Her poem “When What We Have Done” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she received The Language Arts Poetry Award from West Los Angeles College.