Tell the truth, but tell it slant.
~Emily Dickinson
Sarah Sheard | Writer

Sarah Sheard, Writer and Therapist
I have written and published four literary novels. I am currently drafting my fifth. By literary, I mean that they seek to tell their own stories in a way that can't readily be reduced to formula or label. Each follows and creates the shape their stories demand of them.

I also create short experimental literary films. The most recent of which, The Bed, I've submitted to experimental Canadian film and video festivals.
journalism
Sarah's Views
Writing at Home
“Writing at home is hard. It's, like, a focus problem. The path to the desk is paved with great distractions. There's that rental video due back so maybe you should watch it right now.”
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Rejection
“Rejection stings like hell. When we were kids, it was a matter of life and death to be liked — by family, teachers and friends — but we quickly found out that the world could be cruel and scrambled for ways to toughen our hides.”
Read entire Rejection article

book reviews
Wrong About Japan
Book by Peter Carey
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Leonard Woolf: A Biography
Book by Victoria Glendinning
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Be Near Me
Book by Andrew O'Hagan
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recently published
Krank
It is January, 2009, and Bertolt Brecht finds himself reincarnated on the Ward's Island ferry dock in Toronto, Canada. He befriends Ainsley Giddings, a woman who has just moved into the cottage she's leased on Ward's. A Gestalt therapist on sabbatical, Ainsley wants to be alone on her year-long island retreat. Brecht, intoxicated by his unexpected gift of renewed existence, wants to sing, philosophise and make love.

Their agendas quickly square off against one another. Mixing into their eccentric affair are island airport politics, Ainsley's exertions at translating modern life to Brecht, and finally their fateful trip to Berlin where time takes another half-twist around these two. Past pierces Present in a startling conclusion that may help explain what brought Brecht and Ainsley together.
Read an excerpt from Krank
sarah's writing
fiction/novels
Almost Japanese
Summary: Emma discovers that her new next door neighbour is a dazzling Japanese orchestra conductor. Things Japanese soon begin to transform Emma and estrange her from her own world.
more about Almost Japanese
The Swing Era
Summary: A compelling story of a woman bound to her family by all the familiar complicated ties of love and obligation — and by a history of family madness that entrapped her lovely willful mother and now haunts her own life.
more about The Swing Era
The Hypnotist
Summary: Drawn together by mutual friends and a shared love of art, Signe, a talented photographer, and WIlliam, a psychiatrist, construct a private and passionate world of two. Driven by a need to penetrate the mystery of this man, Signe tries to crack the code of his carefully guarded world of hypnosis and psychotherapy.
more about The Hypnotist
sarah's views
Angels and Devils

Previously Published in TWUC (The Writers' Union of Canada) Newsletter
We all have them in our psyches, competing for space.  Sometimes the devils are in charge—say, at 3 a.m., in that dark night of the soul.  At other times the angels take over and guide us through hours and hours of the most difficult work.  With the angels on our side, all is brightness and certainty and unending accomplishment.
 
Artists are unusually familiar with these twin companions, because we have signed on to explore strong emotions and to plumb for truths, whether pleasant or not.  We know that their contrasting presence – light and darkness, good and evil – create energy and inform our work with breadth and completeness.  Artists are famous for their devils. It's why we like to read their biographies: to find out what's behind their creative impulse.
 
I am, of course speaking of professional artists, whose main purpose in life is to do The Work, and who will use any material  -- good or bad –- to do it.  It is a hallmark of amateurs that they don't commit or take risks, for fear that a Grendel might leap out of the subconscious swamp and take over their life. So they play it safe — seeking to stay both calm and creative — an oxymoronic combo, if ever there were one. Keep sweet and for god's sake, stay out of the basement. Fear of devils in fact more or less defines the amateur.  Some pros, of course, also play it safe.  I assume that you, my reader, are not among them. 
 
There are no short cuts to feeling authentically, and it is impossible to be an engaged writer while being emotionally dishonest within. The work is sure to suffer.  Writers seek to know how they honestly feel, not how they ought to or should feel. They prefer to understand how emotions actually work inside themselves and to depict these truths in their writing. Courage to pursue an unflinching examination of the emotional landscape within is an entrance requirement of serious writing. It can also make a writer's life difficult and lonely at times.
 
But while most of us know that we need to have some devils in order to create, it might be worthwhile to point out a seductive trap: the fashionable belief that a real artist must be a suffering artist.  This can result in the sort of artists who cultivate a stricken, afflicted and, well, possessed personality.  We all know the bad boy or bad girl who excels in emotionality rather than authentic expression of feeling.  The devil's toy box of excitement- psychotropics and the rest, not to mention tortured love affairs and other kinds of personal chaos, can certainly drum up emotion in the flattest psyche— at least temporarily. But ultimately, these toys tend to require more and more maintenance in return for diminishing returns and can bring a cornucopia of brand new problems which distract from, rather than contribute to, a productive writing life.  In a word, if devils and angels are in your tool kit, they have to be genuine.  You can't fake it. 
 
Some writers are passionate explorers of their own psyches. Currently, within the intellectual writing community in London, England, psychoanalysis is (once again) the rage, practically a requirement for entry into their circle.  Conversely, other writers fear therapy and the deep work it can sometimes entail for fear they'll throw out their angels with their devils. They believe that all their entities are useful, maybe even essential to their creative lives. It's folly, they suspect, to stop and figure out which ones might not be, for fear the investigation might jinx their work.
  
But while it is generally agreed that artists need their devils, it should be noted that all devils are not the same.  Some are useful, and a struggle with them can throw off creative sparks, while others are merely destructive and serve no artistic purpose.  One such is the Devil of Defeatism. A voice hissing 'You'lll never amount to anything,' or 'You don't deserve success' rarely inspires productive work.  And the    Happiness-Deflating Devils who make withering comparisons between self and others, nurse jealousies and resentments, petty rivalries and so on are not usually rocket fuel for the writer's soul. These particular devils have probably tagged along from childhood, born of wounds inflicted by parents, siblings, teachers and other authorities. The Impostor Devil tries to convince you that you are a fake ("If your readers really knew who you are they would despise you!") when all you have done is strive to reinvent yourself and your work, to become a bigger and better artist. On the other hand, the Overconfidence Devil covers your eyes and ears, hampering your quest for improvement. 
 
How do you tell the difference between useless and useful devils, especially since the useless ones can be so persuasive in their arguments?   It's pretty simple.  Useful devils (angels in disguise) are any which connect you to the subject of your work itself. A childhood wound can be transformed into a powerfully insightful drama. Unfinished emotional business can provide the architecture of a novel. A repressed yearning for love unfulfilled can be channeled into an opera. Anxiety and unbearable pain are the meat and potatoes of divine comedy.  But if a devil stops you from working and robs you of the courage to go where you need to go, then it's likely the useless sort and needs banishing.  For example, while melancholy can be useful, crippling depression is not.
 
So here's a test. Just ask yourself: if you could take a magic pill and banish a particular devil forever, would your creative life be better or worse?  You might find that you need that devil, at least until the novel's finished.
 
As for the useless kind, there are no magic pills and no short cuts to banishing them. Therapy isn't for everyone but it can help distinguish which devil is which and clear the room of the ones getting in the way of your work.

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Tools Just For Writers
coaching and therapy
Therapy is simply being in a quiet, airy room with an attentive and actively supportive/challenging listener for an uninterrupted hour.
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workshops
Writing Mentor
I offer specific and supportive feedback on the substantive issues of structure, character development, style and pacing.
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Writing Around the Bend
Strategies for Handling Writers' Issues Creatively
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Riverdale Area
Workshops Network

Workshops are also offered through Riverdale Area Workshops Network. Please check their calendar for Sarah’s upcoming workshops.
The Riverdale Area Workshops Network