In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.

~Bertolt Brecht (translated by John Willet)
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.
sarah's writing
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

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.”
Read entire Writing At Home article
Angels and Devils
“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.”
Read entire Angels and Devils article
“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

Leonard Woolf: A Biography
Book by Victoria Glendinning
Read entire Book Review
Be Near Me
Book by Andrew O'Hagan
Read entire Book Review

book review
Wrong About Japan:
A Father’s Journey With His Son

by Peter Carey
Hardcover $25. Illustrated, 160 pp
Published by Random House of Canada
(Review originally published, January 6, 2007, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

It took guts for Carey to title his travel-quest to Tokyo, Wrong About Japan, yet Peter Carey is forthright about his many confusions and misinterpretations of the place and its people. The trip, a second one for Carey pere, is an opportunity for him to lay in some quality time with his twelve year old son, Charley, a shy boy and a manga freak, a compulsive consumer of those graphic Japanese cartoons and their spinoff animated films called anime, whose clean lines and bold colours evoke Edo-period woodcuts. Even those unacquainted with this graphic-art genre can scarcely have escaped exposure to Sailor Moon — the gooey-eyed, big-haired cutie-pie who once graced little girls’ lunch pails and T-shirts globally for the briefly-allotted life span such trends enjoy.

Charley is infinitely more sophisticated— an avid follower of a series called Akira —no skimpy little dime-store comic or saccharine girly-doll but a graphically dramatic six-volume cartoon series of one-inch thick magazines that he and his obliging father crawl over Manhattan’s specialty magazine stores to collect. Peter looks over his son’s shoulder and before he knows it he’s hooked too. They must go to Japan and see this world up close. One of Charley’s stipulations in accompanying his father was that they not see The Real Japan, meaning: no temples, teahouses, Kabuki. and No Museums. In his turn, he’ll cheerfully eat raw fish and slimy things. His father obligingly pulls strings to prearrange interviews and studio tours with his son’s heroes, anime directors and manga comic creators but he plans to slip the boy a slimy thing of his own — a four-hour Kabuki marathon, hoping to persuade Charley that Kabuki was the manga of its time.

Upon their arrival, Charley links up with an eerie but helpful young teen, Takashi, a fellow manga-freak he’s found on the Net. The two boys take Charley’s father in hand and guide him through the labyrinth of contemporary Tokyo and Peter appears relieved to let them. He’s not a gifted traveller. He loses maps, forgets the names of people he’s interviewed, lets slip key details of place and decor, relies on his son’s memory instead. A bit odd, this. One begins to suspect assumed helplessness in such an accomplished writer and journalist. Perhaps it’s by design, as a booster-upper for his son. The diffident young Charlie does appear to grow more more attentive to his surround, despite the distraction of his cellphone game thingy. At lunch, he points out the yakuza (gangster) running what looks like a brothel above their restaurant. He translates Japlish words like stuffu (stuff) for the addled Peter. The young have pliant minds. Anyone who’s watched a twelve year old on a computer comprehends with sinking heart the gap between the child’s mental wiring and their own. Tokyo is like one big video game or anime set. Charley doesn’t need English words to master the slot machine dispensing subway tickets. He can read graphics — or maybe he can read minds. Young Charley is an American, a sophisticate of Manhattan, a citizen of virtual reality while his father grew up in Australia during the Wooden Age. Blankets of translation thicken the contours of the landscape Carey and his son now attempt to explore together, a metaphor for the bittersweet scrim that Nature must throw up between a boy at childhood’s end and his father. Carey’s getting it wrong all over the place about Japan and his son finds him wrong in just about everything else too. Small wonder. Carey’s trip-prep was to read Commodore Perry’s first impressions of the place, in 1854. Charley’s was to network ahead to Takashi. When Carey, with the help of various translators, presses his strangely clunky questions about manga’s symbolism and its cultural implications on various brilliant graphic artists and filmmakers, they avoid giving answers or respond with non sequiturs while Charley rolls his eyes in embarrassment or falls asleep. He hasn’t yet forgiven him for that four-hour Kabukithon.

Just when this reader began to despair of any memorable contact at all between this bewildered visitor and the Japanese creators he’s so doggedly interrogating, enter Mr. Yazaki. He’s not an animator and merely a colleague of Carey’s literary agent. Carey never gets his first name but gently prompted, the man who was Charley’s age during the war, tells a harrowing and delicate story of running to escape the relentless American firebombs and strafing of his various shelters. His shyly eloquent exchange with Carey is a marked departure from the robot-like syntax the translators inflict on the dialogues elsewhere else in the book.

Carey admits his interest is beginning to flag and his son is inching away from yet another breakfast of fish and salted plums. Their appetite for things Japanese is waning, the gap between us and them as intransigent and wide as ever. They’re preparing to leave when there’s a delicious and unexpected last explosion, as delicate as fish eggs crushed between tongue and palate.

Peter Carey has written eight novels, two collections of short stories and numerous articles. He’s a two-time winner of The Mann Booker Prize for his novels, one of which, Oscar and Lucinda, has since been made into a film, (screenplay by Carey). He’s won prestigious literary awards for virtually every book he’s published and has been presented to the Queen, a mixed blessing perhaps, for a staunch Australian Republican, but never mind. It’s therefore a tad intimidating to propose and perhaps be Wrong About Carey in venturing that the reception this slender Dad/Lad account might receive would be cooler had it been written by someone less luminary. I would rather have read his son’s account instead.

Back To "Writing" Main Page

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.
More Therapy Details...
Writing Mentor
I offer specific and supportive feedback on the substantive issues of structure, character development, style and pacing.
More Writing Mentor Details...
Writing Around the Bend
Strategies for Handling Writers' Issues Creatively
More Writer Workshop Details...
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