Optimism with some experience behind it is much more energizing than plain old experience with a certain degree of cynicism.
~Twyla Tharp
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 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

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
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
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

Previously Published in TWUC (The Writers' Union of Canada) Newsletter
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. Some kids armoured themselves with indifference and became as conventional as they possibly could, while others (like you?) pulled out a pen and invented other selves, other worlds, in which to escape instead.

Writers struggle with subtle forms of rejection almost every day. There's that feeling of creeping invisibility when we've been too long between books and fear being passed over for younger, sexier writers, demographically more appealing, with hip, intergendered stories offering multi-choice endings and optional soundtracks. And there's that gauntlet of authors' festivals, book launches and fundraisers — all of them snub-fests. We brace ourselves to attend them but we'd die if we weren't invited.

In addition, a writer's life is juried. Grants, book prizes, story contests, festival invitations are frequently decided by a roomful of our peers. How yikes! is that. More challenging still is to be on a jury, paid an honorarium to read mountains of words, appraise, dismiss and defend, bestow cash and fame on a lucky few colleagues. Yet, it tastes so sweet to be asked.

A writer's rejection phobia positively spikes when a new manuscript goes the rounds. Perhaps an agent or two has already rejected your request to be represented in the champs de combat. You, in manuscript form, must now approach the publishers — and hey, you'd best be doing that, one by one, they all insist.

Better bad news than no news at all, but nothing quite triggers the dejection of rejection like a day of unreturned phone calls. You must wait patiently to take it on the chin from each publisher in turn until, oh happy day, you score a smooch instead.

But that's only starters. If published, part two begins. Critics, readers, discerning colleagues and your hawk-eyed family thumb through your psyche— in book form now — and no matter how thickly teflon-coated you are, every negative comment sticks and burns.

Yes, rejection comes with the job and you have to learn to deal with it. One way is to collect encouraging nuggets of supportive self-talk to get you through the dark times and keep that inner critic at bay.

Now, there's good self-talk and bad. The bad kind is Sour Grapes: you reject the rejecters, quit before you're fired, pretend you didn't need the glowing review, the Giller Prize shortlisting, teaching gig, C.C. grant, etc. that you didn't get anyway.

Sour Grapes gives off a bad smell and is never in your best interests. You might find yourself talking to someone who could put your name forward, blurb your next book or review it for the Globe. Face it, nobody's exactly charmed by negativity.

However, you can minimize the damage to your psyche if you grab the negative feedback and dig out the useful bits. Remind yourself of a basic fact: you could commit 110% to your writing, submit your work everywhere and still not land a prize or a publisher, but if you don't put out 110% you don't stand a chance. Better to try than not to try, you tell yourself.

Until one day, perhaps, depression hits you. And depression can cleverly disguise itself as Pure Reason. Proof abounds that the world is largely indifferent to art, right? Only the obvious stuff seems to draw readers today, so why strive for excellence? Let's cast blame at the usual suspects – the Conservatives, the economy, declining literacy, an ailing publishing industry – because they are all, in fact, blameworthy.

That said, there's no question that when you experience rejection – by an editor, critic or grant jury — you'll tend to take it personally and feel that sting. How much more logical it would be to give up than to take the hit and move on.

But underneath that depression can lurk a harsh inner voice, sometimes sounding like a disappointed parent, an agent from hell or a critic who voices your worst fears about yourself. This voice can eat its way through every cheery self-affirmation you throw at it, unless you tackle it directly and neutralize it, perhaps with a session or two of therapy.

Meanwhile, here's one way you can support yourself psychically as you ride out the boom/bust cycle of writing and publishing: cultivate a group of peers — people whom you respect and who respect you in turn. Look for people who reject the culture of cynicism and are willing to risk themselves, over and over again. Peers with generous hearts towards you and themselves. They'll light you through those dark nights of the soul and give you feedback you can trust when you ask — and only when you ask — for it.

Evaluate the folks you're hanging out with now. If they don't fit this description then run, don't walk, until you find others who do.

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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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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