Without passion, all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.
~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.
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
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.”
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
“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
Read entire Book Review
Leonard Woolf: A Biography
Book by Victoria Glendinning
Read entire Book Review
Be Near Me
Book by Andrew O'Hagan
Read entire Book Review
recognition
Literary prizes & Awards
National Magazine Award
Silver Medal (1998)
for my personal essay on
The Coach House Press

Forty-Five Below Award
Almost Japanese (1986)
For ten best Canadian fiction writers
under 45 years of age
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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The Humber School
for Writers

I am a creative writing instructor for The Humber School for Writers and a sessional creative writing instructor at Ryerson University, Continuing Education.
some of Sarah's writing
fiction/novels


Almost Japanese
The Coach House Press, Toronto
ISBN: 0-88910-277-5

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. Several years later, she must journey to Japan, a pilgrimage in search of the elusive source of a love that has grown into obsession.

Excerpt:
"Who was I before all this happened? I am trying to remember.

Feet.
They left two parallel tracks in the snow as each parent took an arm and dragged me like a sack to nursery school. One morning, after two weeks of this, I suddenly announced that I would walk.
My father came home that night with a gauzy sack of chocolate coins in his briefcase."

Sarah's Commentary: My first novel, as first novels will do, brought me up to date with my whole life to that moment. I beaded memories, impressions, first deep obsessions, first love, onto a string that tied itself into curious knots along the way. A book of many firsts.

It has since come out in Japanese, German, Dutch, Spanish and French-Canadian editions. Available in their respective countries’ bookshops or in libraries. The English-Canadian edition is available directly from The Coach House Press.

Praise for Almost Japanese:
“Sarah Sheard has woven a first novel that is, in all respects, a miniature masterpiece.” - Toronto Life

“The most powerful images in Almost Japanese are imbued with an erotic intensity that’s sung out in lament ... the novel is a fine portrait of the artist as a young woman.” - Saturday Night Magazine

“A small marvel, intimate, sensuous, revealing, as intense and evocative as haiku.” - Newsday

“A slender, graceful novel ... Sarah Sheard writes authentically about the pain of adolescence ... and makes us laugh at our own youth and excesses.” - The New York Times Book Review

“Intensely felt, the anguish is of the same order as that in By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.” - The Globe and Mail




The Swing Era: a novel
Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 0-394-22731-X
Out of print. Available only in Canadian libraries.

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.

Excerpt:
My mother hadn’t always been unwell.

I still carry the photos with me of my eighth birthday. She’d spent days preparing a treasure hunt, writing out clues, hiding them in books and crannies throughout the house, recording their locations on a clipboard. We had both dressed thematically for that occasion — she in pirate bandana, earrings, a charcoal moustache, I with cutlass jammed into the sash of my party dress. Dressing up was a game she and I had loved to play at first. It had only been make-believe back then.

Sarah's Commentary: A second novel is often a steeper climb than the first, and this one was certainly harder for me. The weight of expectations, the ticking clock, the unaccustomed scrutiny from onlookers, fear of repetition as I swung the pickaxe at my memory banks.

The tempo of publishing is set at presto. My mind works more comfortably at andante. I write and rewrite rather slowly. When I finished it, once again this book seemed to enclose all the wisdom I’d acquired to date.
The Swing Era by the way, has nothing to do with jazz but refers to the mood swings of bipolarity.

Praise for The Swing Era:
“Where Sheard’s achievement lies is in her contribution to the literature of pain. The Swing Era makes us aware of a variety of suffering may of us scarcely knew existed ... Sheard has created a character whose story evokes pity and horror, and also a curious feeling of protectiveness.” - The Globe and Mail

“The Swing Era stands up to high expectations — Sheard’s own and her admirers’ — as she continues to reveal a fascinating observational sense and a finely honed technique.” - Now Magazine

“What we sense in this tranquil and beautifully written novel is the work of a human spirit that puts old ghosts to rest.” - Books in Canada




The Hypnotist: a novel
Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 0-385-25846-1 (hardcover)
ISBN: 385-25847-X (paperback)

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. From the beginning, WIlliam asserts subtle but firm control over Signe, while maintaining a discreet distance from her. 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. As her vision clears, Signe comes to realise just how much of her independence she has surrendered.

Excerpt:
Bread arrived. He shook out his napkin and draped it precisely across his lap, then reached across and did the same for her and she thought with a twinge of sadness that he was exactly the kind of man her parents would have wanted her to marry. WIlliam smiled at her as though reading her mind. She struggled to find something about him appealing physically but her eyes kept straying to his perfect hair, his tense mouth, his fluttering hands ...

‘What happened to your marriage?’ he asked, his face neutral but inviting.

Sarah's Commentary: We’ve all met at least one. Hypnotists come in deft disguises but they can be detected eventually by the marks they leave on the psyches of others. I found hypnotists fascinating and the suggestible psyche even more so.

I began drafting “The Hypnotist” while completing my Master’s in counselling psych. I rode into that book on a comet’s tail of new experience and insights. I was already in private practice as a psychotherapist when “Hyp” came out, by which time I had entered the Gestalt Institute for a four-year intensive training in its powerful “here & now” psychotherapy.

Praise for The Hypnotist:
“Retaining the lyrical precision of language and image for which Sheard is justly renowned ... her style has transformed from a poetic sensibility ... into a storytelling sensitivity.” - National Post

“Sheard’s spare and graceful prose provides an affecting portrayal of the sacrifices and endless justifications some women make for love.” - Maclean’s

“Sheard has aways been gifted at creating captivating images ... the imagery in The Hypnotist is also spookily memorable.” - The Globe and Mail

“A riveting story ... laced with startling images. - Books In Canada