Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Reader's Question

One of my readers had a question about Sheila's interview. This reader wondered about Sheila's statement that other people remembered things differently. I asked Sheila to clarify. Read below for her response.

Thank you reader! And thank you Sheila.

When you stated about other people you talked to remembering things differently - what did you mean by that? Did you discuss things and then realized they or you had it right? did it change your memories - did you agree to disagree? If you could clarify that would be great.

It's an understanding that I have that no matter what I say, even if it's something exactly as I remember it, there's a strong chance that other people involved in the scene are probably going to remember things differently.
I haven't had anyone say that I got things incorrect. I just know that my memory is obviously one-sided. There's a remembering of my experience and feelings which is filtered through not only my memory but how I've changed and what an event meant to me. The picture in my head is colored by so many things.
I believe I have been fair to people and since I've had no complaints yet about how I've portrayed scenes, I hope I've respected the people in my life.

Spotlight on Sheila Hageman

Sheila Hageman is an author, teacher, and Yogini - combining mind and body as an artist. Also the mother of three children, Sheila holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Hunter College and is the author of the recent unabashedly honest memoir Stripping Down, published by last month's spotlight, Pink Fish Press

Click HERE for the interviews with Pink Fish Press.

Scroll Down to read Part I

In your process of writing memoir, you often relate specific conversations and events that include other people. Did you rely solely on your own memory, have access to journals or writing of your own from that time? Or did you go back and speak to people about their memories? And, if you did rely solely on your own memory, did you have a specific process for your recollections? Photos? etc.
I think I’ve used all those techniques that you mentioned to remember my past. I am lucky enough that I have always kept diaries and journals throughout my life, so I had a lot of great source material to look back upon.

Photographs have always been amazing sparks for my reminiscences, too.

I spoke with others about events I wrote about, but what was most interesting about those conversations was that they usually remembered things differently!

I have also always been very introspective and self-reflective, even as a child. I have always had this kind of photographic type of memory at least when it comes to moments that stood out as important in some way.

My friend Tanya who is a poet once said to me when we were teenagers walking in the snow on our street, “Let’s close our eyes for a moment and seal in this moment so we never forget it.”

And I can still just sit here and be totally transported back, feel the snow on my cheek, and feel the late afternoon closing in around us.

When I’m writing, I just take a moment or a feeling I remember and brainstorm from there. I let myself wander and meander around memories, letting my sense memory lead me to what was important to me in the moment.

As a mother of three, do you have any advice for moms (and dads) to balance work with family
Unfortunately, I do not have a great answer for this question. The truth is that I have found that sacrifices need to be made in some way. I believe if we have something that is so important to us to work on that we will be willing to make those sacrifices.

Does it mean that as a parent we might feel guilty sometimes for wanting to devote time to what’s important to us? Yes, probably. But in the long run, I believe we become better parents as we accept more that we need to honor our own needs and desires, too.

For those parents who say there are no more minutes in the day to be spared, I would say, look harder. Be hard on yourself. Do you really need to watch that episode of television? Or could you be devoting the time to creating your own thing of beauty?

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m devoting most of my time to doing marketing for Stripping Down. I am enjoying it, but miss being deeply entrenched in a writing project.

When I do get moments to write, I am working on a writing book for women, a graphic memoir about body image and even dabbling in a romance novel.

And trying to spend some quality time with my three kids and husband, too!

Final Words of Wisdom
I guess any words of wisdom would be words I need to whisper to myself when I feel like I can’t go on anymore or that nobody is reading my words anyway so why even try.

I would say to myself: remember, you write for you, first and foremost. There’s some reason you feel the need to express yourself through words on paper. It’s okay to not write everyday; it’s okay to take time to be a well-rounded person and have other interests.

You will return to the page if it is meant to be. Nothing will keep you from needing to reflect and understand yourself. The sooner you return to being true to yourself and your need for expression, the sooner you will feel that buzz of satisfaction that comes from having new realizations and reflections of who you are and who you wish to be.

Spotlight On Sheila Hageman

Sheila Hageman is an author, teacher, and Yogini - combining mind and body as an artist. Also the mother of three children, Sheila holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Hunter College and is the author of the recent unabashedly honest memoir Stripping Down, published by last month's spotlight, Pink Fish Press

Click HERE for the interviews with Pink Fish Press.


Your writing is deeply personal, how has that evolved for you? 
I started writing when I was a child and from the beginning I always most liked to write about personal experience. I think it stems from me being very shy when I was young and turning to writing as a way of expression where I felt I could be heard, even if it only was by a piece of paper.

I didn’t really know about memoir as a genre though until I was a teenager. I just loved to reflect on personal experience through writing and felt like it helped me to understand myself better than speaking could.

What led you to work with Pink Fish Press?
After I received my MFA in Creative Writing I thought it would be so easy to finish up my memoir and find an agent and publisher. I had a lot of publishers very interested in my story, but they all wanted me to change the main structure of the manuscript, which is nonlinear.

As a writer, I’m very open to editing and was prepared to make changes, but the structure of the book was something I felt was integral to my experience of what grief feels like and how I was relating that experience to the reader, so I stood my ground and kept looking.

When Renda Dodge read the manuscript she got what I was trying to do. She understood my reasoning and the craft I was aiming for. She helped me to remain true to my story.

How does your teaching (both writing and Yoga) impact your own work as a writer?
Being a teacher keeps me more devoted to my own writing time I think. Being so busy makes me appreciate and use wisely every free moment I get!

And on a deeper level, I am constantly in the position of stepping out of my own self and helping others to find their own empowerment and answers through writing. I feel like it’s such a gift to be able to experience the evolving nature of my students’ work. I get to see all sides of the process of writing and one of the big lessons I teach my students holds true for me also: it is through reading and evaluating and editing others’ work that we can learn so much about our own work.

I think the biggest lesson I teach and learn as a yoga teacher also holds true for writers and that is to begin again. It works for yoga, writing and life in general. We just need to stop, breathe, be in the moment and experience who we are and what we have to express right now. Everything else is born from that still moment.

Check back on the 15th for Part II!