Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi - transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
~Virginia Woolf
Sarah Sheard | Writer

Sarah Sheard, Writer and Therapist
I have written and published three literary novels. I am currently drafting my fourth. By literary, I mean that they seek to tell their own stories in a way that can’t readily be reduced to formula or niche-labeling. Each followed and created the unique shape their story demanded of them.

That said, of course I’m merely continuing the conversation literary novels have been having with one another since writing began and certainly since I began to read novels in order to understand the worlds inside people.
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
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.”
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book reviews
Wrong About Japan
Book by Peter Carey
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Leonard Woolf: A Biography
Book by Victoria Glendinning
Read entire Book Review
Be Near Me
Book by Andrew O'Hagan
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an excerpt
Krank

Crossing Over

Ainsley Giddings folded her dust cloth in quarters and rubbed along the windowsill next to what would have been Dan's side of the bed, had she not broken up with him. She retrieved two Eagle Patna HB yellow pencil stubs from behind the blind and tossed them into the middle of the room. Dan’s. She’d clearly transported them over to the island by mistake. She herself preferred 4Bs. So much easier to erase. Dan liked putting the occasional exclamation point in the margins of a book as he read. For whom? She’d never known him to reread in search of his markings later. Not a retracer of steps, Dan. She couldn't imagine writing in the margins of any book she was reading. That amounted to defacement. Or was it defilement?

She lifted the blind away from the window and pfttzzz-ed the glass with her spray bottle of environmentally benign household cleaner, wiping it clear of prints with her cloth. She wiped the sill once more and noted with satisfaction the fresh discolouration on the cloth.

A bit of a dust machine, this cottage. She straightened the blind and climbed onto the bed to wipe all traces of hair oil, scent, skin dust, off the headboard. This was her dust now. She’d been here over five weeks.

The day her lease began, she came across on the ferry staggering under a backpack of cleaning materials, bedding, towels, her books and her first installment of clothes. She flipped the mattress, put on her own sheets, took down the owner’s framed artwork and hung a photograph of her own beside the bed, a black and white balcony shot of Paris in the forties.

It wasn't hatred or revulsion towards Dan that propelled her to give up her apartment and sublet a stranger’s cottage for a year on Ward’s Island. It was, though, about making a clean start — and using the year over here as a sabbatical. Brilliant stroke of luck getting it. One smart thing she’d done of late, one sensible course correction.

Despite all her therapist’s smarts, her Gestalt therapist’s smarts, for god’s sake, she’d missed every sign, one after another, every last one, and tumbled down the rabbit hole after Dan. She was crispy now, no good as a therapist to anyone until she figured out how the hell she had let this happen to her, she of all people. A year of solitude and journaling — and absolutely no clients. Yes, that was essential if she was to excavate herself to the core. Maybe she could write her retreat year up into some sort of cautionary tale for her fellow professionals. A wounded-healer essay at the very least.

She finished the bedroom dresser and moved on to the bookshelf tucked behind the door, reallocating the owner’s books from the top shelf to the bottom. Her handpicked collection of poetry and psychology reference texts fitted nicely on the one shelf. Dan had earlier winnowed out his own books. He’d also somehow packed up her signed copy of a rare west coast poetry journal and carted it off with his stuff. An honest mistake. Whatever her feelings, she would never have considered him a thief. Except of her time, perhaps.

Sorting and cleaning are finite processes. Surfaces are finite. This little cottage is finite. Since grief is a subset of life and life is finite, then grief is finite. Thus sayeth Ainsley.

She pitched her cloth into the hall, dragged the vacuum canister across the room towards the bed and kicked it on again. She plucked a pair of shoes aside and gave the open space of rug in the middle of the room a quick pass with the wand before running it over the floor register, under the window and along the wall. The vacuum pitch rose to a squeal. She dropped the wand and turned it off. Damn. Something was stuck in its throat.

*

Bertolt Brecht stood a few feet away from the knot of people waiting for their ferryboat to pull into the dock in front of them. He brought the back of his hand close to his face and tilted it to catch more of the moonlight. Down to the dirt in the cuticles, the perennially split thumbnail, it was definitely his own hand.

How can this be? The cuff of the jacket was his own, bought last spring at that Berlin open-air market …. What was it called? Never mind. The trousers were his. The coat, his. He sniffed the sleeve. Hint of cigar smoke.

How in hell did I get here? He reached inside his jacket. A wallet. No money inside but there were two receipts. He had bought a notebook, two pens and a pencil on the 18th of the first month of the year 08 and a stamp-sized ticket marked TTC. He reached tentatively into his pants pocket, pulled out a wad of colourful paper and fanned it for inspection. He turned a bill over.

Canada.

Kanada. Ach. But how did he get here? He studied the numbers in the corners. Ten. Ten again. Twenty. A rust-red fifty. Two blue fives, the colour of a café curtain. What might all this buy? He hoped at least a couple of good meals and possibly some cigars.

He stepped up to read the broad signpost ahead of him: Ward's Island. City of Toronto. He listened to the voices around him. Flattened vowels, odd vocabulary, English, rising in mushroom puffs of vapour. Christ. I'm in England. His heart sank. He squinted at the people standing about on the dock. Or Scotland. Except the accents were wrong.

If not Scotland then, that country above America, maybe? He could see its shield shape vaguely on a map. Cluster of lakes drooping like testicles.

As people around him shuffled forward, he slipped two fingers inside his shirt. His fingers found the ridged scar across his heart, a tiny horizontal slit. Heli hadn't failed him.

Except I'm alive. He felt a sudden urge to urinate.

The ferry banged against the bumper tires and the crowd surged forward. Just then, he heard a tiny whine, coming from somewhere behind him, onshore. An industrial machine. Brecht leaned into the wind to listen, pricking up his ears like a dog. This was for him, this sound! The whine rose and fell, the machine straining at its task. He must track it to its lair.

He stepped away from the ferry dock and walked rapidly towards a black clump of cottages tucked back among the trees along the curve of shore. The sound was coming from one of the distant cottages. Reaching a tree, he unzipped and emptied his bladder soundlessly into the grass.

The whining sound stopped.

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coaching and therapy
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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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