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.
THE INTERVIEW – Part I
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!