Gizelle: Are you a writer by trade?

Sherry:  No, I’m definitely not.  I’m a librarian and archivist [for the University of Kansas and the people who’ve grown up in the region].   As an archivist I work with historical material. I work with records of the past. So for example, organizations, businesses, institutions, universities all generate records. And those that are deemed to be of enduring historical value are retained for the future to research and study and to document those actions and activities of those entities as well as individuals. We have personal papers, we have letters, we have scrapbooks, autobiographical pieces, short stories, or perhaps just a speech that we gave to the rotary club …  I’m helping people to document themselves and their lives ….  Anybody who’s in history or anthropology, African American Studies or Women’s Studies or Sociology or Political Science … Any of these primarily social science or humanity areas find this kind of information important to their research.

Gizelle:  It sounds like this opportunity to write your story was kind of serendipitous. 

Sherry: There’s also another element here that is kind of a part of the story.   I’ve kind of been on a path for the past three years. I was quite overweight. And I started three years ago going to the gym. And for the first time ever in my life I didn’t think I could ever do this and so …. I’ve lost eighty-seven pounds as a result of this [weight loss] it has really reshaped the way I look at myself. So here I am this person that kind of always defined myself as a person who wasn’t an athlete, couldn’t exercise, certainly would never run, never do anything athletic. I just always determined in my mind that that was not who I was and I’ve discovered that it’s quite the opposite actually. That I like going to the gym, I actually like being involved in these things, and that it’s a way of defining myself that I would have never done prior to three years ago. And I think being in that setting has opened myself to a kind of window where I now look at things a little differently … There are just many more possibilities ….     

Gizelle:  What was it like working on these stories in the group setting?  How much time did you spend doing it together and how much time did you spend writing alone?

Sherry:  When I first started taking the class … they’ve been at it for a little while ... they had all taken this class with the teacher before. They were already working on a book project.  I was one of two people who was brand new to the class.  It was just so exciting!  The person teaching the class is just very good about making you feel comfortable.  And then the emails were flying back and forth. I sent them an email: “I just want you to know that I’ve really enjoyed the class but I’m feeling a little like a deer in the headlights. “ 

To register for "Finding Your Power through Voices of the Past: Anais Nin with guest speaker Sherry Williams" click here.

 Several people in that class individually contacted me and said “Oh, Sherry, stay in the class … Don’t drop out.”  That weekend I decided … I don’t know …  I just woke up on a Sunday and I thought I knew what I wanted to write about.

 I had a traumatic experience of finding out that my grandmother had died when I was ten when I was babysitting on my own. Being told without my parents around me was rather startling … It was kind of a challenging situation and … I knew I wanted to write about that.  I’ve been carrying that with me for a long time.  So I woke up on a Sunday morning … I must have been percolating this and I knew the first sentence I wanted to do so I just came downstairs and I sat at the computer and I just kind of pounded something out which wasn’t very good but you know, I let it set for a while.  But I found that I just wanted to go back to that computer and keep working on it and keep working on it!  So I did that and by the next week when I went to class I had something that at least I was willing to read!  And I was a little nervous. I was a little nervous. I thought “Well I don’t know … But this group of people was so great.

To register for "Finding Your Power through Voices of the Past: Anais Nin with guest speaker Sherry Williams" click here.

We get so much energy from each other. We share ideas.  They do critique your writing but they do it in a very gentle way.  It’s not a competition.  It just snowballed from there.

After the class was finished, we kept on meeting and we kept on writing.  We’re now sharing our drafts in advance.  Some weeks I don’t get to spend much time but other weeks I just start writing in a notebook and then transfer it on the computer. I spend about 2-4 hours a week on writing …. 

Gizelle:  Wow!  It sounds like you’re a writer!

Sherry:  I started this class thinking ‘How will I ever get the time to do this?’ I almost didn’t take it telling myself  "Oh you’re so busy. Do you really have the time to devote to this?"  I am SO thankful that I didn’t listen to that little voice because what I found is that this is really important to me and I’m going to make the time!  I’m going to make the time …

And it’s not that it just flows out in perfect form. It doesn’t. At all. And it’s not that I’m a good writer. I don’t think I’m a good writer. I’m just finding my voice.  I’m finding a way of expressing myself and that’s very empowering. And I’m realizing that there’s a real opportunity for growth in moving through this process. I’m sure that over time I’ll learn to write differently but just the whole process as it unfolds is very energizing. It’s not something I have to do. It’s not like "Oh Goooood. Tomorrow’s the class and I haven’t written anything. What am I gonna do?"  It’s which one of the things that I’ve been working on do I want to have ready for the next class. I mean it’s that kind of drive that just seems to be there, that speaks to me right now anyway.

To register for "Finding Your Power through Voices of the Past: Anais Nin with guest speaker Sherry Williams" click here.

Gizelle:  What’s next? 

Sherry:  We’ve had two class meetings. There are more people.  Just different perspectives.  We’re talking about possibly wanting to put together another group of stories. 

It’s interesting, I imagined my memoir would be written very chronologically …  in a very linear fashion but that’s not what’s happening at all. Sometimes I am writing and I don’t even know why I’m writing about that … It just jumps all over the place. So there’s no cohesiveness to it but what I’m not getting to the point is realizing that I’ve written oh maybe 15 – 20 short pieces. And I’m just kind of starting to look at how they fit together … whether they do fit together … I kind of think of it in a more collective sense than here’s just a bunch of short little vignettes that I wrote about my life but is there something unifying or something that I want to put together like that …

I am very lucky to be working with the group of people I’m working with. I really started out thinking that I’m doing this for my children but I’m really doing it for me. It’s helping me shape and focus … giving myself some voice. I don’t know where it’s going to take me. 

To register for "Finding Your Power through Voices of the Past: Anais Nin with guest speaker Sherry Williams" click here.


Sounds like a fascinating experience


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