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Twenty Questions with
Jacqueline Sheehan, Writer, Psychologist & Yoga Teacher :
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Twenty Questions with
Jacqueline Sheehan, Writer, Psychologist & Yoga Teacher

Jacqueline Sheehan lives in Florence, Massachusetts, my favourite part of the world. I got to know her through the wonderful writing and yoga retreats she leads with Patricia Lee Lewis. When I started writing with Jacqueline and Patricia, I immediately knew that I’d found my writing home. A gentle but rigorous approach to writing, supported through an extraordinary group of writers with the chance to explore the connection between mind and body through yoga. I also fell in love with Jacqueline’s writing: Lost and Found made it to the New York Times Bestseller chart and for good reason. It has an awesome dog in it and as you know, I’m partial to a literary animal. I can’t wait to read her new book, The Centre of The World.

Jacqueline is primarily a novelist, but she also writes essays for radio and print, teaches yoga (see my post on yoga for writing) and works as a psychologist. She is currently writing her next novel, which is nearly finished, though he tells me that the characters keep surprising her, so she doesn’t yet know the ending!

Here’s a little insight into Jacqueline’s world:

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Experimental. Persistent. Grateful.

What do you love most about writing?

It is a full examination of what might be, as well as a deep dive into the spirit.

What do you find hardest about writing?

The gap between how I imagine a scene to be and my capability to create it. It is the same gap for all artists.

What kind of child were you?

Quite solitary as a young child. We lived in a rural area with few children around.

Where’s your favourite place in the whole world?

Two places: Glasgow, followed by the Isle of Skye.

Which literary character would you most like to have round for supper?

Ava Bigtree, the main character in Karen Russell’s novel, Swamplandia!. Young characters (Ava is 13) can be the most compelling. But wouldn’t it be fun to have a procession of favorite characters coming every week for Sunday supper?

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I write a contract with myself. I sign it and feel very accountable.

What book do you wish you’d written?

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

What’s been your most embarrassing moment to date?

I continue to be embarrassed when I forget the names of people I’ve met. I can see the disappointment in their faces.

Do you have any writing tics that you’re forever editing out?

An editor recently pointed out that my characters nod too frequently. But with psychologists, we nod frequently to let someone know that we are listening and staying with their line of thought and emotion. It’s been hard for me to let go of it.

What’s your greatest fear?

What are you reading at the moment?

Four manuscripts from a group that I belong to. Fantastic Writers!

What song would you like to be played at your funeral?

I used to think that it would be a song by Indigo Girls. Now I think it should be ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street.’

What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?

Don’t respond in anger. Wait, breathe. Wait more.

Which writer do you most admire?

Jane Yolen, for crossing all genres, and for living a good life.

Do you have a favourite snack you turn to when you’re writing?

I have so many! I love soup, with a side of really good bread, spread with butter. It’s my go-to meal.

What inspires you?

It’s so hard.

What’s your most treasured possession?

A painting of black-eyed susans by my mother.

When were you happiest?

One night when I was sleeping on the floor of a porch, in my favourite sleeping bag. The wind was fierce, right off the ocean, and inside the house were 6 women writers, all exhausted from writing.

What keeps you awake at night?

Only the imagined future.

What three tips would you give writers?

  • Read
  • Read
  • Write.

You can find out more about the wonderful Jacqueline by visiting her website and Facebook page, by following her on twitter and, of course, by reading her wonderful novels.

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