About Sarah Anne Shockley:
A native of Connecticut, Sarah Anne Shockley is a multiple award winning producer and director of educational films, including Dancing From the Inside Out, a highly acclaimed documentary on disabled dance. She has traveled extensively for business and pleasure. Her first book, Traveling Incognito, a guidebook for international travelers, won a Critic’s Choice Award (San Francisco Review of Books). She holds an MBA in International Marketing and has worked in high-tech management, as a corporate trainer, and teaching undergraduate and graduate business administration. As the result of a work related injury in the Fall of 2007, Sarah contracted Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) and has lived with debilitating nerve pain since then. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her son.
What inspires you to write?
What inspired me to write The Pain Companion and related nonfiction works was that I was in so much pain that I couldn’t find my way out. I had tried everything I could think of in terms of traditional and alternative therapies and nothing was helping – in fact, most made my condition worse. So, I thought, what if I wrote my way out of this? I knew journaling could be therapeutic for emotional pain, so I figured it might help move me through my stuck physical pain. So, even though the act of writing was, in itself, a physically painful process, I sat down every few days with a notebook and a cup of chai tea and wrote a few sentences. And then a few more. After a few months of struggling with a few sentences here and there, I noticed that I generally felt better. Not in any measurable, scientific way, just generally better all over. Since something was working, I just kept going. After a couple of years, sentence by sentence, I realized I had the beginnings of a book on living with chronic pain that could be of service to others as well.
Tell us about your writing process.
Because I had not originally set out to write a book, I let the material that presented itself unfold naturally and in no particular order. One day the writing was about the isolation of living in pain, and another it was a letter addressed to Pain itself, demanding to know its purpose in my life. I sifted through all the writing and pulled out what I thought was most valuable for others and then sorted them into 4 main themes which became the structure of The Pain Companion: how pain takes over life, the emotional challenges of living in pain, how to work with pain as an ally, and what I learned from living with pain. In subsequent works – my ebooks and workbooks – I decide what topics I want to cover and in which order, and make notes on each (I don’t like formal outline structures) before I start writing.
What advice would you give other writers?
For non-fiction as well as for fiction (I write both), I really believe in writing what drives you. What is truly important for you to understand, to know about, to share, to uncover, to explore? Where are your demons? Where are your great loves? What stops you? What propels you forward? I think writing is about digging deep and exploring the places inside ourselves, both the light and the dark, that we can only reveal to ourselves and others through writing them into the open.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
To be quite honest, as someone living with chronic pain, I really didn’t have the physical, mental, or emotional energy to try to hustle up a traditional publisher. For nonfiction, most publishers currently expect their authors to have a significant social media following, a platform, a speaking schedule, and be out in the world in a fairly significant way. I’ve been going through an intense journey through acute and debilitating pain for the past 8 years, getting my PhD in it really, so trying to present myself with all those bells and whistles was not an option. However, I believe I have valuable insights, wisdom, and approaches that can help others going through similar struggles with pain that can only come from someone who has lived through it. And that’s what I would say to other authors. There is a need to hear from people who have lived through something and have a unique perspective, whether they put it into nonfiction or into a fictional character. We need to hear from veterans and homeschoolers and single moms and young people falling in love and elders who have seen it all. We need to hear not just from academic and business and medical experts, but from life experts.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we will see many more author/publishers. There is a tremendous opportunity for writers to find their audiences and connect with them directly online. I’m seeing more and more traditional publishing houses selling self-publishing services because it really is the wave of the future. I don’t think we’ll see large publishing houses completely disappear, but they will transform to offer a menu of tiered editing and publishing services that authors can pick and choose from for a reasonable price, some by invitation only and some available to all.
What do you use?: Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Non-fiction (health), Fiction (fantasy)
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.