SB: I did not know until I became aware of my mission to write about the need for justice for women in the military. I heard the call from inside and said, “OK then show me I can write.” I sat down at the computer and asked to write an introduction and within seconds my fingers were flying across the keyboard and I produced in introduction that was so powerful it blew me away, figuratively and I said, “OK let’s do this!” and the rest is history because my first book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military was released January 2014.
VAH: Do you have any advice for emerging writers?
SB: Don’t give up. Write what is in your heart.
VAH: Do you have a favorite conference or writing retreat/seminar and why?
SB: I like going to Barbara Turner Vessalago’s writing workshops because not only do I get to write for three hours at a time whatever comes up, but I get to listen to it read aloud and see others responses. I also get to hear fabulous writing by others and enjoy myself with them and nature at the same time.
VAH: Are you a full time writer?
SB: I am a nurse psychotherapist.
VAH: You must use stories then in your practice.
SB: I use stories a lot in my psychotherapy to illustrate concepts, ideas, and as examples. One such story that comes up a lot is the one about the Zen monks who are walking back to their monastery together when they come to the river. There is a woman looking at the river and in distress about crossing it. One young monk takes off his cloak and wraps it around the woman from behind and then picks her up and carries her across the river. He then puts her down and continues his journey back to the monastery. When he catches up to the other two monks they are in heated discussion about him and the woman. As they reach the top, the young monk says to the other two, “I left the woman on the other side of the river and you two are still carrying her.”
VAH: Wow, that’s powerful and illustrates well how we hang onto stories we experience. Sarah, what would you be reading late into the night? Perhaps give an example?
SB: Either science fiction or spiritual books. The Faithful Gardener by Clarissa Pincola Estes. I found it very healing and go back to if whenever I need to. She weaves many stories through it and brings the reader/listener through the worst of devastation to new growth. “To bring new growth you leave the land bare and hospitable. First you put out water -God has already done that for us-God calls this rain-what a great host is God. Next you put out sun and some shade-oh clouds and sun-God has taken care of this also-what a great host is God. Lastly you leave the ground fallow-turned but unsown, it means you send it through the fire to prepare it for it’s new life. This is the part God does not do alone-God likes a partnership. It is up to us to help what God has begun. No one wants this kind of burning-we want the field as it once was in its pristine beauty, just as we want life to remain as it once was. But believe me fire comes though we are afraid, it come anyway. Sometimes by accident, sometimes with purpose and sometimes for reasons no one can understand, reasons that are God’s business. But the fire can also turn everything to a new direction a new and different life one that has its own strength and ways to shape the world.”
“In every fallow place a new life is waiting to be born-I am certain, I am positive. And more astonishing than that, new life comes whether one wills it or not. New seed flies in on the wind and it will keep arriving, giving many chances for change of heart, mending of heart, and for choosing life again at long last. Of all of this I am certain. What is that which can never die, it is that Faithful Force that is born into us, that One that is greater than us, that calls new seed to the open and barren places, so that we can be resown. It is this Force in its most often mysterious ways that are far greater, far more majestic, and far more ancient than any heretofore ever known. Remember new seed is faithful, it roots deepest in the places that are most empty.”
Sarah Blum is the author of Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military.