SARA GELBARD, Author of THE SOUND OF HER VOICE, a memoir
Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official authors bio?
- I have built a successful 25-year career in real estate in NYC selling townhouses to some of NYC’s most prominent families.
- There is a direct parallel to my choice of career and my life-long quest for a home. Growing up in the children’s house on the kibbutz never felt like a home with a family. Selling homes, to me, was a reparation.
- My career choice of helping other people find a home and witnessing them choosing their home – and my success – can be traced back to all of the things I longed for on the kibbutz – as well as the skills I learned in the Israeli army
Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
- As part of my healing process and as a way for the little girl’s voice inside me to be heard, I started keeping a journal. I would write in it every day. I never started out to be a writer, but little by little the daily journal entries started to tell a story which became a cathartic journey for me
- I had suppressed my feelings and inner voice my entire life and the journal helped me to begin to vocalize the things I needed to heal.
- I began writing when I was living in Punta, when my husband retired, and the quiet there enabled me to hear “her voice.”
- The Sound of Her Voice is my first book and the book that grew out of my journaling.
What is the title of your latest books and what inspired it?
- My book is called “The Sound of Her Voice”
- As a child on the kibbutz, I was never encouraged to express my individual voice or show vulnerability. This book is an expression of what that little girl never got to say.
- I wanted to let her have a voice and hear what she went through and what she needed now.
- I was also motivated to tell my story to help others confront their pain and learn how to heal.
- The Sound of Her Voice is a story for anyone who has ever felt the need to heal inner wounds so they will be able to open their hearts and live life more fully. .
How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast did you write (how many words daily)?
- I started writing the book when I was 70 and it took me 5 years to complete it.
- But in some ways, it took a lifetime to be able to write the book because until I could confront the pain and the hurt, I could not let the girl’s voice be heard. The healing was a work in progress as I wrote the book.
- In general, I try to write 3 – 5 pages a day
- Today I belong to a writing group where we are expected to write 10-page stories that we need to present to the group. It is a challenge, but one that really encourages me to grow as a writer. This is like a second career for me.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
- For one, I write everything by hand – even in this day and age of computers and laptops. It helps me to think and tell the story.
- I used to think that the best way to write was to do it first thing in the day when my mind was fresh, but I found that I could not concentrate until I had completed my morning routine (things like making the bed, walking/feeding the dog, having my own breakfast). In order to get my mind in order, I had to get my house in order.
- I learned from a book on good habits — ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear – to reward myself once I was finished so there was something to look forward to once I completed my writing. I always take a walk after I finish writing. The importance of good habits cannot be overestimated. The goal is to stack one good habit on top of another.
- When I did the writing for The Sound of Her Voice, I could not write at home, I would go to a local coffee shop and sit at a table by myself. It helped me to think clearly and without distractions. Today, because of COVID, I have had to build a writing nook in my apartment away from the distractions of my family. I built it together with a friend. We created a corner similar to what the Danish call Hygge which means coziness.
- The Danish believe in creating a warm atmosphere at home to enjoy simple pleasures in simple serene spaces. The spaces have books, warm colors, light natural wood, a nook to read and write and have a cup of tea. Simplicity. I also added my cozy chair to sit in.
Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than writing?
- There is a child psychiatrist (Donald Winnicott) who talks about the importance of “living creatively.”
- He defines that as the ability to keep surprising yourself – whether by acting spontaneously on things or accepting new, daily challenges.
- I look at my lifestyle and think I live creatively every day. For example, I read a story in the Washington Post about Diana Nyad, her love of her dog.. I found myself looking further into her story and realized she wrote a book about overcoming her obstacles and swimming from Florida to Cuba called Find A Way. Needless to say, I purchased the book and devoured her story. Her words and how she overcame so many challenges became an inspiration to me.
- I used to dance in Israel, and when I came to America, I joined the Martha Graham Dance Company. Everyone would think that is a form of creative expression, but for me, it was so rigid and confining it did the opposite to stifle my creativity.
- Today , I still love to dance – but freely and informally. I married Carlos, my husband and the greatest love of my life, because he is a fabulous dancer.
Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
- I don’t read fiction – I only read non-fiction. I love books about people who overcame difficulties against tremendous odds. Those kinds of personal stories really resonate with my own life’s story. It’s inspiring and cathartic to read about other real-life stories and how people have succeeded. I guess that inspiration keeps reinforcing my own story,
- There are just so many books to choose from I hardly know where to start!
- I read authors in English and Hebrew so there is an enormous diversity of titles.
Authors I love include Thomas Merton, May Sarton, Amos Oz. and Nobel Peace Prize winning poets, Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.
What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
- I am working on a second book. It will deal with Little Moments in my life today – giving voice to the events and moments that make up my life as it is today.
- I have written a series of essays on dealing with the Coronavirus called the Corona Trilogy. It talks about the importance of a new friend I found through a light in the window and how we forged a friendship that became an anchor during the pandemic.
- I am dealing with a way to “renew HER voice” and make the book more personal. At the moment, it is missing her voice of wonder.
Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
- My books are written for the very common person – everyone who wants to heal and improve their life. Who among us doesn’t have a story buried deep inside that we need to confront in order to open our hearts further?
- I love when people are able to internalize the stories in my book. For example, a friend was having a very “off” day where everything was going wrong and she just couldn’t get a grip on the day and she couldn’t explain why. She finally said that she called on her “manager” to set her straight. This was so important to me because in my book, I have a “manager” who is my inner voice and who calls me out when I am off the track and helps push me forward.
- I learned that my book and my story really and truly resonated with this friend in a way that it had become part of her own vernacular.
- That is who I want to write for. People who can internalize my story and make it their own or use it to help them deal with life’s challenges.
Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
- Establishing good habits that work for you and that make writing easier are really important. In some cases, you need to identify bad habits that restrict your writing and eliminate them in favor of newer, good habits.
- Learning how to stack one good habit on top of another will also help keep a young writer focused.
What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
- The best advice I was ever given was to “listen to the page.” Writing is about listening – there is a lot of listening in writing. You cannot go into it with a preconceived idea. For me, the stories evolve in a way that gives them authenticity.
- Don’t let your inner critic inhibit your writing. Let the story reveal itself.
How many books do you read annually, and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
- I often read more than one book at a time. I don’t read fiction — my favorite genre is memoirs
- I’ve recently read Obama’s book, The Promised Land and a The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama about happiness.
- I am currently reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- I read many political books like It Was All A Lie by Stuart Steven
- And a personal victory book Educated by Tara Westover
What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by your readers?
- For me the most important take-away is that in order to heal one’s life, you have to confront the pain. The goal is to come away from the writing like a broken bone that heals well and is stronger than it was before the break.
What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
- I really am not in a position to comment on the industry. Today the publishing industry is incredibly broad – there are so many options – it is complicated.
- What I think is really important is having a good editor and the freedom to publish in many ways – whether self-publishing (as in the Spanish and Hebrew versions of my book) or with many of the other options available that weren’t available in years past.
- Overall, books need to make the reader feel like they are hearing something new
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is by May Sarton: I have written every poem and every novel, for the same purpose — to find out what, I think, to know where I stand. That’s what I need.