From audioblogs to book: an author interview with Christine Sharpe

Christine Sharpe

In 2018 I began my blog, 45 Things as a way to try some new things and to begin sharing my writing publicly. The initial vision was for me to complete 45 tasks and to write about what I learned from them. I began my journey and was doing well until a mental health issue and a concussion ended that particular journey.

When I was feeling better, the year had passed and I felt I had failed. I didn’t complete my entire list. I did, however, learn that I had accomplished something even greater – I had learned that I had courage.

In November of 2019, I began my blog series, 45 Days of Courage which was a journey for me to move away from feeling like I live in a world of chaos and fear, to living with courage and vulnerability. The blog was very well-received and I had many people comment that the posts were helping them to step out of their comfort zones, to practice courage and to begin to see the world a little differently.

Now 45 Days of Courage is temporarily off the blog because I have taken another step of courage – turning the blog into a book. It is available in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.

Describe yourself in five words

Honest, Compassionate, Driven, Kind and Brave

What fact about yourself would really surprise people? 

I am an introvert. I think most people assume I am an extrovert because I work in education as a leader and have to spend a lot of time being “on” with people. But at the end of the day, I just want to close the door and be with my people, safe in our home together.

How do you work through self-doubts and fear? 

Apparently I write books about it.  I experience a lot of self-doubt and fear. My therapist recommended I journal about it, so I began blogging, since I love writing but needed some accountability.  Blogging helped me to overcome my doubts about being good enough and showed me that I can have fear and courage at the same time.

What scares you the most? 

The thought of hurting someone I love, especially my children. I hate the idea that a careless word or a thoughtless action could hurt them. I know that it is human to make mistakes, but I just pray my mistakes don’t cause others pain.

What makes you happiest? 

My happiest moments come when I am spending time with my family travelling. We love road trips and have taken some great trips with the kids over the years.  There is something about being trapped in a van with the ones you love most that just makes me very happy.

Why do you write? 

I write because something inside me says I need to write. I have a terrible time keeping thoughts from taking over and taking on a life of their own, so I write to keep them contained and to keep them from getting out of control. I write to stop ruminating. I write because it is the only way I know how to take what is in my heart and in my soul and let it out of my body.

 Have you always enjoyed writing? 

Yes, but there were many years when I hid my love for writing. After being told once, as a small child, that my writing was naïve and after being laughed at by both students and teachers, I hid my love of writing. But I was still always writing. It seems to be the only way I know to truly communicate what I am feeling and experiencing in the world.

What motivates you to write? 

Staying mentally healthy. I know that one of the best ways for me to keep my mental illness at bay is to write. Having bipolar sometimes means that my thoughts run wild and can run to a very dark place. Knowing that writing keeps some light in my life, and shows me a way out of the darkness, is a great motivator.

Also, my mom told me that she looks forward to reading my blog every morning. So I think I write every morning for her.

What writing are you most proud of? .

I am most proud of the book I have just written. What began as a blog project to help me find more courage became a way for me to find common humanity with others.  Publishing the book was a huge act of courage. I have felt simultaneously bold and vulnerable, exposed and supported.  I love how people have connected to the book and, in turn, have connected with me.

What are you most proud of in your personal life? 

I am most proud of how I am raising my kids. My wife and I adopted two children in 2013. There have been so many challenges, but through it all, I think we get up every day and love our kids, doing our very best to teach them to be kind and good people above all else, and to show compassion whenever possible. We strive to focus on their strengths while not letting them run away from their weaknesses. They are just cool little people who sometimes make me want to rip my hair out, but who always make me proud.

What books did you love growing up? 

I enjoyed lots of different books growing up. I think, as I look back, that I loved books with strong female lead characters. I could read three or four Nancy Drew books one weekend, and then sit down to enjoy Little Women the next. I adored Anne of Green Gables and still love the character of Anne Shirley.

What do you hope your obituary will say about you? 

She was kind. She loved her work and adored her family. She waded into a messy and wonderful life with her wife and together they raised two amazing children. She overcame challenges and times of deep despair with grace and with hope.  I hope my obituary will not simply focus on things I have done, but will reflect what I hope more than anything, that I am a kind person who genuinely cares about others and who wants others to find success and happiness.

Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live? 

I grew up in a few different cities around Southwestern Ontario.  Most of my youth was spent in Waterloo Ontario. When I finished highschool I moved to London Ontario to attend Western University.  Interestingly, my mom grew up in London but moved to Waterloo where she remains today.  I still live in London and I expect I will stay here for at least the next 8 or 10 years until I retire from education.

How did you develop your writing?

The best thing I can do is to just start writing. I don’t worry about developing anything when I sit down to write. It is just me, my pen or my keyboard and my writing journal or the screen. I just let it happen.  I edit later but I think for me, writing is the creative part, and editing is the art – the part where I decide what to keep and what to throw away.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? 

It’s all hard. But I like the writing and publishing parts.  This is my first time taking my writing out of the circle of close friends and blog followers I have, so I don’t know yet what I don’t know yet. Marketing is much harder, mostly because I am learning as I go.

Do you find it hard to share your work? 

I did. But now I want people to read it. I hope that my words get into the right hands at a time they are really needed.

 Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you? 

I have had more support than I ever thought possible. Friends and family regularly check in with me as they read my blog or hear about my book. It is wonderful.

 What else do you do, other than write? 

During the day I work as a high school Principal. I work with lots of teenagers who are making their world better. Yes, I also work with some who are making questionable life choices, but the beautiful part of my job is that I get to meet them right where they are, let them know they are loved and they belong, set high expectations for them and then help them to meet them because I know they can.

Beyond work, I love painting and doing DIY projects in my home…more accurately, I love starting DIY projects in my home. I am actually spending this week completing a number of projects that I have been sitting on for years. It keeps me from pacing and wondering about the book.  I also play the guitar and sing and I am an avid reader.  Mostly, though, I just love spending time with my wife and kids and dogs and the cat.

What other jobs have you had in your life? 

I have been a Principal and a Teacher for the past 22 years. As a university student I worked for the student newspaper in the advertising department and I also worked at a trophy shop, which was a very interesting job. In high school I bussed tables, served food, worked in the footwear department of a large retail store and stocked shelves.

If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?

I would love to do a doctorate in Education. I have been looking into it but it is hard to imagine what that would look like with work and my family to consider. I completed both my undergraduate and my masters degrees at Western University in London ON. I wonder if it would be fun to try another university for the doctorate.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? 

I would love to live somewhere where it is warm all year.  But not forever. Just for a year, maybe two. Living in Canada, I love the changing seasons, just not the cold of winter. I think I would miss it though.  The change from winter to spring reminds me that there is life even after the darkest season. The change from spring to summer reminds me to spend more time playing after a season of work and growth. Moving from summer to fall reminds me to let go of the things that no longer serve me. And the change from fall to winter, while difficult for me, reminds me to rest.

Tell us about your family? 

My family is amazing and the people I love most in this world. My wife Nancee is my best friend and the person I want to share everything with. We have been together for over twenty years and married since 2003. We would have gotten married sooner but we had to wait until same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. In 2013 we welcomed our two children into our family as foster children and then in 2015 we stood in a courtroom while a judge declared us a full legal family. Their adoption day is something we celebrate as a family every year. We also have two rescued hounds – Walter, a basset and beagle mix, and Winston, a boxer and basset mix.  We adore them and their antics. Finally, rounding out the family is Pickles the cat. He was found by my kids when someone had thrown him out of a car window when he was just a wee little kitten. The kids really wanted a cat and I did not. They asked to name him and I said I didn’t know if we were even going to keep him.  My son looked at me with the most pitiful eyes and said, “but Mama, when we needed a home, you didn’t send us away…” And then we had a cat.

My family loves road trips. While many families loathe them, we look forward to them. We have taken three trips to Florida, a trip to Washington DC, a trip to Myrtle Beach and a long trip out to PEI together. We have yet to hear “Are we there yet?”

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk? 

I usually outline what I am going to write in a notebook with a pen. Then I move to my kitchen table and write on my laptop OR I sit in my favourite reading chair and write on my phone. Seriously. It just depends how I am feeling that morning. I always write in the early morning – between 3 and 6 am, and always with a cup of coffee.

How much sleep do you need to be your best?

I haven’t had more than 6 hours of sleep in a very long time. And it isn’t because I set an alarm or anything like that. I just go to bed at 9 or 9:30 and at 3:00 I am wide awake.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support? 

I need to acknowledge my family – my wife and my kids, my mom and dad. Without them, I am not sure I would get up every day and write for other people. I would certainly still write for myself but they gave me the push to take my writing outside my circle.  Also I really need to acknowledge and thank my best friend Stephanie who always tells me to look inside and ask myself what story needs to be told next.

Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

For me, a successful writing career looks like people reading my words. I am not interested in being a best-selling author or anything like that. I just want the words to get to the people who need to hear them or read them.

It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign? 

Lol. I am just making this up as I go along. I use social media and word of mouth more than anything. I think having the blog helps.  I would love to connect with someone who knows more about the marketing side of publishing.

 Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?

45 Days of Courage is a 45 day, interactive and reflective guided journal. Each day I share a little bit about what I think courage looks like. We look at things like believing you are worthy of love and belonging, following your dream, treating others with kindness when they are cruel, laughing in the face of fear or standing your ground. In each section I share a personal story of moving from chaos and fear toward taking steps of courage and bravery. I challenge readers to do the same and they are given the opportunity to write their own thoughts or to share their own story of courage. My hope is that after 45 days, we have 45 practices and a habit of showing courage even in the face of fear.

I wrote the book because I went through some difficult times dealing with my mental health starting a few years ago when my wife got very sick and nearly died. As she would get better, I would begin to feel some confidence that everything was going to be okay and then she would have a relapse. Sometimes we would be in the hospital for a week, out for three days and back in. Eventually I just became so afraid that it infiltrated every part of my life. But when I turned 45 I decided that I wanted to change that pattern of thinking. I started a blog entitled 45 things and I set out to try to complete 45 things that scared me as a way of overcoming my fear.  While I didn’t complete all 45 (I am a work in progress) I did find more courage. So I then decided to blog about courage and the lessons of courage I had learned – that courage rarely looks like heroics. Courage looks like vulnerability. It looks like feeling afraid but showing up anyway.  I wanted other people to find opportunities to practice courage in a non-threatening and authentic way. When the blog was done, my friend told me it needed to be a book, so that seemed like a logical next step. Of course now I have published the book and I feel more vulnerable and exposed than ever before. The irony of writing a book about courage, I guess.

 If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask? 

I have thought a lot about this.  The ultimate dinner party for me would be at my home with my wife and we would invite: Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Abby Wombach, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ellen, Oprah, and Michelle Obama. My therapist would also like to be there so I guess I would invite her too. Lol.

 When you are not writing, how do you like to relax? 

I enjoy yoga and kick-boxing, but neither of those are really happening right now. I also love hiking which is on hold too. I am waiting for surgery to remove a painful tumor from inside a bone in my knee. Hopefully when that is done I can get back to doing the things I love. Beyond that, I read a lot and enjoy doing home improvement projects in my home…working on finishing a bunch of unfinished projects right now. In the evening I like kicking back with a glass of wine and binge watching shows on Netflix with my wife.

What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?

Above all else, I hope that people will take with them the feeling that they are not alone. I hope my writing connects people to one another and to me. I hope it helps them to feel like they have courage within them. I hope it challenges them to take their unique and beautiful lives and use it to make the world brighter and better for themselves and for others.

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