Author Interview with Sarahn Henderson, Birth in the Tradition

Sarahn Headshot_By Maiyahn (1)

I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to my new friend, the midwife, educator, and writer, Sarahn Henderson. Two months before my historical novel, A Decent Woman went to layout, I was browsing the internet about caul births, and I stumbled upon Sarahn’s website. This was synchronicity at its best! I immediately contacted Sarahn, who was gracious enough to read an advanced reader copy of A Decent Woman. Sarahn gave my novel the first midwifery ‘seal of approval’. I will always be grateful to this beautiful, talented lady, and can’t wait to meet her in person.

Sarahn Henderson is the principal midwife at Birth in the Tradition. She is the mother of five adult children who were born at home. Since 1980, and to her credit, Sarahn has assisted and midwifed hundreds of families into parenthood. Her role models were the Granny Midwives, respectfully called Grand Midwives today. Sarahn has also apprenticed over a dozen women who chose to study or practice midwifery. Her vision is that homebirth will become nationally recognized as a safe alternative to hospital births (for the low risk mother), and that midwifery will become a licensed profession in the US maternal healthcare system. Sarahn is the author of Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy and she is a performance artist.

Welcome, Sarahn!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is an inspirational coffee table photo book of Giwayen Mata; an all female African dance, drum and vocal ensemble!

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is a mélange of eloquent quotes, golden nuggets and voices of inspiration by the women of Giwayen Mata and other “Elephant Women”.  Additionally, it pictorially reflects the twenty years of Giwayen Mata’s growth and continuation.

How did you come up with the title?

Speak Sistah Speak is a Giwayen Mata Performance piece.

Speak_Sistah_Speak_CVR_FINAL (1)

In addition to being the title of GIWAYEN MATA’S book, Speak Sistah Speak is also the name of one of the performance pieces in Giwayen Mata’s repertoire. In this piece, Giwayen Mata’s artistic director, Omelika Kuumba, has addressed the ridicules, laughter and scorned faces from those who disapproved of her and other women stepping out to speak with their hands as female drummers. The title was used here again because being at the forefront, defending this change in attitude about women drummers is our charge and appropriately sums up Giwayen Mata’s 20 years. The preserving a legacy part of the title speaks to Giwayen Mata’s purpose to preserve the stories, language and history of Africa and the African Diaspora through song, dance and rhythms.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

This compilation of stories and words of wisdom are intended to inspire and encourage those who need examples of perseverance to help them achieve their goals. This book is about determination and perseverance. Giwayen Mata continues to trail blaze a new frontier for women drummers.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the sharing of my imaginative thoughts in literal form. Writing is an artistic expression that allows me to create tapestries of words that entertain and inform. Writing is my gift, which I am continuously developing.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Putting my thoughts “perfectly” into words is the most challenging aspect of writing for me. When I find myself rewriting what I’ve already written just to make it read better, the process extends longer than I’d like. Knowing that my words will touch someone in the process allows me to stick to the challenge.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t have one favorite author. I tend to be attracted to historical fiction literature. So authors who write a good story with interesting characters and events with historical context, can most times captivate me and hold my attention.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I would have to say that Eleanor Parker Sapia and her novel A Decent Woman have been new sources of inspiration and influence for me. Besides being a performing artist, I am also an African American Midwife. I have been intending to publish my midwifery memoirs for years. Eleanor Parker’s book closely resembles my personal experiences in the US. After reading her story, I could tell that it is time for me to write my own. My clients, family and friends are continuously encouraging me to do so.

Favorite place to write?

Since I cannot say on the front porch of my cabin over looking the Smoky Mountains of Georgia or on the patio of my beach home listening to the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I have to confess that my favorite place to write is on my bed with my laptop on my lap desk! My room is my “She Cave” where I retreat to gather my thoughts. The lamp which hangs over my head provides me with the light I use to burn the midnight oil.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m shy! People don’t believe it because I perform and am well known in my community. But get me in a crowd with people I don’t know, I am quite the opposite of the social butterfly.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Writing and publishing is a process. Going the self publishing route requires doing your own editing, research and marketing.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Speak Sistah Speak is my first published book. After researching different publishing options, I followed the advice from the first person who put me on the road of self publishing. As a novice, this process has felt safe and has allowed me to have control of what I know and of what I need to know for further works.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write! Be courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t procrastinate. If you have a story to tell, write it. Whether you are interested in self publishing or using a publishing company, there are plenty of resources on the web.

Website?

www.giwayenmata.com

Where can we find your book?

Speak Sistah Speak can be found at:

http://www.giwayenmata.org/store/specialty-items/speak-sistah-speak-preserving-a-legacy/  or

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Speak%2C+Sistah+Speak!!%3A+Preserving+a+Legacy

What’s next for you?

The Memoirs of an African American Midwife by Sarahn Henderson!!

Thank you for a wonderful interview and for the kind words, Sarahn! I am blessed to have you in my life and wish you all the best with Speak Sistah Speak and your memoir! Please keep me posted and visit us again! x

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

How I Got Rid of the Holiday Blues

Could I be any more behind this holiday season? Is my current situation any different than last year, the year before or the year before that?  The answer is no. No, it isn’t. If you compared me to when my kids still lived at home, you’d be shocked…or not. I bear little resemblance to the woman I was four years ago. I am a disgrace to the Virgo astrological sign–I’m supposed to be super organized. I used to be! What changed? What happened to me? Is this change a good thing? Read all the way to the end to find out!

011

I was the woman who had two fresh family Christmas trees up on Thanksgiving Day with fresh garlands of greenery on the staircase banister, along the fireplace mantle, and holly and ivy everywhere you looked. The trees had different themes, of course, and they matched every pillow in the room, to include the drapes in that particular room. And I only used white lights, much to my children’s dismay, who loved the primary colors of our neighbor’s Christmas tree lights. Not in my house, thank you very much. Every year of my 25 years of marriage, I wrote a family newsletter, complete with photos (friends, please forgive me for those), which I stuffed in no less than 125 Christmas cards to family and friends. I bought gifts for my family and friends, wrapped way ahead of most of my friends, and prepared a sumptuous holiday meal for my family, friends and my favorite priest, Father Vincent, when he could join us. As a family, we visited Christmas markets from Germany to Holland, where I bought special ornaments for the trees…for the following year. Yes, I already knew what I wanted for next year’s tree as I decorated that year’s tree. I volunteered for holiday church events, participated in the Angel Network, and Toys for Tots. I still ran out of batteries for toys and gadgets on Christmas Eve, but doesn’t everyone?

After 25 years in a traditional marriage, I separated from my husband and moved from Belgium, back to the United States. We divorced, I went back to school and worked, but I still hung onto our (my?) holiday traditions like a woman clinging to her fading beauty. My kids were at were university in Washington, DC and Harrisonburg, VA, so we enjoyed four Christmases in our rented home in Northern Virginia with one fresh Christmas tree. I sent out less than 50 Christmas cards and we celebrated the holiday season with new friends and family. I hadn’t spent a Christmas with my single sister and her children in 13 years. My sister hosted us for Thanksgiving and I, newly single, hosted her family for Christmas dinner. We did this for four years and had a ball creating many happy, wonderful memories together. My son is the official turkey carver of the family for both holidays and my daughter is the most creative gift-giver. My job is to cook, take photographs, and enjoy my beautiful family, which I do! I’m good at that.

November and December 2013 140

In 2010, I decided to quit renting in Virginia and bought a great, old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia, two hours from my children, who’d graduated from college and were working in the Northern Virginia area. By the time Christmas rolled around, I still had boxes to unwrap and several rooms left to paint. The house wasn’t ready, but I longed to host my family in our new home. Was it really our home or my home? My kids were in their early 20’s now and very independent. I lived alone with a dog and a cat. We ended up spending Thanksgiving with my sister and her kids, which was great, and my daughter, who’d moved in with her boyfriend, offered to host Christmas dinner for our family and his mother. It was wonderful and let me tell you, my daughter was excited about this coming of age moment. I recognized it, too. She prepared our family favorites and decorated a beautiful tree. They had a huge kitchen versus my tiny kitchen, so it made sense, and we had a great time. No one had to drive two hours to my home and I didn’t have to wash sheets, towels, buy groceries, put up extra beds, and…decorate my home. For the first time in forever, I didn’t put up a tree. Why bother? It didn’t make sense as I was spending four days away from my home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, although I’d prepared myself and I understood I wasn’t ready for company just yet, it was tough for me. My mother’s heart grieved for the past. I tried hanging on with our changing family dynamics, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was afraid of my future as a single woman. I’d never lived alone. I’d left a good job in the city and now wrote full-time in a new city. There were many sacrifices to make, but I kept my focus on the prize–a published book. I moved where I could pursue my dream. I wrote every day, researched every day and soon, the house was ready for Christmas. I was ready! But…it didn’t happen. My kids were now working, my niece and nephew were in college, and our schedules just didn’t work out. I acquiesced and did the right thing–I drove to Virginia for the holidays. When would we ever spend Christmas at my house? I was bummed, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy doing very little to prepare for the holidays. I didn’t have to stress, clean my house from top to bottom, cook from sunup to sundown. I prepared one side dish, bought a pie (hello?), and away went down the road with my dog, Ozzy, as my co-captain. Not bad, really. I didn’t go home with holiday left-overs, but I went home with the turkey carcass, which I used for turkey soup for future cold, wintery days.

May 10, 2011 019

Fast-forward to 2014. My daughter is no longer with her boyfriend and is living with a good friend until she finds a one-room apartment in Northern Virginia. My son is back from Thailand, where he lived and worked for three months, and he’s leaving to live and work in Amsterdam in January.  We spent Thanksgiving with my sister, had a great time and she has graciously offered to host us for Christmas. Sigh, I know. I could do that, right? I could ‘make’ everyone come to me, but I won’t this year. It’s much easier for one person (me) to drive to the family instead of messing with their schedules. No one can take much time off work right now; I get it.

In February 2014, I received a book contract from Booktrope Books and I hope to see my historical novel, A Decent Woman, in print around that same time, next year! It’s been a wonderful, but challenging year, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Will my kids and I ever enjoy the kind of Christmases we used to enjoy when they were little? I no longer have the big house, where everyone gathered for the Holidays, and I don’t have extra money to rent a large cabin for the Holidays, which I’d love to do one day. It’s just not in the cards. But this year, I purchased a five-foot tall Christmas tree from Big Lots. I decorated that sketchy little Charlie Brown tree and my home with garlands of greenery from Michael’s, and I put a wreath on the door. But I won’t send out Christmas cards. Facebook is awesome for that and no more nauseating holiday newsletters, either! I was feeling good last week, but then began thinking about my non-Currier and Ives Christmas. What a pain. I tried keeping busy to get my mind off the past and then I visited two neighbor down the street. I sat listening to my friend as she dealt with her first holiday without her precious son, who died last year. I sat and listened to my other friend, who described how she’d crammed 13 people for Thanksgiving in her home, which is the same size as mine. Family, good health, and love; that’s all that matters.

What I learned: Never again feel sorry for myself during the Holidays. Forget the Christmas pasts, not the people mind you, only the things that I thought made Christmas because they really don’t. Embrace, kiss and love my family again! Thank God we are happy, healthy and together. And…prepare everyone NOW for next Christmas because we’re cramming together at my house for dinner and an overnight!

Christmas 2010 027

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays to you and your family! Much love from me to you. xo