Featured Interview With Sarah Levis
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I spent the bulk of my childhood and teen years in a very small Ontario town. I left to go to Queen’s University, and I spent some time on the West Coast. However, a small stroke during a job interview alerted me to the fact that I had a congenital vascular disorder in my brain called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that was going to require treatment. It was possible to get the AVM treated in Vancouver, but I wanted to be close to family, so I flew back to my childhood town in Ontario and lived with my father until my surgery date in Toronto.
After open brain surgery to treat the AVM, I had a second, much more severe stroke, and spent six months in stroke rehabilitation. Once I left rehab, I again had to live with my father as I continued my recovery, But today, fifteen years after my stroke, I live on my own in an apartment with my two cats, and do just about everything for myself. I’ve been very lucky to recover to the extent that I have.
I’ve worked part-time in the community off and on since 2005, but I also run my own freelance writing company. I started that project in 2011, when I started getting offers for freelance work from work from my disability advocacy blog at http://girlwiththecane.com. My blog started out as a place for me get down some thoughts about disability issues, but it’s made me an internationally known disability advocate and highly respected disability blogger.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I’ve loved to read from the moment that I started to learn in school. I remember being very excited about finally being able to read one of my favourite story books, and running to show my mother. I was a voracious reader as a child, reading even when the class got a five minute break between lessons at school. When my teachers started to give silent reading time each day to the class, I was in heaven.
I started writing my own stories when I was eight years old. I wrote them in a notebook, which I carried around with me even after my parents got me a typewriter and eventually a computer. I wrote stories about all sorts of things, heavily influenced by whatever I was reading at the time. I used to send copies of my stories to famous authors, hoping that they’d read them and want to publish them. I remember that Judy Blume even sent me a letter encouraging me to keep writing when I sent a story to her.
I wrote fiction for fun all through high school and university, but after my second stroke I started writing personal essays to help me make sense of what had happened to me. I published a small book of these (now out of print). Now most of my writing is blogging and opinion pieces, with an indulgent month-long marathon of fiction writing when when I do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) each Novemver.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I enjoy suspense and thrillers, sometimes with a paranormal component depending on the author and my mood. Stephen King’s books and his philosophy on writing have been a big influence. I also enjoy Geneen Roth’s writing, and I’ve read practically everything that Lucy Maud Montgomery has written.
My friend Jeff, also a stroke survivor, inspired me to write one of my most popular personal essays. I dedicated my first book to him.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
“So You’re Going to Rehab: Stroke Rehab, That Is” is the first in a a series of guides for stroke survivors and their families about living life post-stroke, based on the knowledge that I’ve acquired from 15 years of being in recovery. A guide to inpatient stroke rehabilitation, it addresses both practical issues like what to pack and (for women) putting on a bra one-handed and philosophical ones like dealing with bad days and the importance of making friends while in rehabilitation. I’m very excited about this project, and hope that I can help many people!
“So You’re Going Into Rehab: Stroke Rehab, That Is” is quite short and took me just over a week to write. I’m working on the second guide now, and it’s taking longer. I should be releasing it before September, though.
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