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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Image Courtesy of Sheri Reynolds

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Sheri Reynolds.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

Old Dominion University – Professor of English and Department Chair of English.

Author of seven novels, a full-length play, and shorter works.

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I joined the faculty at Old Dominion University in 1997 and have been teaching here since. As far as writing goes, I’ve been doing that since I could hold a pencil.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I moved to Norfolk in 1997 for the job at ODU. In 2000, I moved to the town of Cape Charles on the eastern shore. I love the buzz of Norfolk, where I spend weekdays during the academic year, and for the exact same reason, I relish the slower pace and beauty of the eastern shore. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is my great transition between these different energies.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

For young women who want to write and publish, my advice is to read a lot – read widely - and ask questions about design. Study the moves other writers make and then test them on your own stories and poems and essays and plays. Also, don’t share your writing too soon. Hold it close, and allow some time to ponder it or reimagine it before you share it with readers.

For young women who want to go into academia, be sure you’re looking ahead and at the direction higher education is heading. Imagine what you could bring to your field that isn’t there already. Higher education is changing – and it needs to – but those coming in must be aware of these shifts. Find mentors, ideally someone close to your age and then someone who has been in the field a longer while, to advise you.

Does your gender influence your relationship to your work? In what way?

As a woman writer, I want to tell stories that empower women, bringing my female characters through challenges and into more powerful places. I also want to show female connection and community. The world needs more stories about women who might have been victimized but do not make a home inside that identity. We need more stories of women who have had challenges but did not give up. Especially, we need stories about women who stand up and show up for one another.

What has been your greatest challenge and what have you learned from it?

Each time I’ve had a book rejected by a publisher, I’ve assumed that something was wrong with it (or wrong with me). Sometimes there were things wrong – sure. But sometimes the timing was just wrong, or the place I was trying to publish it was wrong. In hindsight, I can see that each rejection created the space for a better opportunity or a better book. Hard moments are still only moments in the larger stream of time. I’m still learning how to deal with tough moments, but I know now not to resist and to try not to brace myself against them, but to move with them to the next (better) moment.

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