Sharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl. She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up. Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s. There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years. But she was always writing. Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California. She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico. The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school. Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school. Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class. She was an A student in English. Not the most popular person in school, however.
Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I’m also an actor and have also worked in film production. When I was younger I was more devoted to acting. Now my feeling is that if something comes my way I will be happy to do it – whatever it is. I don’t have dreams of being a star. I just like to be involved in the creative process at any level. And I like to work. Actually, the director Jeff Lipsky – whose latest film is Molly’s Theory of Relativity – out on DVD right now – tells me he has a role for me in an upcoming film.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I loved reading. Like so many other writers whose childhoods were not particularly pleasant, I escaped into books. I read everything: children’s books like Black Beauty, my mother’s True Confessions magazines; toilet paper wrappers, anything with words.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, Juggle and Hide, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Juggle and Hide is a memoir and I wanted to share my experiences with others who think they were alone in the horrors of a bad childhood, or the throes of alcoholism and drug addiction. I wanted others to know that we can survive almost anything and go on to actually like being alive.
I wrote Juggle and Hide in Los Angeles in 2005. It took about six months. I was in a small group that was coached by Daisy White, a writer and actor in LA. Daisy had done her memoir and turned it into a very successful one-woman show that played New York after it ran in LA. Actually, I was probably the only one in the group not interested in doing a one-person show. I read every chapter to my husband, Charles Pfahl – a great artist – and when I was finished, I put it away. Recently, when Charles was ill (dying from renal cell carcinoma) he asked me to please get the memoir published and out into the world. I promised him I would. He died October 4, 2013. The book is for him. I used his painting, also entitled Juggle and Hide, as the cover.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
Writing. And I’m worried that my dark sense of humor will not come across as humor – or as well as I’d like it to. I did send the book to a few publishers and although I got some great comments, they mostly ended with something about the book being “intense” or “relentless.”
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
As I mentioned in an earlier question, I wrote this memoir while I was in a group. It wasn’t so much a critique group, but we did read our work aloud each week. I learned a lot from listening to other writers read their work and also hearing my own read. I am the kind of person who works better when I know I have a deadline. So the group had to turn in something every week that we met and that kept me writing and writing and writing until I had a completed memoir. In my experience, I don’t think most other writers are out to crush the “fledgling.” And I needed help and got it from Daisy White and the rest of the writers in the group.