Barbara Williams Lewis earned her BA, MA and PhD at The University of Southern California. She is Professor of English and Assistant Dean of Academic Departments at Austin Community College and a member of Texas Authors Association. She lives near Austin, Texas.

Why do you encourage others to write his or her story?
In the course of teaching my classes I sometimes encounter students who are facing difficult times and hard decisions.  I have shared my story with them and it is they who asked me to write.  My friends at home and my colleagues here who know the real me have all encouraged me to put my experiences in writing to show how much it takes to succeed.  Some people give up when they encounter the least little bit of resistance, but if one is willing to do the work and make the required sacrifices, s/he can accomplish any dream.

I have met folks who are suffering!  I tell them: " Write yourself free."  That's what I did and it worked for me.  They may not want to publish their stories to the world, but when they put them into a written form, they achieve several things at once:  First, they are not interrupted as friends/confidants have a tendency to do.  Second, they can be completely honest because there is no one listening to judge/condemn them.  Third, they can purge themselves of guilt, pain, sorrow etc..  Fourth, they can look at themselves objectively and see what others see.  Finally, they can put their writing aside for a while, say, six months or so, and then go back to it to see if they still feel the same way.

Writing about the self is not easy.  One has to re-live every moment, especially the violent ones.  When I was writing Sherrod Village, there was a moment when I lost nine pounds in one week.  My hands were shaking, my stomach was upset, I had severe nightmares and I was short with my students.  But it was a necessary evil in order to free myself of the pain I felt for making such bad choices.