Memoir writer Jenn Sadai is a marathon runner, a buyer for a welding factory, a wife, and a mother of four step children and two fur babies. She has two published memoirs: Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman and Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worst Employee which both deal with her journey in life before becoming a published author. Below we get a snippet of her books, tips on how to write painful life experiences, Jenn’s favourite memoir writers and of course we chat about much more 🙂
Can you give readers a brief overview of the book for those of us who haven’t read it? Between which ages does it deal with? What major events in your life does it cover?
My first book, Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman, follows me from a fearless kid to a troubled teen to a suicidal young adult. It’s the story of how I ended up in a toxic relationship and why I couldn’t easily leave him. I was fortunately saved by the grace of God and given a chance to reclaim my life in my mid-twenties. I then took ownership of my mistakes and slowly turned my life around.
My second book, Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worst Employee, is the professional side of my journey and it covers age thirteen to thirty-five. It explores the crooked career path that led me to publishing my first book. It’s filled with entertaining, educational and unexpected real-life work stories. It also addresses gender inequality, sexual harassment and workplace bullying.
Was it hard to write the memoir? Do you feel glad you’ve written the book in terms of self healing?
I was very motivated to write my first book and confident about the impact it would have on other people. It had been over ten years since I left my ex and I felt like I had been writing my story in my heads for years. Once I started typing, there was no stopping it.
Exploring my past toxic relationships was very therapeutic. It gave me the opportunity to thoroughly assess the situations I found myself in and figure out effective methods for avoiding the same pain in the future.
Absolutely! I wanted to be a published author since I was in elementary school, but life’s unavoidable responsibilities sent me off in another direction. It was not until someone I loved was facing a terminal illness that I realized I owed it to myself to pursue that goal. My Uncle Jeff encouraged me to focus on my writing and chase my dreams with enthusiasm.
After you realised you needed to pursue writing was it hard to get into the rhythm of writing or did it come naturally?
Surprisingly, it came very naturally. Full sentences would form in my head before I’d even start typing. I’m working on improving the quality and grammar of my writing, but my creative storytelling abilities appear to exist somewhere deep within.
Can you give a brief overview of your journey from writing to publishing? What was the catalyst which drove you to start writing the book?
The idea to publish Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman came to me while I was reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved the way she bared her soul and used her personal struggles to inspire others. I started writing my story the day after finishing hers.
How long did it take to write the first draft and polish the manuscript ready for publication?
I was inspired to write my story early September, 2012 and began almost immediately. Daily life and other freelance writing commitments interfered to some degree, but I was still able to finish the first draft by June, 2013. I found a publisher late September and my first book was released in February, 2014. Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman is not a very long book and took about a year-and-a-half to go from conception to completion.
Tell us about your publication journey? Was there anything particularly easy or hard? Anything which surprised you?
I was surprised at the number of responses I received and how supportive my publisher was right from the beginning. I think I just got very lucky.
I found it was easier to outline the facts first and then develop the story. Taking breaks is necessary and it’s not a good idea to write before trying to sleep.
Did you write after your teenage years but before penning Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman?
I wrote ad copy for a variety of businesses. I seem to have a knack for creating catchy slogans and compelling ad copy, but it lacks the same level of personal satisfaction as penning a self-help style memoir.
Was it easier to write your second book, Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worse Employee? Has your writing process changed?
Writing Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worst Employee was easier, however due to the sensitive subject matter, it took a lot more courage to publish it. There was a potential lawsuit looming over me and I still fear legal consequences.
What compelled you to publish it despite possible legal ramification? What made you keep the sensitive parts instead of editing them out?
I wasn’t the only victim of a former manager’s bullying and verbal abuse, which made me determined to shine some light on the problem. There’s a line in Dirty Secrets of the World’s Worst Employee that sums up why I did it, “I am now a brave woman, sometimes too brave. When I’m fighting injustices, I feel invincible. I would like to believe that as long as I am being honest and fair, I will be protected from prosecution.”
I did however change names and physical descriptions, as well as removing anything I couldn’t prove in court. I essentially covered my butt the best I could before signing the contract with my publisher.
What does your daily life look like? Do you write everyday? Do you train for your marathons before sitting down to write?
I’m a buyer for a welding facility forty-four hours a week, which prevents me from writing daily. I dedicate almost every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon to working on my next two books. I also try to write on Mondays for an hour before my domestic violence chat group starts. Running was a major part of my brainstorming process, but I’m currently taking a break from it. After finishing two full marathons and five half-marathons over the past six years, my knees need some time to recover.
What do you do for inspiration now whilst your knees are recovering? How do you get into the writing flow?
I’m always thinking about the books I’m working on and ideas can pop into my head at any time. Sometimes it is conversation with friends, sometimes watching how strangers interact and quite often I’m inspired by random thoughts that cross my mind such as, “I’m tired of battling the same five pounds on the scale, what would happen if I stopped participating in the fight and tossed my scale away?” That was the simple idea that inspired me to write Cottage Cheese Thighs.
If you could plan a dream day schedule what would it be?
I had my dream schedule when I worked from home as a freelance writer, but it was not profitable enough. My day began with an hour-long walk with the dogs or a trip to the dog park. I like to make sure my puppies are tired before I start writing, so there is less interruptions. I would then write for the rest of the day, taking periodic breaks to eat or exercise. Ideally, I will wrap up all of my writing in time to make dinner and then spend the evening relaxing with my husband.
I have read quite a few memoirs. I am particularly fond of memoirs written by ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary feats or survived despite enormous challenges. I find those the most inspiring.
What are some of your favourites you’d recommend as great reads?
I love everything by Elizabeth Gilbert! She’s my favourite. The most inspiring stories of survival I’ve read are A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard, Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown and Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. I used to read a lot more often, but I haven’t read much since I started writing my first book. I’m too worried I’ll inadvertently steal ideas.
Do you plan to write a third book?
I am a bit of an overachiever. There are two books I‘m currently working on and I started brainstorming on a fifth subject matter. I am almost halfway through writing my third self-help book, Cottage Cheese Thighs. It delves into my constantly fluctuating battle with the scale, as well as how I retrained myself to love my body, flaws and all. The other book I am working on right now is fictional and I have not figured out the right title for it yet.
I love the idea of Cottage Cheese Thighs! Have you an idea of when it will be released?
I’m only about halfway done writing it, but still planning on releasing it in 2016. I told my publisher I was aiming for June of this year, but I think that may be a little too ambitious.
Can you give us a snippet of what it will be about?
I’m even more passionate about publishing Cottage Cheese Thighs than the first two books. Our society is obsessed with weight and body image. I’ve weighed anywhere from one-hundred and forty pounds to nearly two-hundred pounds and my self-esteem has fluctuated with the scale. Prior to working on this book, that stupid number on the scale controlled how I lived my life.
I’ve now put my mind and body through several tough tests to retrain myself to love my body despites its flaws. It has been an emotional journey that has completely changed the way I look at myself in a mirror. I pray it will have the same positive effect on any woman (or man) who reads it.
Fictional stories require more research! The fictional story I’m writing takes place in the United States, so I’ve relied heavily on google. The nonfiction stories come from the heart, so I simply write what I feel.