From Stripper, to College Valedictorian, to Published Author By Sheila Hageman

My success story isn’t what you would call glamorous by any means.

When I was a girl, I considered myself a writer and felt my personal reflections could change the world. As a teenager, I discovered acting and modeling and sometimes I believed I could be successful combining these loves into a career. Unfortunately, I got derailed when I became a stripper and nude model. I stopped believing I was valuable.

It was not until my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis that I was able to leave the adult entertainment world. I went to college and graduated as valedictorian when I was in my early thirties. Pregnant with my first child, my mother sick with breast cancer, I began my MFA in Creative Writing. Reflections on my past as a stripper permeated my thoughts as I took on the new roles of mother, caregiver and wife. While helping my baby daughter take her first steps, I nursed my mother through the final stages of breast cancer.

Way back in 2005 I began graduate school. During my first workshop class, our teacher told us that we should expect to see our first books published seven years later.

Seven years? We all shook our heads in disbelief and, if the other students were anything like me, they were also thinking, well, maybe it’ll take that long for others, but not me. I’m different.

Oddly enough, fast forward seven years and I just got my first book, Stripping Down: A Memoir, published by Pink Fish Press.

The first two years spent writing the heart of the book in school was the easy part. Once I had my degree in hand and had to finish up the writing and revising on my own, things got tricky. I was a mother, a teacher, and helping care for my ill mother. Free time was not tumbling into my lap.

Still, I persevered, writing in spare moments. Once I had the manuscript finished I thought I would send it out a few places and be on my way to authorship.

I was wrong.

The next few years were spent revising my proposal and querying my heart out. Now, I’m sure you’ve read about all the famous writers who had to submit their work up to fifty times or so to get published. Well, I have them beat. I stopped counting at 100 rejections.

I came close quite a few times to having my book accepted over those years. I had at least twenty publishers and agents read the whole manuscript who were seriously interested, but for some reason or other, the deal always fell through.

I had many moments of doubt; I gave up multiple times for weeks at a time, but I always came back to my research and told myself there was the right publisher out there, I just hadn’t found them yet.

In the meantime, I was doing what I enjoyed and what I knew would help me when my big break came: blogging, writing other new work and enjoying my regular life.

Perseverance and belief in myself and my work were the guiding beacons of light through the dry years.

A year ago I found the perfect small publisher, Pink Fish Press, who really understood what I was trying to accomplish with my book. Stripping Down was released in February just the way I wanted, with no sacrifices made to my soul along the way. I am continuing on my true journey of being able to help other women reflect on their journeys as a path to self-realization and fulfillment.

Sheila Hageman is a multi-tasking wife and mother of three who blogs for The Huffington Post. Her memoir, Stripping Down, February 2012, from Pink Fish Press, is a meditation on womanhood and body image. Also check out her Decision-Making Guide and Self-Discovery Journal, THE POLE POSITION: Is Stripping for You? (And How to Stay Healthy Doing It), by Every Day Create, December 2011, that helps women to further value their own identities through their quest to understand their motivations for stripping. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College, CUNY. To learn more about Sheila and everything she does, please visit http://www.SheilaHageman.com. Check out her blogs: Stripper Mom and Celebrity Momster.

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