We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Sward and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hannah, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Writing Strip: A Memoir. Sitting down, pen to paper, being vulnerable, writing about things I never thought I’d share with anyone – what will people think, my family, my friends, romantic partner – choosing to write it all down anyway. I think that anytime someone is being vulnerable, that is taking a risk.

There were certain scenes in the book where I was holding back. Like this one scene, when I’m a call girl. I go to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Images come to me. I write them down. Hot tub, envelope of money on the night table, the way the man with his light lashes takes off his robe in a womanly way, we have sex. I read it out loud to my writing mentor.

“Something is missing,” she said. “What are you leaving out?”

She was right. I was leaving out what I was most ashamed of – I had to question how honest was I willing to be? What I had left out is now in the book.

And now, with Strip: A Memoir out in the world I have to let go. It’s out of my hands. It will take on a life of its own. The people who are meant to read it will. And it’s a given, not everyone will like it. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but that’s okay. That’s part of taking a risk. That’s part of placing my heart on the page.

Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I got to where I am today by showing up. Showing up is everything. There were so many times where I was completely overwhelmed. But I kept going. I kept telling myself, just keep writing. Two pages a day no matter what. It was really important for me not to focus on the results. To keep coming back to the process.

One of the challenges was comparing myself to other authors. Even my father who had published 30 books. And here I was in my 40’s. I was and have been very fortunate to have a strong community around me. The encouragement, sharing our frustrations, joys, fears – that all kept me going. I was not alone even though most of the time was spent in solitude. Just me and that big blank page.

What am I most proud of? Continuing to show up no matter what. I had a vision and seeing that vision come to fruition, I am proud of that. My dream was/is now in my hands, and I am proud to put it out into the world.

One of the biggest lessons I learned that I share with others whether it’s the desire to write a book, open an ice-cream shop, become an actress, singer, hairstylist – as cliché as it may be, is to follow your own path. To stand tall. To trust in the process.

I’m proud that I didn’t let all my fears, all the voices in my head that told me I am not ‘good enough’, not ‘talented’ enough, not ‘enough’ period – I did not let them drown my spirit. Drown my dream.

To celebrate other people’s successes, other people’s processes has been a huge gift. To come to a place of abundance rather than lack. To support one another. It’s not a competition.

What does this have to do with Strip: A Memoir? Everything. All of it.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Broad downtown, dinner in Little Tokyo afterwards.

The Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax. Maybe lunch at The Gumbo Pot or Du-Par’s for soggy French toast.

The Last Bookstore downtown. Lunch at Philippe The Original for a French Dipped Sandwich.

Griffith Park. Hike up to the Observatory followed by a snack at The Trails Café.

Self-Realization Center in Pacific Palisades and Canter’s on Fairfax for dinner.

Hauser and Wirth downtown or LACMA. Street tacos for dinner.

The iconic Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard followed by either Thai at Toi on Sunset or In-N-Out Out Burger.

A lazy Sunday at home puttering around. Ice-cream at Salt N’ Straw on Larchmont Boulevard followed by an early evening walk through the canopied streets in Hancock Park.

And somewhere in there I’d love to take them to the Hollywood Bowl and/or The Forever Hollywood Cemetery to see a movie under the stars.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I couldn’t have done this alone. There’s no question about that. Over the last ten years, I have received support from so many people. First and foremost, the recovery community. There would be no book if it weren’t for all the people who came before and those who held my hand along the way.

Second, there was my mentor, Jill Schary Robinson (author of NTY Bestselling book Bed/Time/Story). At the end of my book, in the acknowledgements I write, “Jill Schary Robinson. Who, without, I’m not sure this book would have been written. Jill saw the book I was afraid to tell. The countless Sundays editing on her couch near the 405 slicing words, piecing together fragments of a life until I could feel it breathe on my own.”

Immense gratitude to have had Jill’s guidance. And at 85 years old, she continues to be an inspiration with her own writing and her generosity with giving back.

Lastly, my poet father, Robert Sward who instilled in me the love of the written word. Up until he passed, at the age of 88, he was still writing, still publishing, still involved in the literary community. I celebrate and honor him. In a culture that idolizes youth, I am grateful for having role models who were/are fully engaged in their lives well into their older age.

Website: hannahsward.com

Instagram: @hannahdavisward

Facebook: facebook.com/hannahsward.22

Other: https://bookshop.org/books/strip-a-memoir/9781948954679

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