Barbara Sher is just like a real person, only shorter

One day, Joe and I were drinking whiskey having a cup of tea and discussing life…Joe was idly searching online…suddenly, he asks me: “Have you ever heard of Barbara Sher?” (In that way, you know, where it’s clear that he’s never heard of her and he expects that I won’t have either…)

Heard of her? You bet. She’s great. I’ve read all her books. She wrote Wishcraft! You should read it. You’d like her…she’s all over the “Live What You Dream” thing.

“Well”, he says…”She’s doing this Write Speak retreat and it sounds pretty good. 6 days, limited to 15 people.”

6 Days. 15 People. I did the math. I would actually get a chance to talk to her in person. We would probably all know each other’s names by the end of the week. How exciting! How terrifying.

For a long time, I believed that absolutely *everyone* was somehow better or more worthy than me. Especially authority figures. And anyone who was more successful than me. Or knew which clothes to wear when. Over the years, I managed to get past that. I had come to understand that we’re all equal, we’re all just people on our own journeys, no one (not even those with good fashion sense) is better than anyone else. Or at least I thought I had it all figured out.

At that moment, I realized that I was still placing people into groups and levels. And this group named “celebrities” (which Barbara Sher belonged to) was positioned higher than the group I belonged to, which was “everyone else.” Famous people are different. They are somehow better. Bigger than real life.

Celebrity-wise, Barbara seemed like the nicer sort. More approachable. Less threatening than say, Donald Trump. (I couldn’t imagine Barbara shouting “you’re fired!” at the time, though I can now.) So I applied for the retreat. And I got an email response. A long, chatty email response. From Barbara herself.

“Joe! Joe! Guess what! I just got a response about the workshop! From BARBARA SHER!! BARBARA SHER sent ME an email!!!”

Joe looked at me like I was insane. He obviously did not have this “celebrities are better than me” thing going on. (Or maybe it was because he had never heard of Barbara Sher…he may have responded differently if the email had been from Angelina Jolie.) I started to think that hey, maybe Barbara was just a person too. And I was going to get a chance to meet her. Maybe we could be like, friends, or something…

On the day of the workshop, I’m still completely freaked out a bit nervous. We get there early. There are two people sitting out on the grounds in lawn chairs. I whisper to Joe and point: “Look. Over there. I think that’s *Barbara Sher*” (I say this like we’re on some kind of African safari and I just spotted a huge man-eating tiger.) Joe says, “Great. Let’s go over and introduce ourselves.” And he says it *loud* – and I’m worried that maybe she’ll hear us.

So we walk over…and what does Joe do? He starts talking to the *other* woman who was talking to Barbara. Leaving ME to have to face the hungry man-eating tiger on my own.

And then I meet Barbara. And her dog Romeo. Both of them miniature. Turns out that Barbara Sher is exactly like a real person, only shorter. And Romeo is just like a real dog, only smaller. We have this friendly chit chat about dogs and the local restaurants. And my nervousness completely disappears. Now I’m just plain excited. And happy to be there.

patty joe barbara

Look! That’s Joe and me with BARBARA SHER. Yes…the *famous* Barbara Sher. We’re all in a picture together and we’re sort of hugging.

For 6 days, 14 women (and Joe) all lived together in this great big Inn. It was fun and super casual (I wore my pajamas). The retreat was quite literally about sitting around the living room, chatting it up with Barbara.  Drinking coffee. Eating home-made biscuits (no, Barbara didn’t bake them). And listening to the most outrageous things come out of Barbara’s mouth. Amazing advice and information, funny stories, encouragement, profound insights…and…naughty words. Lots of them. She warned us right off the bat: “There’ll be no fucking swearing at MY retreat!”

I met some new friends. I found my message. I said “My Thing” out loud (more on that later). I got really clear on my message. I learned how to write without writing. Then I left the retreat and immediately started this blog. After procrastinating about it for 5 years.

And I got over my “celebrities are not real people” thing. And not just because I met Barbara. But because I met Havi and Selma too. And I didn’t even *know* they were celebrities at the time.

Update: “Joe! Joe! Guess what??? BARBARA SHER commented on MY blog!!!!”


  1. Amna (@Germinational) on December 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Do you believe that while we were posing for a picture at the end, our Barbara actually pointed out that she’s taller than me?

    The nerve of some short people.

  2. Gail McConnon on December 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    This is so sweet Patty! Totally sweet . . and real and honest and truer than Romeo’s attitude . . and at least as true as Barbara’s attitude . . but you already mentioned that.

    Do you have any idea how many amazing steps forward you and your writing have taken since I first met you and Joe in your jammies (actually each of you was in your own jammies)?! I’m proud of you. I’m even more proud to know you as a friend.

    Keep writing toots. You’re a real winner! – g

  3. Barbara Sher on December 6, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    LOL at the title! More to come (if I’m still talking to you) (Well, I for sure will be still talking to you, but more to come if I don’t fall off the chair laughing and crack my head open and head for the emergency room of the local hospital from which few return it being New York and all…)

  4. Barbara Sher on December 6, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Didn’t fall. Laughed and loved it. Nice to know I’m dangerous. Have to start throwing my weight around a bit more. (You don’t have to comment on that last sentence, you know.)

    I shall have to RSS you. You’re funny and worth reading and you add posts often. I’m impressed. And relieved.

    I officially now turn over ‘blog posting role model’ for the class to you whilst I goof off.

  5. Beth on December 6, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    What a terrific post! I love the way you say what you really feel, then cross it out & temper it with something more PC. Your sense of humor is popping nicely & I enjoy hearing about your (somewhat warped) perspective on the workshop and other things. Have fun!

    Beth LaMie

  6. Sandy Dempsey on December 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Hi Patty,
    FABULOUS post!! Had me smiling and laughing the whole. Plus, I coud dtotally relate. Still battle the ‘celebrity’ vs ‘me and everyone else’ syndrome.
    Thanks for such a delightful read and the inspiration!
    Sandy D.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Barbara Winter, Sandy Dempsey and BarbaraSher, Deb Schanilec. Deb Schanilec said: RT @BarbaraSher: LOL! Barbara Sher is just like a real person, only shorter […]

  8. jeanne on December 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    your blog theme – how did you get it to work? i tried and tried, then had to find my white flag and move on. it looks good on you. okay, but the reason i’m here this post is his . . . well, actually, HERsterical. read your note on karen’s blog and am heading to barbarasher’s place right about now.

  9. Char on December 6, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Hey Patty:

    Felt like I was right there with you as we did Part 1 together. So fun to see the picture of the three of you.

    I’ll be following your blog as I love your sense of humor. So glad we’re connected through the blogosphere!!

  10. Debbie Phillips on December 7, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Barbara Sher is a rock star…and SHE turned me on to you. So that must make you a rock star, too, Patty! You are my new, favorite blogger in the whole, wide world.

  11. uberVU - social comments on December 7, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BarbaraSher: LOL! Barbara Sher is just like a real person, only shorter

  12. Twitted by DrIreneBlinston on December 13, 2009 at 11:33 pm

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  13. uberVU - social comments on December 14, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by WomanOnFire: RT @PattyK_: #best09 Barbara Sher is just like a real person, only shorter

  14. Karen the Gerbil Master on December 17, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Wow, Patty. It almost sounds like you’re a celebrity. I don’t know if I’m allowed to know you any more. I’ll just pack up my pajamas and cider and slink away…..

  15. Lorie on January 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! I, too, had the privilage of meeting the famous, the one and only, the short….Barbara Sher. And I love her (dearly, not queerly). Patty, this post was funny and right on! What a gift you have. Can I have your autograph? Oh, wait..maybe I have a scrap of it somewhere from the reatreat…

  16. Refuse to Choose on April 2, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Barbara Sher is awesome. I loved her books, especially Refuse to Choose..

    I actually did a review of it on my YouTube show today too if anyone’s interested:

    I see she has a retreat coming up in France soon. I hope one day she’ll have one in Canada or West Coast of US.

    .-= Refuse to Choose´s last blog ..The Paulymath Show – Episode #01 =-.