An unforgettable interview with Foothill professor Sherri Harvey

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An unforgettable interview with Foothill professor Sherri Harvey

Stephanie Ellis

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Quotes provided by Sherri Harvey

“In a world fraught with the pressure and responsibility to serve others, and to constantly plug into the world around us, being cut loose from purpose, even if only for a short time, felt sublime.” 

-Cut Loose from Purpose in Tahoe National Forest

 

I’m sitting in a restaurant reviewing my notes for the interview with Sherri Harvey – a writer, horseback rider, animal advocate, photographer, educator and current faculty member at Foothill College. I was as prepared as one can be for the interview and full of excitement. 

Being an avid reader, I find the opportunity to interview an author , well, mind-blowing. I am an educator, a student, a sister … the list goes on and with these different roles comes the pressures and responsibilities to serve others, something we can all relate to. 

So, to have this moment to interview a writer feels like being cut loose from my world. It is a chance for me to explore the world of writing, while gaining some insight and guidance not only for myself, but for others who feel the pressures of society.

 

“I think about how little control any of use really have of our surroundings. Really, of our lives.”

-Costa Rican Mojo

 

In walks Sherri Harvey. 

She greets me with a warm smile and welcoming words. We take a seat in a corner booth to help get away from all the background noise. She immediately put me at ease with her friendliness and our interview turns into a conversation – one that I will never forget. 

Sherri Harvey was born in 1969 in Indiana. Her love for travel came from her mother who worked as a ticket agent for Delta Air Lines. Growing up, she always had her nose in a book. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, was a favorite. 

At a young age, she began her lifelong love affair with animals. She couldn’t stand the sight of animals being locked up in cages and became a vegetarian at the age of 15, something very difficult to do in the Midwest when dinners were made of some sort of meat and potatoes. During graduate school, she rescued a racehorse with a broken leg and her passion for animals was once again ignited.

 

“An animal advocate is someone who believes in the right of animals to exist without fear of abuse, exploitation or extermination. Some people feel chosen to do this work. Animals find them. The slow unraveling of this calling does not happen overnight; in fact, it’s a slow unfolding over a lifetime of paying compassionate attention to other lives.”

-Connectedness

 

In 2000, with an MA in Fiction, she started teaching writing composition classes at San Jose State University. After 15 years and a million hours spent grading papers, she felt she had lost her creativity. 

Although she started publishing in 2013, it was slow-going and she needed more inspiration. So, in 2015 she went back to school to earn an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. During this time, she wrote her first creative nonfiction memoir, Drink the Moon

In 2016, after a trip to South Africa, her creativity was rekindled after a South African horseback safari, and an elephant encounter which had a profound impact on her. 

This experience led her to travel writing. 

In 2018, during her last semester of grad school, she took a travel writing class and discovered that life is about the inner and outer journey as well as the stories we share with one another. 

In 2019, Harvey was assigned a job to photograph an Oprah Winfrey’s Girls’ Getaway Cruise for the Triple AAA magazine!

So, how does Harvey find time for it all? Of course, work is her first priority. Her second priority is her animals. 

With the rest of her time, she lives with an attitude of gratitude by writing, reading and photographing what she feels passionate about: other people’s stories. She feels grateful for it all, and she stays humble.

 

“I need to be likeable. In order to be relatable, I need to be humble… allow my insecurities to shine through so my readers can see themselves in my stories.”

-The Story of My Life Becomes My Life

 

Harvey’s humility is what makes her articles unique. 

She communicates effectively, using her own experiences. She shares her insecurities, which can be dark but humorous. 

Harvey also shows us different perspectives in her stories, connecting readers to the people and animals in them and allowing us to really feel them. She makes us really understand her characters, which in turn leads us into our own self-discovery. 

While conducting my research, I found a part of myself in her stories. I was able to relate to every article she has published, and I am not exaggerating when I say every

Harvey also gives animals a voice and shows us that we can learn a lot from them. After her adventures tracking elephants in South Africa, she wrote a travel essay called The Real King of the Jungle. She found that the elephants accept and respect the presence of others, and she wanted to share their message with the rest of the world: 

 

“I am convinced that we have been assigned the task of sharing their message: We come in peace. We come in peace.”

-The Real King of the Jungle

 

Harvey writes with this level of compassion and empathy in all of her work. Her flash nonfiction article, Her Gold Old Gringos, is a beautifully written glimpse of the emotions felt from the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. 

In addition to her excellent writing, Harvey is a public figure who uses her platform to raise awareness and contribute back to the world and to teach us: 

 

“To be kinder to thyself… To get along better in the world. To be in touch with masculine and feminine sides at the same time. To be humble. To be more sensitive. To give and release. To have control, yet to let go. A conscious awareness of the world around us that becomes an unconscious habit… What you put out to the universe comes back to you.”

-Matt Brown and East-West Training Concepts

 

So, what’s next for Harvey? 

She continues to teach at San Jose State University and is in the process of writing her second book: The Accidental Advocate, stories about her animal encounters in various countries, and showing their intelligence in problem-solving, communicating, and exhibiting empathy and curiosity. 

She continues to write for various magazines and does pro-bono photography for animal rescue organizations, which can all be found on her website https://www.sherricoyote.com

In February 2020, she will be heading to Borneo to help save Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. She is raising funds for The Orangutan Project, the not-for-profit Australian organization. If you would like to donate, visit the Orangutan Odysseys, Harvey’s orangutan fundraising page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sherri-Harvey

 

“We all have cracks. That is the very thing that unites us all: our inveterate vulnerability. Most people I know are somehow compromised… It has made me realize that I can overcome anything life tosses at me.”

-One Small Crack