We had the good fortune of connecting with Beth Hermes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beth, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I started my career, I was a journalist. I loved the work, the hours were atrocious, leaving no time for a social life, but I learned many of the skills I carried through my circuitous career, and valuable lessons about what I wanted. I didn’t call it “balance” at the time, but that’s what I sought.
I left that post and took a job that combined office work and public relations, while attending graduate school. Again, no time for social life – or much time for taking care of myself.
Although I did very well there, I dropped out of graduate school, took an office job for the insurance benefits, and got married to my longtime partner. We had two kids, and I realized that insurance was only one benefit; I had sacrificed “fulfillment” – another important benefit. I made money, sure, but juggling kids, work, and spouse left little time for the things that brought me joy.
When my corporate job disappeared with the 2008 downturn, I turned to freelance writing. The kids went to college, my husband and I still liked each other, and in 2019 we bought a farm. It’s a lot of work, but the benefits are amazing: time with my spouse (and my kids, when they’re not learning valuable life lessons), my writing, my horse, and the friends who enrich me.
I wish I’d discovered it when I was a 23-year-old college graduate, but I think “balance” is something we learn to appreciate over time, in its absence. When we find it, we can appreciate it at last.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is communicated through words. As a child, I used to listen to the stories of the adults gathered around our table on Thanksgiving, and enjoyed a friendship with the octagenarian next door as she shared stories of her youth in Jamaica, Queens.
When I worked as a journalist, I listened to the people whom I would interview, and plucked the truth of their words through the tone of their voices.
As a writing coach, I encourage people to use their unique voices to tell the stories of their lives or their imaginations, in ways that only they can.
And I try to take my own advice as I listen to the voices in my head and my heart, to craft fiction and memoir that sparks conversation and creates its own community.
It’s not always easy. When I try too hard, the stories are elusive. But when I get out of my own way and let the stories just flow through my pen or my fingertips on the keyboard, those are the best ones.
I tell my students not to judge their stories, but I don’t always take my own advice. Being part of a writing community helps me to follow that rule.
What I want the world to know about my writing is that my stories are authentic – both fiction and non-fiction, and when I do my job well, a connection is created between me and the people who read my words.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My husband and I took a week when our kids were still in elementary school, and planned an entire week of “stay-cation” (before it was trendy). We learned a lot about the interesting places during that week, and now that our kids are grown, we still try to play “tourist in our own town”. My best friend and her husband retired last year and moved to Georgia, so we explore together often (harder to do since the pandemic began, but it’s possible). As outdoors enthusiasts, we begin with Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville. Hiking up the stairs that lead from the parking lot to the waterfall is both challenging and enjoyable.
Also on our itinerary are the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Piedmont Park, and Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground. We also enjoy Scottsdale Farms Nursery in Milton, which is like a trip to the botanical gardens, but you can have lunch, buy plants, and feed goats while you’re there!
We’re “foodies,” and, being market farmers ourselves, we enjoy food sourced from local farms and prepared by independent restaurants, including Peach & The Porkchop, in Crabapple, and 7-Acre Bar & Grille in Milton.
Since we live quite a distance from Downtown, we’ve curated a list of must-visit locations every year, including a stroll through Ellijay and Blue Ridge, to tour the antique shops in those towns; and the Tellus Museum in Cartersville, where I can (and have) spend hours in the rock room alone. And labyrinths fascinate me (and feed into my fantasy-writer mindset), so we’ve located and walked several labyrinths around the state, our favorite being the multi-level labyrinth next to the Visitor’s Center in Rome.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m deeply grateful for my husband, Craig, who has been on this journey with me for nearly 40 years, and our two adult kids, who grant me humility. My close friends – Ann (whom I’ve known since I was 12), Cheryl and Melissa (my writing partners), and my women’s networking group, support the idea of work-life “balance”, and make sure I pursue my passions of writing and essential play time. Finally, my horses – Brat (whom I lost in 2012), and Bliss (who made me whole again in 2014), provide endless inspiration.