Most days, you can find Abby Sher setting up shop in one of her local coffee shops, whether it’s Outpost, Tillie’s, or Bitter Sweet, to write.
“I have certain places even in the café where, oh this is where I get inspired,” says Sher, who has lived in Fort Greene for the past five years with her husband and, for the past year, their baby daughter.
Of late, Sher has been at work on her memoir, “Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying (Among Other Things),” out last month on Scribner. After writing a personal story for Self magazine, an editor suggested the author explore developing a memoir. The end result is essentially a story of demons —obsessive-compulsive disorder, brought into high gear following the death of her father at the age of 10, anorexia, cutting and alcoholism.
Amid her self-destructive behavior, Sher found herself praying for hours at a time, afraid if she didn’t, someone else would die. “I had never believed in a vengeful G-d,” she writes in “Amen, Amen, Amen.” “I believed in a vengeful me.”
It’s not all sadness. Living happily in Brooklyn now, a mother, trained yogi, and working through her compulsions, Sher hopes the book can be inspiration for those who see themselves in her, and she encourages those readers to reach out to someone they can trust, including herself, to talk through them.
“I hope most of all people who feel like some of these behaviors are familiar, they know that they’re not alone. That there are many ways to find solace, and that it’s not necessarily looking for a cure,” says Sher. “I hope it feels, not necessarily tied with a bow, but a hopeful story.”
It is also a witty and self-deprecating one, thanks to Sher’s background as an improv comedian, which includes time on stage at Second City and iO (Formerly ImprovOlympic) in Chicago. You can currently find her performing at the Magnet Theater here in New York. Going back and forth between the two creative outlets, Sher finds the process of writing more liberating.
“I find that I actually have a lot more freedom on the paper than on stage, as far as being myself,” says Sher. “But, I also love being characters.”
Keeping true to form, on November 30, when Sher celebrates the release of her memoir at Union Hall in Park Slope, she’ll do so with books on hand, but the event will primarily be a performance piece. “If someone begs me to read, maybe I’ll read the inside flap,” says Sher.
Already typing away at the next thing, when the author goes to her trusted cafes today, you can find her working on an adult fiction piece she hopes to turn into a novel, as well as the early stages of a screenplay, a collaboration with her friend Kimberlee Auerbach. And she couldn’t be happier here.
“I can go down the block and write in a café, then go to yoga above the café, and yet I’m not in the boonies,” says Sher. “Even though I wanted to be a Manhattan girl, I’ve found I’m much more inclined to be in Brooklyn, especially with a stroller and all that.”
Abby Sher performs at Union Hall (702 Union St.) November 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. All proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. For more information, call 718-638-4400.