Dreamer | Meet Sam Baker
Hi Sam! Your book The Shift is an honest and enlightening read for women about a change that comes to us all. Please can you introduce it to Yawn's readers?
In a nutshell, The Shift is the book I wish I could have read when I was in my mid-forties and sleepwalking into perimenopause. It’s both a memoir of my own journey through that decade (and so much more), mixed with the experiences of 50 other women (because there are as many different paths through this time of our lives as there are women) and a manifesto for women staring the second half of their lives in the face and wondering ‘WTF do I do now?’.You have revealed a lot of yourself in this book – and been very brave. How does it feel to be so open?
To be absolutely honest, it’s both unnerving and a huge relief! I’ve come to terms with the events of 30+ years ago but it does feel strange to know lots of other people now know them too - especially since I’m quite a private person. It felt right at the time of writing though and it still feels right now, much as it’s been uncomfortable talking about it.What have been your most challenging and exciting moments in writing this book?
Writing the personal parts of the book were the most emotionally challenging. I loved the research and the interviewing and I feel strongly that if you have a voice you should use it (preferably as a force for good!), so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to do that again. Seeing The Shift out there in so many women’s hands - and the messages I’ve had from them, so many emotional, generous messages that I could never have foreseen. The whole process has been wonderful.You name a few women in the book who have provided you with inspiration – can you choose three for our readers that particularly inspire you?
Oh gosh, that’s so hard. There are so many amazing women doing incredible things right now it almost feels wrong to name names. For instance, I have so much admiration for Bernardine Evaristo (the Booker winning author of Girl Woman Other - if you haven’t read it, do, it’s wonderful). She has been true to herself throughout her career and it has now paid back big time. Also she opens her heart and her mind to younger women and learns from them and I believe you should never stop doing that. Until the weekend I would have said Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What a woman! Jacinda Ardern. Truly I could go on and on.Are there any books that you read and have found particularly helpful in a way that The Shift will do for others?
Any book - or article - that puts into words something you are thinking or feeling is immensely helpful, whether it’s fiction or non fiction. On the fiction side, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, for instance, or much more recently Grown Ups by Marian Keyes, both capture things that I think a lot of women are feeling or have felt. In terms of non-fiction, reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf in my early 20s had a profound impact. I’ve always turned to words to work my way through things, that’s why I was so shocked when I hit perimenopause and - whilst there were health and factual books out there - I couldn’t find anything that gave voice to my own confusion at what it meant to be a woman in middle age.What would your superpower be and why?
I’ll keep the invisibility cloak thanks!
In a world where many women are feeling stretched, do you have any tips for our audience on switching off?
I’m not famous for my ability to relax but I’m learning. I love a box set and nothing makes me happier than losing myself in back-to-back episodes of a gripping scandi drama or Netflix’s latest. I also love walking. Not an arduous hike, more of a lengthy amble.
Where in the world makes you feel most happy and relaxed?
We’ve just moved to Edinburgh and I couldn’t be happier to be here. The city itself is beautiful, but go 20 minutes in any direction and you’ll find yourself up a mountain or by the sea.
What is your perfect relaxing night in and why?
Takeaway, boxset, my lovely husband, cat. Not in that order!
Now for a few quick fire questions:
Top of your autumn reading list?
Next on my list is Daddy, the new short story collection by Emma Cline (author of The Girls). I’m also looking forward to Ghosts by Dolly Alderton. And if you haven’t yet read Hamnet, the Women’s Prize winning novel by Maggie O’Farrell, you are in for a treat.
I like female vocalists - anything from Solange to St Vincent to Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins.
Can I have two from opposite ends of the spectrum? Anything true crime - I adored Serial and have spent my podcasting life trying to find something to match it. At the other end, Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place is often joyful and surprising. And forgive me, but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t mention my own: The Shift with Sam Baker is halfway through its first season of conversations with interesting women on life post-40.
Pyjamas or nightshirts?
Night cap or night cream?
Night cream. I’m a moisturiser addict. My skin’s so dry, my face would fall off if I wasn’t.
You can follow Sam at @theothersambaker