Ask the Expert: Sheila Lowe

Edith, frantically trying not to drop any balls

We’re welcoming another expert to the blog today. I’ve known Sheila Lowe online sheila4through Sisters in Crime for several years (we’re fellow Californians), and have read all but the latest in her smart, suspenseful Claudia Rose mysteries. One of my college roommates long, long ago studied handwriting analysis, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

Like her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert. She holds a Master of Science in psychology and is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, as well as the Handwriting Analyzer software. Her standalone novel of suspense, What She Saw, has nearly 200 five-star reviews. Sheila’s analyses of celebrity handwritings are often seen in the media.

Share your expertise with us, Sheila!

Name: Sheila Lowe

Area of Expertise: Court-qualified forensic handwriting examiner and handwriting analyst. This means I handle cases of handwriting authentication to determine possible forgery, and I also sometimes prepare behavioral profiles based on handwriting. The latter is used in areas such as pre-employment screening, mental health therapy, child custody issues, etc.

How did you become a handwriting expert?

We have to go back more than 45 years to answer that question. I first became interested as a senior in high school—1967. My boyfriend’s mother had read a book on handwriting analysis and she wrote two pages analyzing my handwriting, which I found completely fascinating—somebody understood me (very attractive to a 17 year-old girl)! I studied on my own for about ten years, then finally started taking courses with handwriting professionals. In 1981 I was certified by the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (I’m currently the president), and in 1985 my testimony was first accepted in the court system as an expert witness.

What are 3 things we should know about your area of expertise?

Most handwriting analysts are not psychic. It’s not an inherited or inborn ability; it’s a learned skill.

“I should let you see my handwriting” is a common response when someone learns what I do. This is akin to meeting a doctor and immediately opening your mouth to say “Ahhhh.” Like any consulting business, this one should be taken seriously.

The biggest problem in my field is the lack of licensing in the U.S. Anyone can create a website and go into business with little or no training (and they do). I recommend that if you want your handwriting analyzed, you contact the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and make sure the analyst you are interested in using has a good education and is professionally certified, with no ethics violations.

What do people usually get wrong when writing about handwriting analysts?

MaxWriting

A page from Edith’s sprint journal (no, she didn’t ask Sheila what it meant!)

Some writers who don’t understand that handwriting analysis has a scientific basis treat it like crystal ball reading. Handwriting cannot predict the future, but is a lot like a picture of the writer’s psyche. It reveals he thinks, how he is socially and sexually, the state of his ego, and other aspects of personality. It’s not “woo woo” or magic. Interpretation of the spatial arrangement on the page, the writing style, and other aspects such as writing rhythm, speed, pressure, etc., paints an accurate personality portrait based on common sense. It’s not just about how you dot your i or cross your t. There are thousands of variables to consider in every handwriting.

Is there a great idea you’d love to share?

These days, public schools in most states are not required to teach handwriting. In fact, many of the younger teachers don’t know how to write in cursive. There are many reasons why it’s important for schools to keep cursive in the curriculum, not the least of which is brain development in young children. Current research indicates that, unlike hand printing or keyboarding, cursive writing helps kids to learn faster, remember more detailed information (written and spoken), and even spell better. My organization, AHAF, is looking for people to work with us in getting legislators to recognize and understand that while technology is important, so is handwriting: www.cursiveiscool.com

Inkslingers Ball Cover_smallWhat are you working on?

The fifth book in my series, Inkslingers Ball, was just released last July. I’ve just begun work on Unholy Writ, which involves ecoterrorism and geocaching, and will take my main character, Claudia Rose, to England.

Do you use your expert knowledge in your writing?

Yes. Claudia Rose’s practice mirrors my own. Readers say they learn something about handwriting analysis from my fiction (and hopefully, interested people will check out my nonfiction books, too). Claudia does not solve crimes using handwriting analysis—she’s not a PI. She uses her special knowledge to understand the people she’s dealing with, and also consults for the police department, sometimes with her lover, LAPD detective Joel Jovanic.

Readers: Questions for Sheila? Do you still write letters, and make sure your kids and grandkids know how to write cursive? Does this post give you ideas for writing characters?

This entry was posted in Ask the Expert and tagged , , , by Edith Maxwell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edith Maxwell

Agatha- and Macavity-nominated and national bestsetlling author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing) and the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Midnight Ink). As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). Edith has also published award-winning short crime fiction. She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.

19 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Sheila Lowe

  1. I do not write to others in cursive if I want anyone to be able to read it, I type on the computer and print it out and hand sign it…my hands do not work as they did and I can watch my handwriting deteriorate over the years.
    I do want to read this series and yes I like to read print. 🙂

    • It’s a good idea to practice cursive writing, even if you don’t want to use it to write to others. It’s good for the brain 🙂

  2. Such a fascinating field, Sheila. My sons and I do write letters to each other from time to time, which I love, and I write thank you notes. One of my favorite uses for handwriting these days, besides my daily to-do list, is to sit away from my computer with pen and paper and brainstorm where my work-in-progess is going next. Ideas flow very differently that way.

  3. A fascinating blog, Sheila! Thanks for sharing your expertise. I found some old notes I’d written in high school and was amazed to see how different my hand writing was then. Do you think that trying to figure out who we are comes out in our handwriting too?

    • Yes, Sherry. Some people are not at all interested in self-knowledge and insight. Their handwriting would be very different from those who are open (see Edith’s sample for the latter!).

  4. Interesting! I’ve been concerned about cursive no longer being taught but I had no idea anyone was working on reversing the trend. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Barbara. For those who don’t know, an inkslinger in this case is a tattoo artist. There’s a particular tattoo that ties together several homicides. This book is a bit different from the rest in my series, as much of it is told from the POV of my detective, Joel Jovanic, and some from Claudia’s young friend, Annabelle.

  5. My hand writing has gotten so bad since I type so much now. I’m not sure if anyone besides me can even read it.

    However, I do think it is an important skill to have. Not saying it is used all that much these days, but you still need to know how to sign your signature.

    • Mark, the sad fact is, a large percentage of teens these days do not know how to sign their name. I suggest you do a little bit of handwriting each day, just for yourself. You’ll find there are some real benefits mentally and emotionally.

      • That’s astonishing, Sheila. I remember one of my sons (the leftie) being so excited about having a signature that he practiced it over and over. As I did in high school, myself.

      • Kids love to learn cursive and especially how to sign their name. Since the Common Core Curriculum has been adopted by most states, public schools are not required to teach cursive anymore. Private schools still do, so public school kids are at a huge disadvantage in many ways.

  6. Thanks for visiting, Sheila! I’ve always found that if I write something by hand I often don’t need to look at it again because the act of forming the letters imprints it into my brain somehow. I always start my books with a notebook and a pen because I find I think differently that way than I do on the keyboard.

    • You’re so right, Jessie. Recent research shows that writing by hand lights up the brain in different areas than using printed writing or keyboarding. It helps you remember the written and spoken word better. The American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (www.ahafahandwriting.org) sells a bumper sticker that says: Think faster, spell better, connect with cursive!.

  7. What a fascinating blog and such an interesting way for you to become aware of handwriting analysis. And so many things I didn’t realize about it. t have always been a letter writer and card sender. Even with IM’ing and email I still prefer to send or receive something handwritten. I found that in school, all the way through college, taking notes by hand and writing out study notes made the material easier to remember.

    • Sally, I hope you’ll check out my Forensic Handwriting mysteries. Readers often tell me they learn a lot about handwriting, just from reading the information Claudia Rose imparts in the stories.
      Keep writing those letters and cards!

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