Monday, September 26, 2011

How Sara Zarr Changed My Life

     This is a true story.
     I don't think Sara knows it, though.
     So I'm working on a novel, and my crit partner said that I needed to read this book, Once Was Lost, by Sara Zarr. At the time I didn't know anything about Sara Zarr. But my crit partner is really smart and gifted, so I usually take her advice. So I bought the book.
And I read it in one sitting, in one night, and a school night to boot.
     And I thought about it, and kept thinking about it, because it isn't just what Sara writes its something about her How. How she writes. And I couldn't put words to the How, but I knew I liked it a lot.
     And when I read this book I was in Hard Times. You know. We've all been there.
     And then I signed up for a Children's Writing Conference. I admit, I wasn't really sure if I belonged there. I was nervous and full of self-doubt and glad I was Doing Something With My Writing.
     Being new to the conference scene, I didn't check out the faculty. I just showed up. And I get my schedule of crit groups. And I also get a fifteen minute session with a faculty member to go over my query.
     And my eyes just about fell out of my head. Because my query time is with Sara Zarr.
     I don't know anyone at the conference. My heart is pounding. I run outside and call my husband, and I say, "I'm going to meet Sara Zarr." And my husband, who is an architect who reads architect-y stuff, says, "Who?" And so I tell him--remember when I stayed up and read that book? And he kind of does. But he does get that I am thrilled and excited. And nervous.
     So I do my crit groups, which were great, and I stay up really late revising, and periodically the thought "I'm going to meet Sara Zarr" pops into my head and I just know I blanked out and stared at stuff for a minute or two each time.
     So as my time nears I have a folder with my query letter, and I'm pacing, and my stomach is all kerfuffled.
     And then it's time and I Meet Sara Zarr.
     I almost cried.
     And we talked about my book and her books and she was this real, amazing human being and when I left the meeting my head was spinning.
     I called my dad. "I met Sara Zarr."
     I called my mom. "I met Sara Zarr."
     At this point, if you are still reading, you might be thinking I'm a little crazy.
     I don't think I'm crazy. I think I'm grateful.
     Because Meeting Sara Zarr meant a lot to me. Here is this writer whose books are like Vermeer paintings. Quiet, intense, full of light and jewel tones and real life.   And I don't cry a lot, but Story of a Girl had me crying because of the story and the joy of reading the story.
     And I periodically look at my husband and say, "I met Sara Zarr." Full of wonder, still.
     So yeah, Meeting Sara Zarr changed my life because when I get bogged down I remember her and Vermeer and my spirit feels renewed.
     And Sara's new book, How to Save a Life, is coming out October 18. And somehow that title seems apropos to me, because sometimes changing a life means saving it.
     Thanks, Sara.


  1. I totally felt your excitement at meeting Sara Zarr. Now I want to meet her too! It's amazing how you see someone's name at the bottom of a book and maybe their picture on the back of a jacket cover and they become this mystical being you could never hope to meet and then one do. And it's amazing. And inspiring. And life changing. Not because they're mystical beings, but because they're just like you and me, and they kept reaching for their dreams until they caught the corner and pulled it down enough to get a good grip on it. Yep...I'm still reaching for my dreams...and when I get that corner, I'm not letting go!

  2. Erica, you are so right. And the cool thing is--you will be someone's Sara Zarr. Someone will meet you and that meeting will be a touchstone moment for them. That's another reason to keep writing, keep working, keep reaching out. Because you never know when you're handing out hope, and hope is a precious thing.

  3. I haven't read her books, but I can say that meeting Joe Lunievicz was very similar for me. Except for the crying.

  4. I'm reading Open Wounds right now. I am grateful and amazed at the generosity and support so many authors give to fans and aspiring writers.

  5. I really liked "Once Was Lost" too. Unfortunately, I'm way too dense, and didn't cry over it. However, I totally understand your excitement over meeting authors. Probably like me, you view them as rockstars. I'll admit that I've been known to physically shake when in the presence of my favorite writers. But I love your two inspirations. Vermeer and Sara Zarr, what a pair.