Written By Sheridan Vance
Photographed by Lindsay Higgins
Sarah was unsure of what she wanted to study until one of her older sisters, Kelly, suggested she major in Communication. She took her sister’s advice, and also declared an English minor. “Kelly said I was a good writer, which was something I had always aspired to be, but hearing it from someone I looked up to so much made me think that maybe I could turn something I loved into a career.”
Family is a major aspect of Sarah’s life, and it influences her writing. She is the youngest of four siblings and is looking forward to being an aunt soon. When talking about her future nephew, she tries to describe what it feels like to love someone she has never met before, but cannot find the right words. “For me,” she says, “sometimes it’s easier to write than speak. I have ADHD, and it can make my brain really loud. Writing quiets it.” The quiet helps her reach the heart of all her writing: authenticity. She never wants her work to read like she, or one of her characters, is trying to be somebody other than herself. “I want people to care for my stories and characters because they can tell I care about my stories and characters.”
Sarah’s earliest memories of literature include her mother reading to her as a child. Her mother took on the role of Sarah’s teacher, as she was homeschooled from kindergarten through 5th grade. “My parents helped lay the foundation for my future love of reading and writing.” During that time, Sarah remembers that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter kindled her love of reading. Today, she is still prone to picking up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princefrom time to time.
Although she enjoys writing fiction, her favorite genre is creative nonfiction. “Kelly is the reason I started reading David Sedaris’ nonfiction work. I used to borrow her books all the time, so she got me a signed copy of Holidays on Ice with my name in it.” Sarah says that Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day made her realize that nonfiction is more than recounting facts: “It’s about telling true stories in a meaningful way.” Sarah infuses her writing with these elements from fiction and nonfiction.
Her favorite story she has written so far is “Statue Children.” Sarah cares for Hattie, the protagonist in her story, to the point that when someone suggested Sarah change a line of Hattie’s dialogue, she thought no, Hattie wouldn’t say that. “I’ve gone through so many revisions, and I really care about the characters,” she says. “I’ve become that writer.” She acknowledges Dr. Jones and Fiction Workshop, ENG 316, for helping her grow as a writer. “It was emotionally and intellectually tiring, but I have grown so much because of it. After all, like Dr. Jones always says: ‘writing is revision.’” Sarah even has a Spotify playlist titled “Writing is Revision” which is dedicated to inspiring her as she writes. Other than her playlist, she says that deadlines inspire her to write, too. She laughs, and it isn’t until after a pause, that I recognize what she has said. It is this kind of attitude and subtle sass that Sarah gives her characters. Sarah not only expresses herself in her writing but also in her newly dyed pink hair. “It’s just a strand. Don’t worry, Mom,” she says.
Sarah sips her tall, iced, skinny, caramel macchiato and describes it exactly that way. “Drinking coffee reminds me of my other sister, Laura,” she says, smiling. She puts her earbuds in, indicating that she is ready to start her next story, and says one last thing before delving in: “I never knew how much I would love spending time in a world I created.”