Sara Zarr's Blog, page 6

January 2, 2013

I always look forward to this first working day of January with great hope and excitement. The year feels yet unblemished, and not even the knowledge that it will be blemished (and probably soon, given that I’m a human living in reality) can touch that. And I come into this year with considerably more energy than I did when I entered 2012, so that feels good. Like most people, I have goals and resolutions and longings for what 2013 will bring and become, and what I can make out of it. Some that are specific and task-oriented, but mostly about internal shifts that I hope will change how I experience life.


One of those shifts has to do with how I think about and conduct my writing life, which is something I’ve been working on during this break from signing contracts.


While I was on vacation this past week, I re-listened to the episode of This Creative Life I did with writer/director Scott Derrickson*. Around minute 34, I’d started talking about how I’d lost the romantic relationship I used to have with writing and I asked Scott if it felt fresh for him, how he kept that alive.


Scott talked about how Hollywood is an industry built to cycle you out. He said: ”For me, what’s kept [the relationship with the creative work] fresh is reckoning with what it would mean to be cycled out and having to go get a real job. … You have to get up every single day and give it a reason to keep you in… anything I gotta do I’m gonna do, I just want to keep doing this for a living.”


At first glance, that sounds like a kind of fearful approach to work, and Scott did say that fear can be the negative side to that. But there’s a fire of passion in that, too, and on the positive side of it is gratitude. He talked about being grateful that he gets to write and direct movies for a living and have a place in the business.


Going back to what I said about romance, he said: “It’s ingratitude that destroys that romance.”


Think about that for a minute.


As I listened again to that part of the conversation (and once more this morning), I thought about passion and romance and how that relates to marriage. To friendship. To God. I thought about any relationship that you maintain over time, including the relationship with writing (or whatever your vocation may be).


My early years of writing were driven by passion and desire, and yes, also fear–the fear of not getting something I wanted. The fear of that feeling I’d get when I’d read published books that I didn’t think were very good, but knowing I was slacking in my own efforts to get my work out there.


In the first year of dating my husband I worked every day to make sure the he knew that I was interested in him–all my romantic energy was pointed in his direction. He did the same for me. Part of that was a fear of losing something we knew was good, that we wanted. But also grateful wonder. And I feel that with new friends, that grateful wonder, and I feel compelled to invest, give, stay connected. That’s a kind of romance, too. When people have a religious conversion experience there’s an intense gratitude. Wow, the creative force of the universe actually looks upon me with favor, grace, and kindness. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


The thank-you comes because the memory of how it felt to believe you were just in a spiraling void of despair is fresh. When I was able to quit my day job six years ago and write full-time I was awash in gratitude. Because the memory of not having a writing career was fresh. When you first fall in love, the memory of feeling alone and unlovable is fresh and you boggle that someone could see you as you are and claim you anyway. If you’ve gone awhile without connecting in friendship and you suddenly do, the memory of not having that friendship, of being bored or sad or unknown is fresh. You’re grateful.


Then time does its work and what was new is familiar, and perhaps contempt is bred in the unswept corners, the unmaintained habits of appreciating the lover, the friendship, the career, the salvation.


“It’s ingratitude that destroys that romance.”


The romance of a long-term relationship is different than that of a new one, obviously. The nerve endings may not crackle. The pulse may not speed up. It may take more work to see beauty in what has become the everyday. The more I think about what Scott said, the more I think the heart of a long-term romance is in fact gratitude. I get to do this job. I get to love this good person who loves me back. I get these awesome friends. I don’t have to despair that life is meaningless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


That’s the internal shift I want to keep close to me in 2013, especially as I transition out of sabbatical mode and back into work over these next few months. I want to guard against ingratitude, and maybe be a little more friendly to a productive kind of fear. I just want to keep doing this for a living.


*Speaking of the podcast – the next episode will go up this Friday or Saturday after a slight delay for the holidays. Happy New Year!

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Published on January 02, 2013 08:20 • 41 views

December 19, 2012

Last month, I wrote about the makeover for the book originally published as Once Was Lost, and its new life as What We Lost. Now, I officially have the go-ahead to show you the cover. I must admit that I love it. It’s designed by the same person who did the original cover (and who has done all of my covers except for Story of a Girl) which I’m also quite fond of. I do think this one captures the human element of the story more successfully, and the sense of the summer heat and dryness, and Sam feeling alone in her crisis.


And the back of the cover! Oh the back of the cover, which I can’t show you here. It has images of all of my books on it and it makes me go, hey, I have a body of work! That’s all I ever wanted!


For now, here’s the front. I believe this will be in stores in spring, a bit ahead of The Lucy Variations or right around the same time. I’m going to have to wait on my site designer before I get all instances of the old cover and title replaced here, but I didn’t want to put off sharing this gorgeousness!


What We Lost

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Published on December 19, 2012 19:27 • 139 views

December 17, 2012

In January 2011, I gave a talk called “Crafting a Creative Life” at the SCBWI-NY conference. I talked about the long journey of an artist’s life and all of the things that might trap us or freeze us along the way–the practical things like time and money and bad backs, as well as the psychological things like fear and resistance and questioning our own worth. The intensity of response I got to it–that day and in the weeks afterwards–really surprised and moved me. People were hungry for this stuff.


A few months later I pondered the idea of producing a podcast that would continue that conversation in some way, because I certainly wasn’t done thinking about it and I sensed it might be helpful for others, too. It took about a year for me to make it actually happen (see: fear, resistance, time, + lack of knowledge) but here we are, about nine months and fifteen episodes into this project, and I think there’s still lots to talk about.


My goals for This Creative Life in 2013 include growing the audience, getting better with the sound and editing piece of it (if I’d let perfectionism about this stop me, there would still be no podcast because I’m never totally happy with my producing skills), and continuing to expand my guest roster–not just beyond YA, but beyond the book-making world and further into other fields. I hope to book my first musicians soon, and add more creatives from the film world, visual artists, and perhaps venture into the editorial and production side of art-making, too. I’d love to do more panel discussions as well as at least a couple of episodes during the year where I answer your questions, like we did in episode 5. [Edited to add: Jeez, and some diversity! Just now realized how unintentionally homogenous my guest list has been, in terms of race/ethnicity/orientation. I can see how this happens to companies and organizations without them realizing or intending it. Also it reminds me that I once wrote to the producer of a podcast I like, pointing out that all his guests were men. All of them, always. He never replied, and I stopped listening. Feeling slightly less judgey and a bit more humble now.]


Thank you all so very much for becoming listeners, asking questions, telling friends, leaving ratings and reviews, tweeting, Tumbling, commenting, Facebooking, and generally encouraging me to keep going. And of course, huge thanks to all my guests this past year for being so awesome and open about the challenges and joys of their creatives lives.


And now! To our final guest for 2012:


Ally Condie is the internationally and NYT bestselling author of the incredibly popular Matched trilogy. She also happens to be one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people I know in the business. We are both here in Utah so our paths have crossed now and then over the years, but I didn’t have the pleasure of getting to know Ally better personally until fall 2011 when we were both on the Smart Chicks Kick It tour.


Fresh off her tour for Reached, the third and final book in the trilogy, Ally took the time to talk to me (and you) about her writing life. There’s something about this episode that, for me, feels like the perfect way to end the first year of This Creative Life. I hope you think so, too.


TCL Ep 15 – Author Ally Condie


Click the link to listen right now; right click to download. Or subscribe in iTunes to easily get it onto all your devices automatically.


Ally’s web site  |  Ally on Twitter


Here’s the lovely Ally at one of our Smart Chicks stops last year:



 


 

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Published on December 17, 2012 06:23 • 8 views

In January 2011, I gave a talk called “Crafting a Creative Life” at the SCBWI-NY conference. I talked about the long journey of an artist’s life and all of the things that might trap us or freeze us along the way–the practical things like time and money and bad backs, as well as the psychological things like fear and resistance and questioning our own worth. The intensity of response I got to it–that day and in the weeks afterwards–really surprised and moved me. People were hungry for this stuff.


A few months later I pondered the idea of producing a podcast that would continue that conversation in some way, because I certainly wasn’t done thinking about it and I sensed it might be helpful for others, too. It took about a year for me to make it actually happen (see: fear, resistance, time, + lack of knowledge) but here we are, about nine months and fifteen episodes into this project, and I think there’s still lots to talk about.


My goals for This Creative Life in 2013 include growing the audience, getting better with the sound and editing piece of it (if I’d let perfectionism about this stop me, there would still be no podcast because I’m never totally happy with my producing skills), and continuing to expand my guest roster–not just beyond YA, but beyond the book-making world and further into other fields. I hope to book my first musicians soon, and add more creatives from the film world, visual artists, and perhaps venture into the editorial and production side of art-making, too. I’d love to do more panel discussions as well as at least a couple of episodes during the year where I answer your questions, like we did in episode 5.


Thank you all so very much for becoming listeners, asking questions, telling friends, leaving ratings and reviews, tweeting, Tumbling, commenting, Facebooking, and generally encouraging me to keep going. And of course, huge thanks to all my guests this past year for being so awesome and open about the challenges and joys of their creatives lives.


And now! To our final guest for 2012:


Ally Condie is the internationally and NYT bestselling author of the incredibly popular Matched trilogy. She also happens to be one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people I know in the business. We are both here in Utah so our paths have crossed now and then over the years, but I didn’t have the pleasure of getting to know Ally better personally until fall 2011 when we were both on the Smart Chicks Kick It tour.


Fresh off her tour for Reached, the third and final book in the trilogy, Ally took the time to talk to me (and you) about her writing life. There’s something about this episode that, for me, feels like the perfect way to end the first year of This Creative Life. I hope you think so, too.


TCL Ep 15 – Author Ally Condie


Click the link to listen right now; right click to download. Or subscribe in iTunes to easily get it onto all your devices automatically.


Ally’s web site  |  Ally on Twitter


Here’s the lovely Ally at one of our Smart Chicks stops last year:



 


 

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Published on December 17, 2012 06:23 • 21 views

December 11, 2012

I last wrote specifically about this period of time back in September. September! And I am pleased to report: progress. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of the things I’d hoped for in this break from deadlines come to fruition.


For one, I realized the other day I’ve reached a crucial tipping point: my writing and other creative work have become more interesting to me than my go-to distractions. Writing is still hard, but I would now actually rather do it than avoid it. Which means I don’t really have to employ very many of the “rules” that I pondered in my last post about this, because the attention is coming more naturally.


Another thing: I have almost no symptoms of anxiety and depression. A few little dips here and there, as is natural for those of us who struggle with such things, but at this time last year I was on the floor with a box of tissue way too often. I can only assume that eliminating the things that were causing me to feel overwhelmed has made this huge difference.


Thirdly, I spend a lot more time with my in-town friends than I had been. Almost every day I go out somewhere and see someone for work or play or food or coffee or all of the above. Over the past few years, I’ve felt like I “don’t have time” to do this regularly because of the ack-my-deadline cloud of dread that I dragged with me at all times, yet I somehow found time to spend with my friends online, often to avoid work. Now I’m simply having a lot more tangible fun, which helps everything else.


When the day comes again that I do have a deadline–and I’m sure it will (I hope it will!), I believe that the rest and recovery and new mental habits I’m accumulating now will stick with me. For years I think I’ve had this identity of “I am an anxious, busy, overwhelmed person,” and now I’m creating a new identity rooted in feeling more calm, capable, ready, social, and hardworking in a good way.


(Please point me back to this post six months from now!)

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Published on December 11, 2012 16:11 • 21 views

December 3, 2012

If you follow me and/or other YA authors on Twitter, you probably know all about the YA for NJ charity auction going on. A bunch of us have donated some stuff–books, critiques, your name in a story, for example–so that you can get great collectible YA-ish things and also help out victims of Hurricane Sandy. The proceeds of this auction are going to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.


Winning an item in this auction will kind of make you exactly like Bruce Springsteen.


There’s a signed Advance Reader Copy of The Lucy Variations on the table, and I’m gonna tell you what: I’m throwing in a CD of the playlist that, as you will find out when you read the book, is part of the story. I can’t add that bit of info to the listing, but you read it here.


There’s also a signed paperback of How to Save a Life available! And hey guess what. Another CD of songs related to the story.


Do a good deed, get a good book. At least, there are people out there who say these books are good. Such as this blogger who has posted an early review of Lucy and opines: “Zarr’s best and strongest to date.” And How to Save a Life made the UK Independent’s top teen fiction for 2012 (in the UK, it’s a 2012 book), as well as a bunch of lists last year here in the states.


Go bid on stuff! Any stuff that catches your fancy! Turn your reading passion into food for people in need. Thank you.


 

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Published on December 03, 2012 14:04 • 56 views

December 1, 2012

It’s a very special holiday episode! Like when Juliana Hatfield played an angel on My So-Called Life, and by the way I just looked that up and Jason Katims co-wrote that episode, which blows the mind of this fan of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood and ANYWAY -


- the podcast is back, and off the usual format. This second-to-last episode of 2012 is short, sweet, and to the point. I asked some writer friends how they manage their creative time differently during the holiday season, and got some great answers. I share some of my own experiences, too. Whether you’re under a deadline or just trying to keep up momentum, I think you’ll find this helpful and practical.


TCL Ep 14 – Staying Productive Through the Holidays


Click the link to listen right now; right click to download. Or subscribe in iTunes to easily get it onto all your devices automatically.


My thanks to E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Ally Carter, Lauren Myracle, and Alan Gratz for their terrific input. And my thanks to you for listening, and for sharing with a friend!

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Published on December 01, 2012 16:13 • 18 views

It’s a very special holiday episode! Like when Juliana Hatfield played an angel on My So-Called Life, and by the way I just looked that up and Jason Katims co-wrote that episode, which blows the mind of this fan of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood and ANYWAY -


- the podcast is back, and off the usual format. This second-to-last episode of 2012 is short, sweet, and to the point. I asked some writer friends how they manage their creative time differently during the holiday season, and got some great answers. I share some of my own experiences, too. Whether you’re under a deadline or just trying to keep up momentum, I think you’ll find this helpful and practical.


TCL Ep 14 – Staying Productive Through the Holidays


Click the link to listen right now; right click to download. Or subscribe in iTunes to easily get it onto all your devices automatically.


My thanks to E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Ally Carter, Lauren Myracle, and Alan Gratz for their terrific input. And my thanks to you for listening, and for sharing with a friend!

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Published on December 01, 2012 16:13 • 15 views

November 26, 2012

In the biz, authors and publishers do their absolute best to come up with a title and a cover that both capture a story and attract new readers. Sometimes, no matter what’s inside the book or how much it means to the people who have found it, the title and cover aren’t working the way everyone involved had hoped.


Once Was Lost has always trailed far behind my other books in terms of how many readers it has found and have found it. My publisher and I have been discussing for some time a cover change, and a title change. I was always on board with a cover change. I waffled on changing the title. I know what it means to the people to whom it means something, and I know what it means to me. But ultimately I want the story to have every chance in the world to be read. There are people unfamiliar with the hymn who don’t get the syntax of “once was lost”, and there are people plenty familiar with the hymn for whom “once was lost” broadcasts a religious topic which–as you know if you’re read it–is only a part of the story, though it is certainly about faith of all kinds. We came up with What We Lost, which we all agree retains the mood of the story and opens the invitation to read a bit wider.


Soon I’ll be able to reveal the new cover to you. I love it, and I think really goes nicely with all my other covers and is a bit more energetic and human-feeling. After that I’ll be updating everything across my web site to show the new title and cover while still making it clear this is not a new book.


If you already have Once Was Lost, there’s no need to buy it again! (Unless you are a collector personality and want every version of of everything.) It’s the exact same book inside, I promise you. It’s just getting a makeover, and a lovely one at that, if you ask me. Cover to come soon!

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Published on November 26, 2012 09:07 • 76 views

November 13, 2012

At the end of this week I’m off to Vegas for the second time in a month. Can Vegas handle that? I don’t know. This time around I’m there for the National Council of Teachers of English conference plus a little bit of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. I’m not doing any panels or talks or anything like that–mostly I’m going to accompany my smart husband, an English teacher who happens to be presenting at the conference. But! I will be signing at the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers booth on Friday:


Friday, November 16 – 4 p.m. – Booth #400


Come say hi, get a book signed and maybe, possibly pick up an arc of The Lucy Variations


I’ll also be at the ALAN reception on Sunday evening and hope to see some of you there.


Create This Creative Life


One of the great things about NCTE/ALAN weekend is that there’s an incredible concentration of kidlit authors in one place. It seems too good an opportunity to pass up in terms of the podcast. I’m hoping to do a sort of guerrilla episode and ask as many authors as I can one particular question. Which is where you come in.


What one question would you most like a whole bunch of authors to answer? I’d love your ideas here in the comments or on twitter. If I go full guerrilla on this, I can even edit and post from Vegas and stay more or less on schedule. If one perfect question doesn’t present itself or come to mind, I’ll just ask a bunch of people a bunch of questions. Thanks in advance for participating!

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Published on November 13, 2012 07:58 • 21 views

Sara Zarr's Blog

Sara Zarr
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