• Q&A With WriteByNight Coach Sara Zarr


    Sara Zarr (Salt Lake City, UT) is the acclaimed author of nine novels and two works of nonfiction. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Sara has written creative nonfiction and short fiction for Image, Hunger Mountain online, Response, Gather, and Relief Journal as well as for several anthologies, and is a MacDowell Fellow (2014). Sara also hosts and produces the This Creative Life podcast. Her first book, Story of a Girl, was made into a 2017 television movie directed by Kyra Sedgwick. She divides her time between Utah and California and is currently on the MFA faculty at Lesley University. Learn more about Sara and her work at her website.


    Where are you from?

    I grew up in San Francisco a few blocks from Golden Gate Park, and eventually landed in Salt Lake City where I live now. Both places are surrounded by stunning natural beauty; each has its drawbacks!


    How did you get your start as a writer?

    I’m a big fan of “learn by doing” and spent about ten years reading and writing with intent, as I wasn’t sure grad school was for me (or for my wallet). At the end of that decade of practice, I sold a novel and have been selling them ever since.


    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    While I love writing the first 30 or 40 pages of a novel, getting through middles – especially of a first draft – is somewhat excruciating for me. Novels are so large in scope and take so much time to get through, it can’t be anything other than daunting. Conversely, the work of shorter pieces is finding the perfect beginning and sticking the landing. The middles feel like a relative breeze!


    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan. O’Nan is one of my favorites, and I think he’s a favorite of a lot of writers. A real “writer’s writer.” He writes especially well about regular, working people in small towns. I just really like watching characters in their unglamorous jobs, probably because I’ve had many myself. That’s the backdrop of Ocean State. It’s also a great book to read if you want to understand the difference between novels about teenage characters written for a general audience, and teen/YA fiction written for that specific market segment. This one is an example of the former, though it’s a well-wrought story about teenage characters and their only partly-formed prefrontal cortexes!


    Where do you see the world of writing and publishing heading?

    Traditional publishing with all its features and foibles will always be around and have a certain amount of power, but the indie publishing movement is showing a lot of strength these days, too. Writers have more and more options, and the Big Five (soon to be Big Four?) publishers will need to show a bit more agility to find the diverse range of new voices and stories that readers want, and to compete with a certain company that would like to take over the world (Earth first, then Mars).


    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    Put worries about “talent” and “art” out of your mind and think instead about momentum and consistency. There will never be a final word on your talent or if what you’re doing is art. But you can generally control showing up to do the work and making choices that keep your writing momentum going.


    Interested in working with Sara? Request a free consult now


    “It was fabulous! I’m very happy with Sara‘s encouragement and recommendations.”

    — Teresa D.


    “It was excellent, just as I expected. I knew Sara was a quality writer and person. I’d researched her heavily and bought her most recent book before contacting you. However, she surpassed my expectations. I was blown away by her ability to see the problems, to articulate options, and to clearly define the MG space in terms of my book.”

    — Maggie L.


    “Please allow me to gush. OMG. It was the BEST! Exactly what I was looking for and exactly what I needed. Sara was SO personable. Also very creative and thoughtful about the way she phrased things. I feel as if I have had her as a writing coach, which is exactly what I needed. I had felt isolated and without resources, and now I feel capable to attack the next phase of what I hope is the completion of my first novel. You and Sara have really made a difference in my writing life.”

    — Betsy B.


    “The meeting with Sara this morning was great. She gave great feedback. Based on her suggestions, I know where to take the next draft of my novel. She is the best.”

    — Michael M.


    “My meeting with Sara was very educational. I think she will be great to work with and will help me get my writing to the best it can be.”

    — Sharolyn R.


    “It was wonderful getting to know Sara today. I feel as though we will work very well together. I have my first “assignment”, which I am very excited to complete.”

    — Tiffany V.