As long as I’ve longed to write fiction, Sara’s been my guide.
Sara’s taking her talents to another level.
She’s today’s #GirlsRock interview. I’ve asked about The Heart of the Story, editorial and coaching services to draw out the best writer within you. I’ve had the pleasure to talk about my own writing with Sara via video chat, and it was so enlightening.
Sara has been such a friend to this blog for so long.
She’s been a guest blogger and faithful contributor to the Six Words series. Please give her a warm CD welcome. Also, check out her pages. Sara has a way of meeting you where you are in your writing journey and helping you to find your best voice.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Sara: A writer. 🙂 I think the seed was planted as soon as I started learning how to write and draw with crayons. The answer never changed as I got older, but at one point I decided to be ambitious and say, “I want to be an author! And an illustrator! And an actress! And a singer!” But for various reasons, writing has been the one thing that has stuck with me my whole life, and I’m so grateful for the adventures and experiences it’s given me.
Eli: What’s one reason writing stuck with you?
Sara: It’s hard to choose only one reason why writing has stuck with me. If anything, it’s allowed me to explore my creativity and express myself in a way that’s authentically “me.” It’s also pushed me to step outside my comfort zone by traveling for writing conferences and retreats, submitting my work for publication, and read my work to audiences at open mic nights. And when your passion compels you to become a braver version of yourself, it makes more grateful for pursuing it in the first place.
Eli: How has writing changed you personally?
Sara: I already hinted at this, but writing (both the act of writing itself and the pursuit of a writing career) has made me more courageous. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways: submitting my work to websites or literary journals for possible publication (as well as the possibility of rejection), going onstage to read my work at open mic nights (which was HUGE for a shy person like myself!), and traveling to places like New York City and Iceland for writing-related events.
Most recently I started my own freelance editing and writing coaching business, Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services, and that’s by far THE bravest thing I’ve done, period. But I’ve always enjoyed helping other writers, either by editing or critiquing their stories or giving them guidance through blog posts or in person. So it’s an ideal fit for me, and now is the right time for me to take this leap of faith.
Writing has also helped me become more confident and… not more outgoing, but more comfortable engaging with others as my true self. For a long time when I was younger, I was often told that writing was “impractical,” “for weird people” or “just a hobby I shouldn’t take too seriously.” Sadly, I internalized a lot of that feedback. So even though I continued to love and pursue writing, I also thought it made me strange and boring. But my family and friends supported me all the while, and as I kept writing over the years, more and more opportunities like freelance outlets, poetry publications, manuscript critiques for other writers, and public readings presented themselves to me.
Basically, the longer I’ve been writing, and the more I’ve accomplished over time, the more I’ve learned to believe in myself and feel free in being myself.
Eli: That makes perfect sense. Is there a particular piece you’ve written that feels like you were able to be yourself most in writing?
Sara: That’s a good question. I can’t pick out one particular piece of writing where I’ve felt like I was most myself, because there are pieces of me in everything I write. My poetry is probably the best reflection of myself in my writing. Most of it is inspired by my own experiences and observations, so they include my thoughts and feelings, too. Let me give a couple examples.
Hraunfossar, published at Amethyst Review: This poem is named after a waterfall I saw during my first trip to Iceland in 2017. But it’s about much more than Hraunfossar. It’s also about healing and finding a way to transcend your hurts and fears so you can move on. I’d been having a difficult time creatively and personally before going to Iceland; I’d been struggling with anxiety/panic attacks, stress from my day job, and confidence in my writing. So visiting Iceland, and seeing Hraunfossar in person, was a much-needed time for me to reset, relax, and find my footing again.
I hope that comes across in this poem.
Elegy, published at Soul-Lit: I wrote this poem shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. I didn’t know any of the victims, but I was still distraught over what happened. So many people were injured in such vicious ways, and that area of Boston where the bombings occurred (the Back Bay neighborhood and Copley Square) is one of the areas of Boston I’m most familiar with. So I wrote “Elegy” mainly to console myself and to try to make sense of what happened there that day… Though when a terrorist attack happens in your own backyard, so to speak, you can’t ever really make sense of it, can you?
Soul-Lit is also publishing another poem of mine in their upcoming Summer 2019 issue. It’s called Learning to Be, and it’s about my relationship with yoga and how its blend of meditation and physical exercise have been incredibly beneficial to my mental health. So that one has a lot of me in it, too.
Eli: Is it easier or more difficult for you to write with so much of yourself in your work?
Sara: Easy, I guess? Or maybe neither easy nor difficult? (*lol*) I guess the most fitting word would be “natural.” It feels natural to put myself in my poetry. It does make me feel exposed or vulnerable at times, but I think it would actually be more difficult to not put my thoughts, feelings, and observations into my work. That’s just how I write. And not only am I proud of and grateful for my approach, but it also seems to be working for my readers and for the literary journals that have published my poems so far.
Eli: Tell us how Heart of the Story came about.
Sara: Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services is a freelance business I launched in February. The name pretty much explains what I do: I’m a freelance editor and literary coach who helps authors, poets, and other storytellers with a wide variety of projects. So if you want to write a book but have no idea where to start, I can guide you through the process. If, on the flip side, you’ve written a manuscript and want an editor to ensure it’s soundly crafted, smoothly written, and typo-free, I can do all of that.
I’m also planning to expand my services to include in-person poetry workshops in the Boston area and website copywriting/editing.
As for how the idea was born… that’s a long answer. (*lol*) I’ve beta-read manuscripts for other writers, and I’d been told several times that my feedback was so in-depth and helpful that I should be paid for it. But at the time, I was also writing my own stories, and I knew I’d have to put aside novel-writing if I wanted to pursue my own editing business… and I wasn’t ready for it then. Fast-forward to September 2018, and certain things happened in my personal life that made me realize the time had finally come.
I wanted to do work that made me happy, was more aligned with my passions and interests, and would be truly valued by my clients. It took several months to get everything in place, but now it’s up and running – and I’m really excited to see how it grows from here!
Eli: There are so many writers who read this blog who could be interested in this! How can they learn more?
Sara: Great! Let me share some links to different pages of my website where they can find the appropriate information.
Editing: This page offers information about the manuscript development, critique, and editing services I provide. So if you’ve written (or are in the processing of writing) a book and are looking for an editor, visit this page and then get in touch with me as directed for more information.
Coaching: I also provide coaching for writers on a wide variety of projects, needs, and challenges. This page provides more details on how I can help and what the coaching program entails. Scheduling for coaching can be weekly, every other week, or at other intervals that work for me and the client’s schedule.
Question of the Week: This isn’t a paid service, but every Monday around 9:00 a.m. Eastern, I post a question about writing on my Twitter and Instagram pages. Writers can answer the question at their convenience (and I’ll respond, of course!) and reply to other participants’ answers. So in that way, it’s more like a conversation starter than a chat – and it’s been a lot of fun so far!
I may also be expanding my services soon to include website copywriting and editing, as well as poetry workshops in the Greater Boston area. So if writers need help with ensuring their web copy is a crisp and professional yet authentic representation of who they are, they’re more than welcome to contact me about that, too. I also have a monthly newsletter and an email series on confidence-building tips that writers can subscribe to – and when they do, they’ll receive free writing worksheets!
Eli: Love it! Any advice for young women who enjoy writing?
Sara: Keep writing. If you love doing it despite the ups and downs, and if it feels like something you’re supposed to be doing, then don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Learning the craft of writing takes practice, patience, and perseverance (and a little luck, too). But if you want to improve on your writing and create something meaningful with it – be it novels, poems, short stories, essays, blog articles, or anything else – then the only person’s permission you need is yours. So go ahead, sit down with a journal or your computer, and write. 🙂