YA author Sara Farizan is 'Here to Stay'

On the Why We Write podcast: Young adult author Sara Farizan talks about her new book on basketball and Islamophobia.

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Episode notes

Sara Farizan is an Iranian American young adult author. In this interview she talks about Here to Stay, her new book on basketball and Islamophobia, navigating social media as a semi-public figure and introvert, and being a not-quite-full-time writer. She first came on the scene with the breakout YA hit If You Could Be Mine, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult, and followed with Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel.

Lesley University Social Media Specialist and YA lit fan Emily Earle interviews Sara.

Follow Sara on Twitter and Instagram.

Check out all our episodes on our podcast page or just go ahead and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or Spotify.

  • Transcript

    Announcer: This is Why We Write, a podcast of Lesley University. Each week, we bring you conversations with authors from the Lesley community to talk about books, writing, and the writing life.

    Emily Earle: Hi everyone. My name is Emily Earle, and I am the social media specialist here in the Office of Communications at Lesley University. I'm here today with award-winning young adult author, Sara Farizan. Sara is an Iranian-American writer and ardent basketball fan, which we’ll definitely get into in a little bit, a Boston native, and a 2010 graduate of our MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sara, thanks for being here today.

    Sara Farizan: Thanks for having me, it’s great.

    Emily: I'm so excited.

    Sara: I graduated I think in 2012. It’s alright.

    [laughter]

    Emily: Oh no.

    Sara: That ceremony was January 2012.

    Emily: 2012?

    Sara: Yes. I graduated. That's the most important thing.

    Emily: That’s the most important thing, 100%. Let's get right into it. How did you find your way into writing? Was it something that you always knew you wanted to do?

    Sara: Yes. I think the first job I ever wanted to have when my uncle asked me, I said, "I want to direct cartoons." He thought I would be interested in animation. Really, as a four-year-old, I was like, “No, I want to give Bugs Bunny direction.” “What's your motivation here, Bugs? Tell Daffy how you're feeling.” I thought like that was something that was possible.

    I've always been interested in storytelling and reading and writing. In my undergrad in college, I had wanted to write for television. I did communications undergrad, Film and media studies, and was writing a lot of screenplays. In high school, I wrote a play and we put it on. That's where I really wrote a lot of dialogue. I’ve always wanted to write things that were important to me. I also feel like I write young people in all my stuff.

    I had always had that goal. I just didn't know in what medium to do it in or that would best fit or that I could because it seems impossible sometimes when you see a book on a shelf or a film, you're like, “I don't know if I could do that.” I've always been interested in storytelling.

    Emily: Can you tell us a bit about your background and your family and how that influences your writing?

    Sara: Sure. I love my parents very much, they're very cute. They met in Boston. My dad came in the early '70s, and my mom came in the late '70s. They met in Boston and married and had me. They’re originally from Iran, from different cities. They're just such wonderful people, and they really raised me to be proud of heritage even when sociopolitical things are not always great but to be proud of who you are. That's very important.

    I write a lot about identity stuff because while I was very proud of one identity, being American, being Persian, I was in the closet as a little gaybie. I didn't come out till sometime after high school. For that time, I knew at a pretty early age, but I didn't have a word for it. I think I knew that I thought Belle from Beauty and The Beast was hot, and that most of my peers did not feel that way, so I should just keep quiet about it. Again, I was like, “Am I really into animation again? I've moved on from Bugs Bunny to Belle, this is different.” I was 9 at that point.

    I write a lot about family and about identity and young people trying to figure out where they fit in their community and society, even when people don't necessarily want them to, especially adults. That's really informed a lot of my work this far. I think I'm still always going to have themes of family and culture and coming of age stories. I just don't know what form they'll take next. I've tried to stretch myself in some ways, like the latest book is a sports book. I don't know that people responded to it, but we'll see. I think they have.

    Emily: Definitely.

    Sara: I'm always trying to bring those same themes but in different genres, so we'll see if I can pull it off.

    Emily: I think you do. In your latest book, Here to Stay, and we'll get into that in a little bit, you have very universal human themes.

    Sara: I hope so.

    Emily: I think whatever the entry point is, there is a space where you can resonate with people on whatever level.

    Sara: I've been really fortunate to be able to travel and promote books. What's great about it, even though my lines are, they're small but mighty, which is nice. It's like a loyal following. I will be next to a much best-selling author at some festival and they will have a large, which is rightfully so, and I will know where to position post it. How to move my pens to just politely sit there and wait for someone to come.

    What's been really nice about my readers is, and I'm surprised by is they're all different ages. So from age 11 to I've had women in their 60s and men. All genders, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all races have come and liked my stuff. There is no one reader. Tha’s just really nice in what I've tried to do. That's been really rewarding and meeting people who respond to it for different reasons, very different reasons, whatever the book, but it's been nice to see that it's not just whom I maybe expected would read it. Because I didn't think anybody would read my stuff anyway.

    Emily: From the very beginning?

    Sara: From the very beginning. Even at Lesley when I was working on my first two books, which was my thesis and my story I applied with, I didn't think they would get published. I thought they were good enough to get representation or like, “Okay, you can teach somewhere or something.” I didn't think that there would be a space on the shelf for them. That's been really-- I've learned now that, yes, there is, and there's been a lot more books that have come out show that, which is great.

    For a long time, I was like, “I don't know that anyone's going to read this.” Seeing people of all different walks of life reading it, it's been really great.

    Emily: That's so exciting and so rewarding for you to get that feedback and reflect it back. Speaking of things that might have been reflected back to you, what kind of books did you read growing up and how did that inform what you write today? Because the genre has evolved quite a bit.

    Sara: There was young adult books, but I don't think it had the market back then or they didn't call it as such.

    Emily: I don't think so.

    Sara: When I was younger, I read a lot of nonfiction, I read a lot of — and this is elementary school — a lot of picture books, a lot of comic books, a lot of John Bellairs mysteries, which he wrote all these kind of mysteries where there's a young person who's paired with an older person. Like, Anthony worked with, oh God, what's her name? Mrs. Something, who was a librarian. Then they'd come across this haunted house. [crosstalk] Professor Childermass was with this kid named Johnny, and then they'd have to go-- It was sort of these age-gap friends.

    Emily: And those were books for young people?

    Sara: Yes, they were like middle grade. I visited recently to be like, “Maybe I could give this a try.” Then I was like, “They just cut right to the plot real fast. There's not too much character build up.” I always remember the food they were eating, which I'm like, that's a detail but that's strange.

    Then high school, I read a lot of books by African-American writers. So The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Red House on Mango Street. I think reading a lot of books by particularly women who were not of European descent helped me a lot. But then I also really loved John Irving and that sort of New England-- I always know reading a John Irving book, he's going to mention Vienna, Austria at some point, he'll mention wrestling, he'll mention a New England prep school or boarding school or such. He has these similar things, but his books touch on a lot of different subjects.

    I was reading a lot of books about people, I think. In curriculum they give you Steinbeck, but I really enjoyed not necessarily Of Mice and Men, but I really liked Cannery Row. Books about everyday people really interest me versus-- Harry Potter was just happening when I was in high school, and I read the first three. I liked them, but I was secretly like, "How is this going to get me a girlfriend and I don't care that much." Now I'm like, "It really would have helped," because the first thing someone asks you is like, "Which house do you belong to?" and I'm like, "I don't know."

    Emily: [laughs] That's amazing.

    Sara: People have said Hufflepuff, but I feel like it's like a taboo thing. I like them and I'm glad people enjoy them. That's great, but I think it became such a huge phenomenon.

    Emily: Yes, it's very pervasive.

    Sara: Fully so.

    Emily: [crosstalk] sure.

    Sara: I didn't really gravitate towards books that had to do with fantasy or escapism. I think I really liked books that had to do with real people and communities that I didn't necessarily know a whole lot about and that I was not a part of. I think that really helped a lot. Then a lot of graphic novels. I'm still a big graphic novel, comic book junkie. It takes a lot of talent to do what they do. Just the writing to not even-- I can't illustrate but just story boarding--

    Emily: It's so unique. Every time I see it and read it, it's just one of those things I'm like, "How does this all come together?"

    Sara: I think there's this idea of pooh poohing on graphic novels because the idea of comic, they're not “real books,” but I think it really helps young people a lot with getting them interested in reading for one and then also, there's pretty challenging stuff that a lot of graphic novels are talking about.

    Emily: Definitely.

    Sara: Even for middle-school readers and subject matter. That's always been stuff I've read. That was a long answer.

    Emily: No, no, that's okay. It's very informative but I don't know, I think it touches on why you write the way you do. You are writing real human stories from your own perspective but also you've had this background of reading many different things and that influences where you go.

    Sara: I hope so, and I have to make a lot more time to read now. I read YA more as a study, so it feels like work now versus if I were actually-- I enjoy them, but for free time, I'll be like, let me pull out a Stephen King or a book on essays like The Argonauts. Those are still my real people books, even though Stephen King has scary stuff in it.

    Emily: Yes, there's a [crosstalk] in there.

    Sara: There's still usually real people. It'll happen to people in Maine and this weird thing happens, but he gets into character a lot, which I enjoy.

    Emily: You mentioned you got your bachelor's in film and media studies, what then prompted you to seek out the MFA program and why young adult writing in particular?

    Sara: I had moved out to LA after college to intern, and then my internship was over and there was a writer strike. There was no work and I was very depressed in LA. I think LA is great if you grew up there or if you know people and can figure out what to do. I was not that, I was like 23 and like, "I don't know anybody," and just really struggling.

    Emily: You wanted to do screenwriting?

    Sara: Yes. I wanted to write for teenagers but for television. I came back home to Boston, and I was working at a Newbury Comics, the one in Natick, now it's in the mall, but it used to be in the street mall across the street, the Christmas Tree Shops?

    Emily: Yes.

    Sara: I come from driving in Beverly Hills to stocking lots of copies of Top Gun. It was a very humbling time, but it was great and I loved working there. I looked for creative writing programs in Boston. I just googled what would that look like and how could I do it? Lesley was one of the first things that popped up. They had a stage and screen program.

    I applied to three disciplines: one was stage and screen, one was creative nonfiction, and then one was writing for young people. When they called and accepted me, the writing for young people one they gave a little bit of money, I was like, "Okay." Also, it was clear to me that all of the works that I had submitted, the bits of the TV pilot were about teenagers, the creative nonfiction was about my high school time, and then the fictional piece I submitted was also-- It was young--

    Emily: [crosstalk]

    Sara: Yes. I said, "Maybe it'll make sense to do writing for young people." I didn't really know a whole lot, because I'd been gone from that age group of books for a long time. Even though Twilight had been big and I think Hunger Games was just becoming a thing, but I hadn't read those books in high school anyway, that was skewed for a younger audience.

    I was new to everything and I think my naivety helped me out because some people would be like, "Do you know who that is?" and I was like, "No. I'm just here to learn how to do this." It was helpful. Then to be exposed to all these books that I would not have known about and being like, "This is really something that I can get excited about and find a voice in." That's how I got on that track.

    Emily: You said your first books came from your thesis?

    Sara: Yes.

    Emily: What was that about?

    Sara: If You Could be Mine was actually my thesis. I worked pretty hard on that, but again, I didn't think it would be published.

    Emily: What was your hope when-

    Sara: I think that it would get me an agent? I'd be like, "Here's something that I've--" Maybe the agent would be like, "Well, we can't necessarily but you're strong enough that-- Write something else."

    Emily: Go write something else.

    Sara: When that sold, it was very whirlwind, very quick and I was-- I think they signed the contract when I was like, 27, 28.

    Emily: Were you still in school at the time?

    Sara: No, I'd just graduated. I had just graduated. It was a few months after that. I didn't know what I was doing and, "Wow, this is so exciting," but I also really nerve wracking, given what I've written about and still sometimes makes me anxious because I want to make sure I'm writing helpful things rather than--

    Emily: Can you get into that a little bit?-

    Sara: Then I need to give you a therapist co-pay. I don't want to bore the audience with that.

    Emily: No, it's fine.

    Sara: Anytime you write about a place that's important to you but you didn't grow up in, I think that can be challenging. After the first book sold, the publisher and my then agent was like, "Do you have anything else?" I had what I worked my first year on, which was Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, but it was not called that. I had worked on that for the first year at Lesley and it was complete-ish. It needed expanding upon, but it was still a workable draft.

    Emily: It was something you wanted to pursue, right?

    Sara: Yes. I was surprised they bought that too. These two books I really worked on at Lesley, which leads me to the third one, which is why it took a little longer because I felt a little like I don't have this support system anymore or like this-- I did-

    Emily: I get that though.

    Sara: -but the kind of community you had here and you're workshopping with people--

    Emily: Like built in.

    Sara: Yes, and it's a great time of focus. People come here and the low residency is great because they have their jobs and families and lives and things, but when you come here, you're here and you have the time to map out what you want to do and to just focus on your work and be around people who also want to do that. We were all pretty different, but when we got together, it was like, "We're on the same page in a lot of different regards."

    After those first two, it was this like I'm on the BuzzFeed homepage next to a “What sandwich are you?” quiz. You're exposing yourself, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's like, this is what I want, and I want people to find my books and that sort of thing, but I also don't really like sharing a lot of my personal life or-- The reason you become a writer is so you're not--

    Emily: Yes, you're kind of like behind the book.

    Sara: It's different to be a comedian or an actor or a musician when you perform. Being a writer, I think now it's this whole thing of, "Oh, their personality," or, "Oh, I want to go see their talk," which is great. I think people do that really well. For me, that's always felt a little uncomfortable. I can do it, but it takes me a lot of staying at home beforehand. I'm a extroverted introvert, I guess.

    Emily: You're an introvert. I can see that. That makes sense.

    Sara: I can do the jazz hands and make some jokes and, "Hey kids," but for the most part, I like to just to be with my family and friends and work.

    Emily: Yes, the performative aspect of it has to be there at this point because--

    Sara: I don't know if it has to be there. I do think it helps. I think there is something about the level of access now. Young people can be like, "Oh, this author did it and I'm so-- maybe I can do it too." That's great. I don't mind that or if people have questions. I I love that. I think the idea of like, "Look what I'm doing," and sometimes I'm really not doing anything. I'm at the gym, and I don't know how to document that in a way. I think I did the other day. I took a picture of the-- Because I'm new to Instagram and I'm trying it, but it's really--

    Emily: It can be fun.

    Sara: For me, it's taxing because I don't know what to think of that people would want to see. I took a picture of the StairMaster landmark challenge, where it gives you the floors in which you want to climb. Like a goal, like the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben.

    Emily: I got you.

    Sara: Like, this one is a hundred floors. I took a picture of that, which was terrible. The lighting is bad. Then I was like, the caption like, "It's almost like traveling around the world [laughs]." Then you post it and you're like, "I hate this. I just want people to find my books." I'm still struggling with that. It's a good struggle to have, I'm very grateful to be in this position, but still figuring out the work-life-writing balance.

    Emily: Okay. I just finished your latest novel.

    Sara: Thank you.

    Emily: You're welcome.

    Sara: You and my mom.

    Emily: [laughs] Maybe a few more people than that.

    Sara: Yes, all my mom's friends. That's good.

    Emily: Nice. Well, it's a solid group.

    Sara: And maybe the eighth-grade class that was assigned in New Jersey.

    Emily: Maybe.

    Sara: They're like, "I don't know about this. I don't know."

    Emily: We were saying though, it definitely resonated on multiple levels. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what the book is about and then why you were moved to tell this particular story.

    Sara: Bijan, the main character in the book, he is an American kid. He's had an under-the-radar existence at his private New England school. He substitutes into a varsity basketball game, and he becomes the hero of the game and makes the winning shot and everyone's like, "Oh, who's that guy now?" Now he finds himself being invited to parties he was not invited to and trying to talk to the girl he has a crush on. That's new for him.

    Someone doesn't like all the attention that he's getting, and because he is of Persian and Jordanian descent, they decide to Photoshop an image of him to look like a "terrorist." So give him a beard and a pakol hat and holding a gun, and send that image anonymously to the student body.

    He now not only has to deal with the attention for his newfound popularity and being on the team, his teammates are like, "Oh, forget about it. Focus on winning." Also dealing with the students who are well meaning and are like, "Maybe you should stand up and be the poster child for diversity." Then teachers who are like, "Maybe you could do this, to promote our understanding," but he's just a kid and he's trying to just get through high school and achieve and do well without having to prove himself.

    And the air is humor. I think when people say that, they're like, "Oh, that's heavy." But because he has social anxiety, he has his favorite NBA commentators, Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, commentate from his head. When he tries to talk to the girl he likes and he fails, Kevin will be like, "Oh, we're going to need some Icy Hot for that burn, Reggie." They will just have some jokes or ways to move the action of the basketball games along. You're not sitting through page after page of the third quarter, the fourth quarter, it goes a little quicker.

    That's what the book is about, and there's subplots in there about other students who maybe don't feel as seen at their school or don't feel like their school is a safe place. The book talks about that. Even in a place that's really pristine. It deals with a lot of, again, social issues. I started writing it-- I've always been a basketball fan. I played when I was a kid and then it was clear I was not getting any taller. I've been trained as a center, middle school years, and then everyone else got much taller. I was like, "I'm not fast enough to be a point guard, I guess I'll go to theater.”

    Emily: [crosstalk]

    Sara: Yes. I always love basketball. I'm a big Celtics fan. So writing about that. Also, I started writing in February of 2015. It was after the murders of Deah Barakat and his wife, Yusor Razan [sic], and her sister in North Carolina, where a neighbor had shot them over a parking space, but it was very clear that it was not about a parking space. Deah was a big basketball fan from I remember all those news stories, it was just all I could watch for a while.

    I was writing a book that was not inspired by them, but to combat this, "How does this happen?" Granted, I just don't think it was about a parking space. So have a book that talks about how we got here and to do some bit of taking on an issue but with humor and having a kid that we don't see that often stand up for himself and be a hero rather than what was me kind of thing.

    Emily: And I think like a hero in his own way, too. Like you said, as a real person as opposed to--

    Sara: Yes, he's flawed. I think in the first draft of Here to Stay” I had written him really glowing because I cared about him and I wanted other people to do it. My editor pointed out like, "You've kind of made him too perfect. He is 16, he's going to mess up." That was a good reminder because when you're trying to really have people relate or fall in love with the character, you might try to overcompensate and make them, "Oh, he's so sweet and he's so--" He can have selfish moments and mess up. I think that was important to be like, "He is 16, 17 and just trying to be himself and a kid.

    Emily: I feel like we're seeing stories this come out in the news and in the media, of things happening in certain locations and schools and stuff. Then you see the kids who are supportive, and then the kids who go completely in the other direction and be like, "What are you doing here? Where are you from?"

    Sara: That's it. That's been over the decades for any community, it's that Shirley Bassey song, it's all just a little bit of history repeating, and it's always a different group, usually. I think maybe that plays into the universality of the story is, maybe he doesn't identify in the way a lot of kids do. There is that, I know what it's like to not feel accepted or to have an outsider vibe, which is not the kid’s fault. It's the community that welcomes you in or doesn't welcome you in. These things happen and it's been really hard to see--

    I don't want to give away too much of the book, but there was a new story, I forget which state it was, but these two kids who were playing on a basketball team and were chanting, "Go back to your country." They were Latin American extraction, and these are kids who were just on a team doing what they love. That's tough.

    When you see stuff like that, I think maybe that's why people like escapism and fantasy, is because they deal with that anyway. I missed the memo on writing about dragons and things that people care about or that they would enjoy for fun. Whereas my stuff, it can be fun. I think it's, 'We see this, so we don't, in our free time, want to necessarily read about it." I do think it hopefully opens up discussion for people, especially students and young people.

    Emily: What kind of conversations do you hope will come out of telling this story?

    Sara: I think one, just talking about, especially in this book, not toxic masculinity but escalating masculinity. Like how that shapes who we value and who we don't. I think this idea of like, we promote diversity, but what does that actually mean? I think just talking about what perceptions people have and why they got there. There's so much misinformation, which is really troubling. I don't know. Just getting kids to talk about an issue that maybe they are scared to. The book has a way of doing that.

    I also again, I know, I'm writing for everybody, but because I'm writing characters that don't often get seen I worry a lot if I'm doing the right thing because I don't want the only book you read with this type of character to be mine and then be like, "Well, that's the only experience," which is impossible. I think that's really helped me back a lot, is not anymore, but has been the, "Am I doing the right thing?" Which I think a lot of writers thankfully don't have to worry about that, they're like, "Yeah."

    Emily: Write what you know and put yourself out there authentically.

    Sara: Right. Whereas I feel like I don't want to-- Whatever you do in whatever field is not going to please everyone. I'm not of that-- I don't want it to be like, "Oh, man, we got to read that book. It makes my life so much harder if the kid is from a Middle Eastern [background] or something. I think from the people I've heard back from, they've related in some way. That's been good.

    Emily: Definitely. I think that the way you do it, too, there is humor there and there is reality, and it all just mixes together in a way that it offers the accessibility point in, "Wherever you're at, you can find a way in."

    Sara: I hope so. I think humor too is-- I've used it in my personal life because I think people might not necessarily remember the things you talked about, but they'll remember, "I had a good time with Sara. She's fun." I try and do that in my work too, where the reader will be laughing about something and then maybe crying about the later results. Getting them in with humor is usually how I do it.

    Emily: You mentioned the main character becomes this star basketball player. Then his inner monologue plays out through the sports commentator. As a basketball fan, was it was it fun for you to live in that space or was it challenging?

    Sara: Yes, it was. I worried a lot about because I was writing male protagonists, if he sounded like a 16-year-old boy because I will never know what that's like. He does think about sex but not as often as I think maybe 16-year-old boys do. I'm not really sure. I don't want to generalize. There were times where I'm like, "Is this going to sound believable to a kid who is a basketball fan or?" Then also not lose people who are not maybe big into sports but have liked my other two books. That was a challenge.

    I think the biggest challenge was figuring out what the book-- I knew who the kid was and his group of friends and what I wanted to talk about, but I was hedging away from it because I was like, "Well, maybe I can just write something more mainstream." I had pitched the book as like a camping trip book, where all the kids would end up on this camping trip and solve their problems. Early drafts have like a lot of camping. The book now has no camping.

    Emily: I was going to say I didn't catch that.

    Sara: There is no camping. There are a lot of characters that no longer exist from that camping trip. So that really took me a long time. Because I think you start out with one idea of like, "This is what the books about," but really it's about this kid and him dealing with the stuff he deals with. So having to simplify that. I have no trouble killing darlings, I don't think anything I've written is like going, "We're going to carve this in stone." None of that. I don't care about any of that.

    I think when you set out to write something and you have it in your idea, "Yes, this is the plot." It's very humbling to be like, "No, it's not," and having to get rid of a lot of hours of time. That was good for me to know, where I think I was trying to over-complicate things because I didn't want to get into the complications of the central issue. Like shying away from the real stuff and putting in tents and jokes about pooping in the woods. I've got so many poop jokes that are gone. It's a shame.

    Emily: I feel like, were there any? I was going to say I don't remember any of that.

    Sara: It's a shame there are none in the book, but that camping it was mostly I just wanted to make jokes about, "Oh, there's no toilet, what do we do?" I'm like, "You have to use leaves as toilet paper." "I need a bigger leaf."

    Emily: Like masking others?

    Sara: Yes. Those are gone. I think they were, for me I had to really cut away from all that and get to what I really wanted to say.

    Emily: How long did that take you, just from start to finish the whole book?

    Sara: The whole book, before it came out, about three years. I was nervous because I was like, "I've had this great start, I really want to make sure that I can keep doing this," but life gets in the way. Writing too, it's a discipline and you do it when you can. I think people have a schedule, but I was working a day job and you find time to make it and you're like, "Oh, I can't go to your party, I got to do this." I don't have children, I might one day, but I just can't imagine-- Writers really, they carve out the time. So that took a while.

    I think also being like, "Well, I had that support at Lesley. I'm on my own now." Not that you're on your own, there are people I email like my mentor, Chris Lynch, who was a professor here. He's wonderful. You don't have that, you're a student and you're just figuring it out. You have deadlines now, what's your next thing? Will you be able to do an okay project like your last two?

    I was so tense all the time. What really helped me out was being invited to be in short story anthologies. That was really great because it got my focus away from the novel and you have a theme of what the anthology is. It gives you a prompt and it's not this huge commitment. Some days you're like, I just want to watch Glow. That's okay too. There's this idea of, we have to be a productive society. You do, but also make sure you're taking care of yourself and you don't owe anything to anybody. I think there's a lot of this, "How are you feeling right now?" I don't want to broadcast that. I've been interested in how that all works.

    Emily: What's next for you?

    Sara: I don't know. I have some events this spring, and I'm trying to write something else, so we'll see if that pans out. I have a short story that I'm going to start. I don't know. I hope I could get to keep doing this. If not, we'll have this podcast to remember our time together.

    Emily: That sounds good.

    Sara: You're like, "Once a Lesley graduate, she did okay for a while, and then she went on a crab boat and got a job." Actually, that's a hard job. Something where no one cares what you're doing. Crab boat people care, but I mean that no one is like, "Whatever happened to her? She's just remote somewhere. She found a job whittling wood somewhere." I can't do that. I'll have to learn how to do that, that is a skill.

    This is what I went all in on. Some days, that's tough because I'm like, "Are you sure this is what you wanted to be all in on?" I don't know. Hopefully, I get to keep on doing this. I'd like to keep doing this. I feel like I haven't asked you anything. How are you?

    Emily: [laughs] I'm doing well. Thank you.

    Sara: That's great.

    Emily: That's nice of you.

    Sara: I feel like I should give you my therapist copay or something. This was really nice. Thanks.

    Emily: Oh, good. I'm glad. I hope in a good way and not in a traumatizing way.

    Sara: No, no, that was a wonderful interview. You're very good. Good job. That's great.

    Emily: Thank you. [laughs]

    Sara: You have that on record.

    Emily: This was really wonderful.

    Sara: Oh yes, likewise. Thank you so much.

    Emily: Thank you so much for coming by. Your stuff is great. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, everyone should read it and find your other stuff and read that too.

    Sara: Thank you very much. Thanks, Lesley, for accepting me and teaching me stuff. Good job.

    Announcer: Thank you for listening to Why We Write. For more information on all of our podcasts, including interviews with YA authors, Jason Reynolds, Katie Cotugno, and Renée Watson, go to our podcast page, www.lesley.edu/podcast. The link is in the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider giving us a rating on iTunes, it helps other people to find the show.

    Next week, we're talking to poet Richard Blanco, who was catapulted into the spotlight when he was chosen as the inaugural poet for President Barak Obama. Since then, he has published a memoir and several books of poetry and become one of America's most well-known poet. Here's a clip from our interview.

    Richard Blanco: The most important questions that I had to ask was, "Do I love this country? Does this country love me back? Am I really part of this narrative?" I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to go there because here I am. I finally had to admit to myself, "I don't know," and contemplated calling the White House and saying, "I can't do this."

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