Are you curious about sustaining career longevity in your creative pursuits? How about ways to evolve your craft from story to story? Or how to develop strong romantic arcs? We talk about it all and so much more with Sarah Dessen!
Sarah is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She’s the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels like Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, What Happened to Goodbye, and more.
In our conversation, we dive into how Sarah fell in love with storytelling and how her writing has evolved throughout her career. We discuss what it’s like to write for yourself versus writing to please others, and how her mother-daughter relationships in her books are inspired by her relationship with her own mother and daughter. She shares how embracing both the good and bad parts of ourselves in our writing can help us begin to heal, and the importance of seeking help when we need it. Later on in the episode, we discuss her most recent novel, The Rest Of The Story, and peek into the writing and publishing process. Sarah walks us through her experience of changing publishers, how to craft romantic arcs, the reality of balancing finances and your craft, and how to overcome writer’s block.
Books and resources:
Poet William Shakespeare
Author Jeff Kinney
Warriors Series by Erin Hunter
On Writing by Stephen King
Paddington by Michael Bond
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
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Check out these highlights:
- How Sarah fell in love with storytelling (4:54)
- We learn the “ah-ha” moment she knew she needed to pursue a writing career (11:50)
- How she keeps her story arcs new and fresh as she comes up with more and more story ideas (14:00)
- The importance of writing stories for yourself versus trying to please others (17:08)
- How she crafts multi-dimensional mother-daughter relationships in her novels from pulling inspiration from her relationships with her mother and daughter (20:10)
- Why it’s so empowering to lift up other women and highlight female accomplishments (23:10)
- How digging deep into your past experiences, both good and bad, can help draw out your unique voice on the page (26:57)
- A snapshot of her newest novel “The Rest Of The Story,” a peek into her writing and publishing process for the book, and what Sarah is hoping readers take away from the story (32:58)
- Ways to push through darker moments during your writing process when you keep running into walls (39:00)
- How to discover your own writing process (41:00)
- She opens up about anxiety and why it’s crucial to seek out help when we need it (46:00)
- She shares her experience of changing publishers (52:40)
- Tips on balancing finances while working on your craft (57:00)
- Ways to break through writer’s block and small manageable steps you can take to reach your writing goals (59:52)
- She also answers one of our very own Storyteller’s questions:
- “What are your tips for writing a compelling romance plotline and how do you think your writing of romantic arcs have evolved over time?” (55:06)
“Writing is therapeutic for me. So even if I think writing is really, really hard and I don’t want to write ever again, eventually I have to come back to it cause it’s how I process my life and the world.”
“Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re a girl.”
“I think I’m still going back and I’m still retelling these stories and trying to have some sort of happy ending for that girl that I was back then.”
“When we’re young, we all want our story to be just like everybody else’s but then you realize that the more unique your story is, the more unique you are.”
“The way that I write a novel is not going to be the way that you write a novel. Only you know how you can do it, and you’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”
“I love a scene where people are doing something and then talking while they’re doing it because you can show how they are when they’re doing a task, but then you can also show little quirky parts of their personality.”
“If you’re writing along and things are going pretty well and you’re feeling good and then suddenly you hit this wall and things aren’t working and you can’t figure out why, go back and figure out what changed.”
Say “Hi” to Sarah Dessen:
Learn more about “The Rest Of The Story”
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen comes a big-hearted, sweeping novel about a girl who reconnects with a part of her family she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl—and falls in love, all over the course of a magical summer.
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.
Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.
When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.
Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.
For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?
Learn more about Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels: Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye. A North Carolina native, she currently lives in Chapel Hill with her family. She can be found online at sarahdessen.com.