Artist of the Month October 2018 – Sara Grant
Our October Artist of the Month is author Sara Grant. Sara has written, edited and influenced more stories than we can ever imagine. Suitable for all aged audiences she is a versatile and inspiring visitor for schools.
Sara Grant always says one of the best things about being an author is the opportunity to speak to students – of all ages – and share her passion for writing. She has visited schools in the US, UK and Europe – and recently a school on the island of Saint Lucia. She teaches a master’s course on writing for children/teens at Goldsmiths University and previously taught the master’s level course on writing for young readers at the University of Winchester.
Sara has a very diverse catalogue of books for readers from seven to seventeen years old. Her new series Chasing Danger is a middle-grade, action-adventure series. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award for Europe. She’s also written a funny, magical series for young readers titled Magic Trix. As a freelance editor of series fiction, she has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books.
Sara was born and raised in Washington, Indiana, in the United States. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London, graduating with distinction. She lives in London.
What a visit from Sara entails
Sara is exceptionally versatile and can work with primary schools, secondary schools, university students and adult writing courses.
Because Sara Grant writes fiction for both young and teen readers, she has a variety of presentations. She is happy to work with seven year olds through teenagers. She is passionate about reading and writing and an enthusiastic presenter. Her events aim to get students involved with creating stories.
Because she believes that one size does not fit all, she is happy to work with schools to create a day and presentations that best meet their specific literacy, creative writing, PSHE and other curriculum goals. She is happy to complement what’s being taught in classroom. She has given writing talks, creative writing workshops, panel discussions, author improvisation and readings. She can work with small classrooms or large assemblies. She loves working with students of every ability.
Whether you are after presentations, inspiring talks, author Q&As or writing workshops, Sara will be perfect for your school.
What Schools Have Said About Sara
“I just wanted to tell you (though I’m sure you’ve heard it before) that you are a brilliant author and an inspiring speaker…After I got home from your talk last night, I sat down and wrote for an hour straight. It was the first time I’ve written in over four months. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your motivational words. I didn’t think there was any more creativity in me, but what you said gave me a fresh start and cleared my head. I love your book so far, and I want you to know I consider you a role model.” – unsolicited email from teenager at an event at the Oldham County Public Library in Kentucky
“Sara visited Padgate Library with The Edge writers as part of our My Voice project in June 2012. She organised the visit on behalf of the other writers, and was easy to work with, very flexible and well organised. Altogether they saw over 80 young people. Sara talked about her teen book ‘Dark Parties’ and read extracts. The young people attending were engrossed in her talk and couldn’t wait to chat to her at the end. As part of the panel she also answered questions from the audience and gave young people an insight into the life of an author and helped them to see that it is cool to read. After the event she gave her time very willingly to any of the young people who had been motivated to stay behind and chat some more. Her rapport with the audience couldn’t have been better.
Here are some of the comments from the young people on the day
‘It was very interesting and fun 10/10’
‘I really enjoyed meeting you and I really liked the sound of Dark Parties’
‘I really enjoyed it and Sara’s accent 10/10’
‘I really enjoyed it, very inspirational! Xxx’” – Chris Everett, Development Librarian Reading, Padgate Library, and her libronauts
“I first booked Sara Grant as a tutor for the SCBWI-BI (Society of Childrens’ Writers and Illustrators-British Isles Chapter) Masterclass Series a few years ago. She delivered an engaging, vibrant, hands on masterclass on Revision techniques that had members emailing, blogging and tweeting her praises. As the class sold out so quickly we discussed with Sara about developing her class into two sessions and running it again. These classes sold out in weeks and we had to add further dates to accommodate the demand. Sara has a fast paced, direct and accessible style that means she can motivate people both on a one to one level and in large group work. She made every participant in that class feel they not only came out with more information than they had going in, but that they were empowered to use that information and apply it to their own writing. I have since also booked Sara as a speaker at the SCBWI annual conference in Winchester where she entertained and enthralled a large lecture theatre of delegates. Her dynamic speaking style and bubbly enthusiasm are as infectious onstage as they are off. I could not recommend Sara Grant more highly.” –Mo O’Hara, SCBWI Masterclass Coordinator 2009- 2013 and Conference Speaker Coordinator 2010-2012
“Sara’s visit showed our students the work that is writing and illustrated the process and power of revision. My students loved her frank and honest discussion about how difficult it is to write even about topics and issues that you care deeply. Dark Parties has not spent a single day on our library shelves…the kids (and adults) loved it!” – Ted Baechtold, Senior English Teacher, Eastern Greene High School
“The workshop mixed fun and creativity with rolling your sleeves up and getting down to some serious writing. All learners achieved something from the workshop and went away full of renewed confidence in their writing, and feeling energised and inspired. They learnt a range of writing skills including how to start a piece of creative writing and how to put their ideas onto paper, which might spark an interesting new hobby for them, as well as being transferable into their vocational areas.” — Susan Sandercock, Curriculum Leader for English at South Essex College.
“I wrote an entire short story in the session – I am really proud of myself.” – teen student at South Essex College
“Writing stories is now something I will do at home in my spare time because it’s a lot of fun and will stop me being bored.” – teen student at South Essex College
“You were really great by the way… if it was anyone else I would have switched off, but you kept me really entertained and amused. Thanks for coming in and talking to our class.” – from an unsolicited email from teen boy at Belfairs High School, Leigh-on-Sea
Interview with Sara Grant
How and when did you join Authors Abroad?
I joined Authors Abroad in February 2014 after several author friends recommended it.
At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing my first story when I was eight years old.
Does the excitement of being published ever diminish or become the norm with each book?
The excitement and gratitude never diminishes. I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do what I love – and I never forget it.
You’ve written for a wide age group – do you enjoy the variety or is it difficult to adapt the style to much?
I love the variety, but it can be challenging to be writing a silly story for five-year-olds one minute and plotting an intricate murder mystery the next. But I enjoy experimenting and playing with genres, voices, age ranges, etc.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration absolutely everywhere. The trick is to always be open to ideas and asking ‘what if’. When an idea pops into my brain, I write it down on my phone. I have a list of hundreds of ideas. When I’m ready for a new project, I’ll review the list. Sometimes a similar idea has appeared a few times on this list or I’ll discover that two or three of the ideas could be merged together.
What is your proudest moment as a writer so far?
That’s a tough one. There are the big milestones – like my first event as a published author, when I spoke to hundreds of teens at the Leipzig book fair in Germany or recently when I learned that BookTrust had selected Chasing Danger for its BookBuzz campaign alongside so many amazing writers like Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, Sita Brahmachari, Robin Stevens and Kes Gray.
But there’s also nothing like receiving emails from readers around the world. I print and post a few near my computer for when I’m having a bad day. Recently I received a message from a reader who said I was ‘a genius when it comes to suspense.’ I might frame that one.
Do you find it embarrassing or uncomfortable to write the more intimate scenes in your YA novels such as ‘Dark Parties’?
Not really. When I’m solidly in the mind of my main character, writing her feelings and sharing her story comes naturally. I won’t write stories that call for graphic sex, violence or language. That would make me uncomfortable.
Do you believe everyone has a story in them, or that writing and storytelling is a knack people are born with?
Some people are natural storytellers while other people have to study and work hard to tell their stories. I do believe that everyone has many, many stories to tell.
You tutor a lot of adults who want to be writers. Do you enjoy it? Are you proud when they achieve? Any success stories to share?
I love working with writers of any age. It’s a thrill to help a fellow writer achieve their dream to be a published author. I’m very proud of a project I co-founded for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators called Undiscovered Voices. Over the past ten years, it has launched the writing careers of nearly forty authors, who now have written more than 200 children’s books. (www.undiscoveredvoices.com) It’s one way I try to pay it forward.
Favourite moment from a school visit?
I was invited to speak to a small group of – for the lack of a better phrase – troubled teens. The woman who had invited me to the school explained on the ride from the train station that fights had been known to break out in class, but she hoped they’d be on their best behaviour for me. When I walked into the classroom, the teacher said to me she didn’t know why I was there because her students weren’t interested in anything. Gulp! By the end of the class, every single student had written something. For a few, it was only a sentence or two, but one young lady wrote two pages. She came up to me afterwards and said that she’d never written that much before in her life and she was going to take it home and finish her story. I’ll never forget how that made me feel.
Why are libraries so important?
We all know the statistics about reading and achievement. Libraries are safe places to explore and discover. Everyone should have access to books. Librarians are those magical matchmakers who can change lives by pairing the right book with the right young reader.
What advice would you give to parents who have children who are reluctant readers to encourage them to read?
I was a reluctant reader. My father had a deep love of books. He was always reading, and his passion for books eventually rubbed off. We instruct writers to ‘show, don’t tell’. The same advice applies to reading. Show your children how fun and exciting reading can be. Discuss books. Visit libraries and bookshops together. Find a book to read together and discuss. And never give up. Keep introducing them to different genres and authors. Maybe they fall in love with a graphic novel or biography of a pop star. Never diminish their reading choices. The important thing is to foster a love of – and hopefully a life-long habit of – reading.
What is your favourite picture book to read to young children?
You can’t go wrong with a Dr Seuss Book. I particularly like Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I also love to read Goodnight, Little Bear by Richard Scarry because it was my favourite when I was a child. And I recently found my battered copy a book of children’s poetry that my grandma used to read to me. I’m looking forward to sharing those poems with my grandchildren.
Do you believe fiction can be educational as well as fun to read?
Absolutely. My favourite books are those that ask interesting questions and help me look at the world in a different way. I don’t think books for children/teens should be preachy. Any message, theme or education should be subtle and bubble up from the story. I’d like to think that my books are entertaining and also ask interesting questions.
Which author/genre do you read for pleasure?
I love mysteries!
Which book have you read that you really wish had your name on it?
There are so many! But I’d have to pick The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s a book lover’s book. It sums up perfectly why we love the books we love: “We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.” I’ve given this book to many, many of my bookish friends.
Can a film based on a book ever be as good as the book it was based on?
I always think of the film as a completely different story. I don’t expect the movie to recreate my reading experience because it can’t. Usually the book is better because as a reader I co-create the story with the author. Film can’t replicate that lovely collaboration. However, I will say that I have liked the film better than the book on rare occasions.
Future plans and ambitions?
Write more books! Continue to experiment and learn and improve as a writer.
Paperback or kindle – Can I say hardback? I don’t buy hardbacks often because they are difficult to carry around. I always have a book with me. That is one convenient thing about the Kindle, you can have hundreds of books at your fingertips. My mother-in-law just sent me the hardback of the final book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series. I hadn’t read a hardback in a long time and am loving the experience. I forgot how much I love the weight of the book and the crack of the spine and the …
(Sorry that wasn’t very quick fire.)
Swim in the sea or sunbathe on the beach – swim in the sea
Starter or dessert – starter
Country or city – city
Would you prefer to be able to travel back in time or travel to the future – travel to the future
If you were Prime Minister for the day, what law would you introduce?
I’d introduce a law that would ensure that every single child feels valued and loved every day. (I think that would take more than one law and quite possibly magic.)
Arrange for Sara to visit your school
To make an enquiry about Sara Grant or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org