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Saturday’s Writer’s Buzz at 910 Arts saw attendees once again dragging chairs in from the patio–a full house came out to hear Sarah Ockler’s story. You would have thought that Steven Spielberg, Sarah’s mother, Lighthouse (Jenny Itell and Mike Henry in particular), and Sarah’s dashing husband Alex were responsible for her success, to hear her tell the story. But we all knew what she wouldn’t tout: She’s got talent in spades, a tendency toward hilarity, and a smart, soulful narrative voice that, while funny, is never predictable.
In her opening remarks, Ockler recounted the months leading up to finding her agent and (a few days later) being offered her pre-empt from Little, Brown. She was working full time, moving up the corporate ladder, and feeling the conflicts that come with that climb, when her husband (the plenty-sung hero of her story) said, “You know I’ll love you whatever you decide, but you’re a writer and that’s what you should be doing.”
On Saturday night, she told the story of her first critique session in Mike Henry’s Memoir Workshop, fretting endlessly about what the class would say. But everyone was kind and took her work seriously, even though she was twentysomething and new to workshopping. She left that first class walking on air, got into her car, saw Mike waving at her frantically from the porch, and imagined him saying, “Yes, Sarah! You did it! Your voice is a thing to behold and you’ve finally set it free!” but what he was really trying to say was, “You’re about to back into a lightpost!” And, alas, she did. Her first time crashing into a lightpost. And it was a doozy. But everything else went up from there.
She eventually enrolled in five or six sessions of Jenny Itell’s YA novel workshop, where she drafted what became Twenty Boy Summer. Now, years later, next on the docket is the release of Fixing Delilah, and she read from the book whose contract is now being negotiated.
To sum up what seemed to work for Ockler, here’s what I gleaned (and those who were there can add to it):
There were plenty more nuggets of wisdom woven into Sarah’s wonderful talk, and for those of you who couldn’t make it, we will have the podcast… sometime. (We miss you, Levi.) In the meantime, one of our favorite things is when a longtime Lighthouse member launches a writing career and comes back to share what they’ve learned. Sarah’s following in that tradition, teaching the YA Novel workshop, starting in October. Also, keep your eyes open for details on the December 10 Tattered Cover release reading of Fixing Delilah.
We thank the talented Lynn Clark for her photography skills, and invite you over to our FB page for more pics. See y’all at the Draft 7.0 at 7 PM on Sept. 24 (910 Arts).