The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center:

Back from Buffalo and bookish as ever…

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.

Ockler's first book, E.T., was mercilessly ripped off by Spielberg & Co.

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 SummerNow, years later, next on the docket is the release of Fixing Delilah, and she read from the book whose contract is now being negotiated.

Ockler twenty boy

Sarah's first book to get by Spielberg's legal team, drafted in her Lighthouse workshops.

To sum up what seemed to work for Ockler, here’s what I gleaned (and those who were there can add to it):

  • Once you make the decision to commit to writing, the rest will follow. But when you commit, you have to really commit. For her, that meant not watching TV, writing through her lunch hours, and writing early in the morning.
  • Take advantage of the community around you.  She credited everything from her workshops with Itell to the retreat in Grand Lake and Fairplay, as well as Lit Fest for keeping her motivated. Writing’s an individual art, but when you’re not at work it’s helpful to have a community that gets why it is you do what you do. Speaking of which,
  • Have supportive friends/family around you. Sarah made a concerted effort to surround herself with positive people, consciously cutting back on time spent with the “energy suck” types. She also happened to marry the most supportive partner on the planet (she may have even offered, in a moment of unbridled magnanimity, to “loan him out”). Maybe check into that?
  • Believe!  And let your time be allocated accordingly. Which I guess is just a restatement of the first point. It can’t be overstated.

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).


4 comments on “Back from Buffalo and bookish as ever…

  1. Shira Richman
    September 15, 2010

    What a funny and inpsiring post, Andrea. That sounds like a great night.

  2. andreadupree
    September 15, 2010

    Thanks, Shira! It was great and only could have been better had we gotten to clink (plastic) glasses there. 🙂

  3. mjhenry
    September 15, 2010

    A few thoughts:

    First, Sarah is so kind, smart, and professional. A true joy to listen to. Oh, and she’s a great writer as well–intelligent, sassy, and funny.

    Second, Sarah didn’t actually back into the light pole–she clipped it with the side of her Toyota pickup truck. And the pole didn’t fall over, which was good.

  4. andreadupree
    September 15, 2010

    So are you saying it’s called a light pole and not a lightpost? That explains a lot. Thanks for the scoop!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 14, 2010 by in Cool Events, Good Books, Parties, The Scoop, The Write Idea.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 640 other followers

Follow us on Twitter!

%d bloggers like this: