Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #63: Author and blogger Sara Lewis Holmes

h1 January 29th, 2008 by jules

Sara as a punkin head puddin' babyI have a confession to make: I read a lot of blogs but often get behind and have to seriously catch up in one sitting. But there is one blog whose posts I never miss. It’s the first cyber-stop I make every morning after first turning on my computer and getting coffee in hand. I mean to tell you that my house could be on fire or the Grim Reaper could come for me, all snarly-like, or an exceptionally large-’n'-fiery meteorite could be heading straight toward the roof of my home, but I’d still holler, “Hold up! I haven’t read Read Write Believe today. You’re just gonna. have. to. wait.” And the site of which I speak is the blog of Sara Lewis Holmes, author of last year’s middle-grade novel Letters From Rapunzel (see here for a 7-Imp review). Sara gave birth to Read Write Believe last summer. It all began here when she asked us to enter. Lucky for us all.

Eisha and I are both big fans of this blog. And that would be because Sara writes with great humor and candor and always with much grace and style. The philosopher in her is strong — but without being overbearing. And she can be really mischievous and fun, too. Bonus. Bottom line is that she’s got both sides of her brain goin’ on strong over at Read Write Believe, and that never fails to bring about interesting posts. Author Jama Rattigan put it well in this post about Sara when she wrote, “Sara has the uncanny ability to see right into the essence of an experience, an event, an idea — while standing on her head.” And her poems. Swoon! Her poetry! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here . . .

Sara; photo credit: Jackie Buck at http://www.jacquelynnbuck.com/Read Write Believe, in the grand scheme of things, is still fairly young, but Sara’s really made her cyber-mark in her little corner of the kidlitosphere (did I mention that the earth could jump into a new orbit, and I’d be pissed off that my computer would probably die as a result — well, and me, too — and that I’d probably never be able to read her blog again?). “The blog’s title” Sara told us, “came from a talk I was preparing for kids on the three secrets to becoming a writer. You must read, you must write; and you must believe. It’s as simple, and as hard, as that. I had pencils made up to use for school visits.”

Here’s what you will be rewarded with when you visit Sara’s blog: Okay, well, let’s just get right back to that poetry, shall we? Sara is a passionate participator in Poetry Fridays, but she also will share an AMAZING original poem with you on any random day of the week. We, her devoted readers, have been privy to so many beautiful, well-crafted poems that I could hardly pick a favorite. Here, then, is the link to all her Poetry Friday posts. Just have at it, and don’t forget to hit “Older Posts” at the bottom and take ‘em all in. As someone who struggles to write merely one good line of poetry, I’m in awe of someone who can write such evocative, stirring ones and even have no particular interest in publishing them in an anthology. Just writing them for the sake of creating a little beauty in our bizarre world and for what the process has to offer her as a writer (“I usually write poetry when I’m supposed to be doing something else. It’s the rebellious side of me. It’s also something that I completely retain ownership of as an artist. There’s no one to please but me. Writing poetry makes me so happy that I’m shaking when I finish a rough draft, just so alive that I have to bounce in my chair and squeal a bit,” she told Kelly Herold in a recent Edge of the Forest interview, linked below). As in, this woman has some talent to spare, folks. “It’s hard for me to talk about my poetry without sounding all metaphysical,” she told us, “but I think that every poem I write (or attempt to write) changes me as a person. I once wrote (rather hilariously) in my journal after finishing a draft of a poem: ‘What’s it all for? I know. For this.’ Even though that’s melodramatic, and I blush at my enthusiasm, I do mean it.”

Although she doesn’t review books at Read Write Believe, she does post about the triumphs and struggles and everyday challenges of being a writer. Here’s what other goodnesses you’ll get at Sara’s blog, in her own words:

I have my Very Big Good Deeds List, which I’d love to update with anyone’s worthy literacy/book/or child-related cause. All you have to do is leave a comment on that post or email me. I have a mini-series on Gifts for Writers and Readers, and I like to blog about art as it relates to writing. I find that I can learn so much more about my own craft from studying the techniques used in other art forms. I also like to cover news related to writing, reading, and the military, especially military kids, because that isn’t being covered in the kidlitosphere anywhere else that I know of.

I’m obviously intrigued by Big Questions. I also noticed that I have 21 posts tagged “Believe,” second only to those tagged “Writing.” (33).

And in case you missed it, just last week Sara joined forces with fellow author Liz Garton Scanlon of Liz in Ink to post a series on the physicality of writing.

We’re not sure how she finds the time to do what she does, as she’s also created her own podcast of poetry out-loud, A Cast of One. And she’s currently serving as one of the five judges on the Cybils Poetry Panel.

For this interview, we tacked on a few extra questions about Sara’s writing. It was difficult not to repeat the fabulous questions already posed to Sara here in Kelly Herold’s November-December ’07 Edge of the Forest interview; Becky’s November ’07 interview at Becky’s Book Reviews; or Liz Garton Scanlon’s interview from just last week. Needless to say, head on over to those interviews to learn more about Sara. And we at 7-Imp thank her kindly for stopping by. I’d especially like to thank her for obliging my boldness in asking her if she’d like to share a new poem with us in this interview. She tweaked a poem she’s been working on for years and told me, “it’s one of the rewards of poetry that you can always put a poem away, and come back to it over and over, and it will offer something new. Lately, I’ve been working very quickly. My poems rush out of me, and the trick is not to overwork them. But this one, this one for the interview, was a true, slow grower. I think your asking for a poem made it finally straighten up and fly right.” See, she’s just being nice, since I was ever-so forward, I’m sure, in asking her to share a new one. But, hey, I scored a new Sara poem! A 7-Imp exclusive. Squee!

* * * * * * *

7-Imp: What do you do for a living? {Ed. Note: It’s not as if we don’t know this answer, but we still sent her the same questions we sent all bloggers}.

Sara: Writing is my main work, but there’s no way I could support myself with it. My husband is my rock there. In the past, I worked as a historical interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg, in PR for a Shakespeare Festival, and for two different universities overseas, helping run their master’s degree programs.

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

Sara: Since July 6, 2007.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Sara: I jumped in without thinking, after a prompt from you, Jules! I was also feeling weird because reading blogs made me want to comment all the time, and yet, it felt rude to do that without a blog home of my own, where people could comment back to me. I keep blogging because I love writing something new five days a week, and I love the wild and kind and super-smart comments I get, and the friends I’ve made. I also discovered that blogging helps me think.

7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

Sara: Tough one. If I went with 7-Imps, they would know absolutely everyone there and would introduce me. Plus, I’d like to see what music they request from the DJ. But if they’d let me, I’d also like to dance with What Adrienne Thinks About That, Finding Wonderland, Liz in Ink, Robin Brande’s blog, and BB-Blog. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d dance with anybody who asked me. I love to dance. And meet bloggers.

7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

Sara: Adventure travel, playing golf, discovering new restaurants and bookstores, fiddling with geeky features of my computer, playing board games like Wise and Otherwise, and writing and talking about writing. I also love going to art museums (holy crap, that Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery was breath-taking) and plays, but I don’t do either as much as I want to. I collect old hats, gloves, rhinestone jewelry and purses from the ’40s-’60s. I once wore one of the most outrageous of the necklaces to an SCBWI party. And I have a dog that drives me crazy.

{Ed. Note: As you can tell from this photo here of the punk version of Sara, she also enjoys defying your expectations}.

7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Sara: I’m a patchy speller. I can spell big words, and then totally goof up the small ones. I still remember the humiliation of leaving out the “e” in safety in a fifth grade spelling bee. (Oh! Look what I found via BB-Blog! Spelling bee pendants. Maybe wearing these around my neck would help.)

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

Lyle LovettMick and the gangSara: Creedence Clearwater Revival. Lyle Lovett. (I’m totally in love with this man’s voice and lyrics. Funny. Sexy. When he sings “kiss my ass” in “If I had a Boat,” I want to. Julia, you fool.) Aretha. The Rolling Stones. Paul Simon. Tracy Chapman. I’m particularly taken lately with CCR’s classic “Someday Never Comes.”

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Sara: I’ve been fortunate enough to get to meet many of the authors I admire, like Katherine Paterson and M.T. Anderson. So I’m going to pick three that I haven’t met yet, who are all funny and very smart: Connie Willis, Sherman Alexie and Marcus Zusak.

7-Imp: For those of our readers who don’t know the story behind the publication of Letters From Rapunzel, particularly the HarperCollins Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Prize, please do tell us about that.

Sara: I have told this story quite a bit, so I’m trying to think of some fresh details here.

ME: This manuscript will ever work. (tries to put manuscript in drawer labeled Failed Novel Attempt)

HUSBAND: (stops her) Somebody out there needs that story.

ME: (scribbling in journal) “Need to print a fresh copy of Rapunzel to send to the HarperCollins contest. It doesn’t have much of a chance, but I’m entering it anyway. Got to keep hope alive.” (cue melodramatic music)

MESSAGE from HarperCollins’ editor on the ANSWERING machine: Call me.

ME: (as world explodes) I won?????

Truly, I was thrilled and astonished. And the editor I worked with, Lauren Velevis, helped me shape Letters From Rapunzel into something beyond what I could do alone. The first editorial letter from her was seven pages long. I knew I was in heaven when I read it.

7-Imp: We know that your blog is still relatively young. We’d love to ask you a few questions about blogging, though Kelly Herold already asked you some great questions about that in The Edge of the Forest interview back in November. Can you talk here perhaps about how your blogging informs your novel-writing, if it does at all?

Sara: I don’t know if it informs it, or distracts me, or both. I think the right answer is that I struggle with getting through a long first draft of a novel, and so, having a short blog post to complete (and get comments on) in the midst of that slogging is energizing and rewarding. Plus, I think all writing makes you a better writer.

7-Imp: Please tell us a bit about your forthcoming novel, Everyone You Know.

Sara: This is the manuscript that’s with my agent now, and I hope to find a home for it very soon. This one was inspired by two things: 1) A brilliant quote from Philo of Alexandria, an ancient philosopher: “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.” and by 2) my wish to tell a story about contemporary military kids in a fresh way. There is almost nothing in middle grade literature that features military kids, and those kids lead brilliant, brave, unique lives. (I know; I’m the mother of two of them.) So I took the idea that a military lifestyle is a lot like improvisational theater and I ran with it. (BTW, it may possibly have a different title: New Recruit.)

7-Imp: Any new Sara-poem you want to share with our readers here at 7-Imp? (!!)

Sara: For you, yes.

{Ed. Note: See poem at the close of the interview} . . .

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Sara: “Enter.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Sara: “Can’t.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Sara: Reading. Writing poetry. Asking questions. The mountains. Theater. Art museums. Dancing, boxing, yoga, and fierce exercise of all types. Good food and cute shoes. A long, passionate discussion with intelligent people of any age. Johnny Depp. (Thought I’d sneak that in there.) Knowing that my husband loves me.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Sara: The Bridges of Madison County. Seriously. I had a violent negative reaction to that book and couldn’t read more than a few pages. The movie is fine. Also, I despise getting lost, and go into a frustrated panic when I do.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word?

Sara: “Holy crap” is the best I can offer up on most days. Except when I’m on the golf course, and even then, I clap my hand over my mouth and look very embarrassed if something pops out. I do love hearing what other people’s favorite curse words are, and I always try them out in the privacy of my own home to see if they work.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Sara: The moment of stunned, intimate silence following an extraordinary public reading, be it poem, novel excerpt, play or speech. My son has a great laugh, too, and I love to hear it, because it’s so unrestrained.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Sara: People yelling at each other.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Sara: If I had a quarternote of singing talent, I’d be belting my lungs out in whatever venue would have me. But sadly, although I can read music, I cannot manage even a pleasant rendition of “Happy Birthday.” I’d also love to be an actress, have a Ph.D. in linguistics, or (moment of insanity here) be a kung-fu stuntwoman.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Sara: Work at a chicken-processing plant. Or do crafts with pre-schoolers. I’m very, very bad with scissors and glue. Glitter, maybe.

Sara: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

ArethaSara: “E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle and Lloyd Alexander are on the welcoming committee — please check in with them and they’ll show you around; Aretha’s agreed to loan you her singing voice every other Thursday; the auditions for Shakespeare’s new play are next Monday; and since your children won’t be arriving for a long, long time, would you like to play golf with me this Saturday? I’ll give you ten strokes. Oh, and is it okay if I answer your questions one per day, instead of all at once?”

* * * * * * *

* * * * * * *

Note: Photo credit for Sara’s head shot is Jackie Buck.

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32 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #63: Author and blogger Sara Lewis Holmes”

  1. As always, Sara’s poetry just sort of stuns me into speechlessness. Wow. I hated The Bridges book, too! Didn’t bother trying to see the movie…!

    And I REALLY love the idea of Aretha loaning her the voice on every other Thursday — it really opens up the calendar to the rest of us.

    THANK YOU for an awesome interview, peoples.


  2. What a beautiful poem (swoon)! This just might be the interview to top all interviews! I drank in every word. Loved every detail. Am inspired anew. Thanks so much, 7-Imp and Sara!


  3. Yea! It’s Sara! I, too, check in with Sara first thing. Okay, so after I check the wife’s blog to see what she’s said about me when I’m not looking. And then I look to see what’s up at 7Imp. But then I check her out and she’s my ideal for what a writer’s blog can be. She’s also a great champion, an insightful and incisive commenter, and a true poet.


  4. Sara’s one of my tip-top fav bloggers, too. She never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Thanks for this great interview!


  5. The fact that this amazing woman hasn’t published a book of poetry yet astonishes me. Thanks for the fab interview.


  6. David, I KNOW! She even comments well. Here is how the comment box will look:

    ME: Der. Der. Stumble. Stutter. [Insert something lame-ass here]. SARA: [Insert something graceful and insightful with a nice economy of expression].

    It really is a fine art, this commenting business.

    Okay, just had to pop in and say that.


  7. You have GOT to be kidding me with that poem.
    The day and I lie in each other’s arms, naked, still and full??????? Sara — you have one seriously brilliant and creative mind. This is a great interview gals, as usual. I’m all swoony over the whole bunch of you…


  8. Thanks for another fine interview…with one of my favorite bloggers. I love reading Sara’s thoughtful and incisive posts–and I love her poetry. Like Tricia, I hope to read a collection of Sara’s poems some day…soon!


  9. Ditto on everyone’s comments. I can think of only one more thing to add– that each of Sara’s posts are like a little gift to start the day. Thanks for a great interview!


  10. I don’t mean to make you all jealous, but during the Kidlitosphere Conference, Sara was my Coffee Buddy (because we had to go in pairs on the trek to Starbucks, because the street was dangerous to cross and we all needed a monitor. But then Sara and I were so busy talking, we forgot that one of us was supposed to stay on the opposite side of the street, and so we both took our lives in our hands so we could finish our conversation. Completely worth it.)

    Anyway, thanks, Jules, for telling us even more about the full-living woman who is Sara. I had no idea she used to be a historical interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg–I mean, who do you know who does that?

    I agree with everything all of you have said, including you, Jules, about what a great commenter Sara is. She frequently cracks me up (but then, so do Jules and Eisha). Sara is brimming with talent, with poise and grace, with generosity, with humor, with beauty–but I’m just preaching to the choir.

    Thanks for the great interview, Sara and Jules!


  11. Sara is so amazing! Love that about auditions for Shakespeare’s new play. ;)


  12. Sara Lewis Holmes is so awesome that I’m kinda scared of her.


  13. Yay! I’m so glad you interviewed Sara. I so loved meeting her in person at the summer SCBWI conference last year, and I’m in awe of her as a blogger, poet, etc. etc. etc.

    I love what she said about what one can learn from the craft of other art forms (and I’m insanely jealous that she got to see the Hopper exhibit!).


  14. Like Sara’s blog and her writing, this interview is a treat!


  15. Sara’s so talented that sometimes, I confess that it makes me want to not bother writing anymore. Because DAMN!

    Great interview. I really want more detail on the W-burg gig, and what areas of Sara has that might benefit me for the Jane Project. If I can bear to pick up my pen again after Why Dream?


  16. Thank you all. I’m overwhelmed.

    Thank you, jules and eisha, for bringing me to the prom.

    And, jules, I love your from-the-heart comments. Not a “der” there that I can see. So you’d better not stop.


  17. Thanks, jules, for the great interview with my beautiful, talented, and always surprising wife.

    This one almost made me late for “terrain following radar” class…I couldn’t stop reading.

    I’ve been away from her a lot lately, and I’m learning to use her blog, and the comments and links from you and many others, to help stay in touch with Sara, and all the places our time apart is taking her.

    I can still recite the first poem she gave me…


  18. Mike, oh no, if you’re unable to follow radar and all that, it’ll be our fault.

    Thanks for commenting! It was 7-Imp’s pleasure to feature Sara.


  19. YAY! I just read this today, and you know, Sara, I’d totally dance with you, but we’d totally have to go shopping together for our shoes and dresses first. :)

    I love the poem.

    And you also have to know, Sara, that the key to crafts for preschoolers is that if you give them paper and glue sticks and glitter, they are perfectly, extraordinarily happy. This is one of the secrets of my success as a children’s librarian.


  20. That picture is adorable–is Sara the happiest baby in the world or what? Great interview, you guys.


  21. Sara is so wonderful :)

    This interview shows how much! Thanks to everyone involved.


  22. What an amazing interview! I sat with Sara for a little while at a kidlit event last year (was it ALA in Washington DC?) and had a great time talking to her. She’s such a nice person. And wow wow wow on the poem!! It’s…amazing. You are truly talented, Sara!


  23. I am chiming in late to say I am overwhelmed with that poem. I’m printing it out to hang by my desk. So lovely!

    I like Sara’s answer at the pearly gates too. Golf with God! AWESOME!


  24. Didn’t get to read blogs earlier this week, but glad I came back to find this interview. Sara’s one rockin’ chick!


  25. Yea! Sara!
    More Kidlitosphere togetherness: Another Lyle Love-him fan! Yes, Julia, you fool, fool, fool.

    What a great pearly gates answer. Everyone has such great pearly gate answers.


  26. [...] relevance in her own life and re-names herself Rapunzel; here’s a 7-Imp interview with author Sara Lewis Holmes. Barbara Ragasky’s Rapunzel (Holiday House), with much lauded illustrations by Trina Schart [...]


  27. [...] Sara Lewis Holmes (interviewed January 29) on blogging: “…I struggle with getting through a long first draft of a novel, and so, [...]


  28. [...] you want more information, Sara visited 7-Imp in January 2008 for an interview, and Tanita visited in [...]


  29. This was so interesting. Thanks for sharing. :)


  30. [...] some incredible poetry.  There is also a really good interview at one of my favorite blogs:  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. The bloggers at 7 Imp. always go into great depth with their reviews and interviews.  I find [...]


  31. [...] relevance in her own life and re-names herself Rapunzel; here’s a 7-Imp interview with author Sara Lewis Holmes. Barbara Ragasky’s Rapunzel (Holiday House), with much lauded illustrations by Trina Schart [...]


  32. My name is Brett, I was hoping i could ask a few questions about blogging for my English class. Please email me back.


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