Born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah Creech grew up in a house full of women who told stories about black cloud visions and other premonitions. Her work has appeared in storySouth, Literary Mama, Aroostook Review, Glass, and as a finalist for Glimmer Train. She received an MFA from McNeese State University in 2008 and now teaches English and creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She currently lives in North Carolina with her two children and her husband, a poet. Season of the Dragonflies is her first novel.
At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Sarah will lead the workshop "First Impressions in the First Few Pages." The famed writers of the Toy Story movies, creators of the endearing toy Woody, knew they wanted his character to end at a place of selflessness. To do so, they thought he needed to start from a place of pure selfishness. The only problem? The audience couldn’t connect with Woody. He had to be rewritten and made into the character we find in the Pixar films today. The beginning of any short story or novel (or screenplay) requires that the audience care about the main character. Characters don’t have to be lovable, but their problems must feel real, with a need for a solution. How do writers create characters an audience cares about? In this workshop, participants will review examples of how professional fiction writers pull this off in the first few pages of a novel or short story. Participants will have an in-class writing exercise to practice creating characters that connect with an audience in the first few pages.
What are you reading right now?
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris.
Where is your favorite place to write?
My office at home surrounded by four walls painted a sea blue color called “Cool Jazz.” How does one land a job naming paint colors?
If you weren't a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
Naming paint colors.
If you could switch places with one fictional character, who would it be?
What do you hope attendees takeaway from Fall Conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop, panel, or Mart?
An urgent need to sit down and read.
Charlotte is known as both "The Queen City" and "The Hornet's Nest." Does one of those nicknames ring more true for you than the other?
Queen City. At turns fancy and fickle.
Sunday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "The Many Paths to Publication." What's the first thing you ever published?
A poem I wrote on an envelope in a Civil War cemetery in Virginia. I left it on an unmarked grave. A groundskeeper found the poem and the cemetery board decided to make a plaque for it. It’ll be in that graveyard long after I’m dead.
Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
Unexpected, ambitious, entertaining.
What is the most frustrating or rewarding part of the writing process?
Most frustrating: doubting my choices. Most rewarding: affirmation about said choices.
What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
This is (at the minimum) a ten-year apprenticeship.
If you could mandate that everyone in the world read one book, which one would you choose?
Describe your ideal literary festival. Who would give the keynote address? Who would be the featured readers? What else?
I’d rather describe my ideal party for after the readings: Junot Diaz starts the dance party, and just as I’m about to join the fun, Zadie Smith cuts in and says “Sarah, let’s have a drink together and I’ll explain how I became such a brilliant novelist at such a young age. By listening to me this wisdom will rub off on you.” Then Haruki Murakami will come over and say, “Sarah, don’t listen to that. All you need to do is run thirty miles a day. I swear by it. Now I’m going to bed. I wake up with the sunrise each and every day. No time for late parties. Take it from me, that’s the secret to great writing.” Joshua Ferris will tell jokes in the corner surrounded by people who are mesmerized by his pretty blue eyes. Toni Morrison’s laughter will hover over the room. Cormac McCarthy will dance beside Junot Diaz. The poet Mark Strand will tell us all when it is time to go to bed.
Do you steal hotel pens?
No, but I do steal extra samples at Harris Teeter.
The North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference runs November 21-23 at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, in Charlotte. Registration is now open.