Reflections from Sara on the evolution of her life as a writer:
As a writer, I have followed a meandering path, and have had many adventures along the way.
I was raised in Asia and Europe as the daughter of a spy. That was adventure in itself. After and whilst earning degrees in psychology, social work, and human development at Carleton College, University of Washington and Harvard respectively, I followed my curiosity down a number of enticing trails. I had loved writing from the time I was small,(I copied books in second grade, wrote sappy poetry as a teenager, and actually liked writing those autobiographies for university applications,) but I didn’t think one was allowed to be a writer, and so, for quite a while, I pursued other occupations that stirred me. I carried out biological studies of whales in Patagonia, did psychiatric social work with disadvantaged children in Boston and San Jose, studied the lives of farmers in remote corners of the world, and became a university professor. Along the way I had two children. I enjoyed the academic and professional writing I did in these various fields—I loved inquiring into and writing about the joys and struggles entailed in being human—but, more and more, I found I wanted to evoke life rather than just report on it, and wed art to observation. The absorbing delight I felt in playing with language and describing experience prevailed. And, at last, I turned my sights to creative nonfiction writing.
Since that turning, I have published, most recently, Chance Particulars: A Writer’s Field Notebook for Travelers, Bloggers, Essayists, Memoirists, Novelists, Journalists, Adventurers, Naturalists, Sketchers, and Other Note-Takers and Recorders of Life. I have also authored Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter, a book about my exotic and challenging childhood, and two books of literary journalism that rose out of my passion for exploring far-off people and places: Dusk on the Campo: A Journey in Patagonia and Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf. Another publication, Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood, is a memoir writing guide for young people who grew up abroad as I did. My memoirs, essays, and commentaries have been published in national literary magazines, newspapers such as the Washington Post, and produced for Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
I have taught writing for twenty years at The Writer’s Center, the wonderful literary hub of the nation’s capitol. I have also taught writing workshops in the Masters of Arts in Writing program at Johns Hopkins University, the M.F.A. program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and at other universities, and have led private seminars both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to teaching, I have worked for two decades as a private editor and writing coach. In these capacities, I have edited hundreds of manuscripts and supported scores of people as they have brought their words to the page and their stories to the world. This has been a deep pleasure.
I live in the Washington D.C. area. For fun, I like to walk in the woods, bake chocolate cakes and other confections, and create boxes and books using the French craft of cartonnage.