[In mid-January The Divining Wand had the pleasure of featuring Sarah McCoy (The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico) a week before the release of her second novel The Baker’s Daughter and before her hectic book tour. Although much was learned about the author in The Revealing of Sarah McCoy, the true core of Sarah’s heart and personality shines through in today’s guest post.]
It may surprise some to learn that for a greater portion of my childhood, I was a desperately shrinking violet. I hid behind my mother’s skirt at church, fretted over attending schoolmate’s birthday parties, took my Christmas presents to the farthest corner of the room to unwrap at family gatherings. Social settings made me anxious.
My mom, an elementary school teacher, administered the Myers-Briggs exam, which I was more than happy to do alone at the kitchen table. To no surprise, I scored on the far side of Introversion. I wasn’t much of a talker, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have plenty to say. I felt things— deeply. Some days I thought I might burst with glee or sadness, pride or shame, love or hate. But spoken words were never my thing. They spilled out too fast, too haphazardly, out of control with my tongue in the way. In addition, I had something of a temper. We jokingly credit my Puerto Rican-Irish heritage, which may have doomed me from the start. Where some might’ve erupted in a cathartic purging of whatever it was that weighted their spirit, I imploded, burning with tears I found hard to fully express. For years, I felt as if my mind were a great torture chamber—a water tank of emotions, only I was no Houdini.
All of that changed the day my mom put a blank page on the table and handed me a pencil with the instructions, “Write it down, Sarah. Write down what you’re feeling.”
I can still vividly see that clean, white paper and smell the newly sharpened pencil shavings.
Write it down. Write anything I wanted? I thought it might be a trick, so I wrote the word we weren’t allowed to use in the house. “I hate…” I pushed so hard on the page that the letters appeared debossed. Then I stopped to think about it. Did I really ‘hate’ or was it something else—anxiety, frustration, suffocation. I couldn’t put an exact finger to my feeling, but I knew I’d written hate just to test the page, to say what I was forbidden to speak and see how it felt. I didn’t like it.
I flipped my pencil and erased. Gone. You couldn’t do that with spoken word. Once out, it blistered reality like a smoldering match head against skin. But writing allowed me time, space, a chance to express and reexamine, to create and mold until my feelings showed themselves true.
I began again: “Once a girl named Clara lived in a little house in the dark forest…” I wrote a story, and by the end was unburdened, lighter, and eager to share what I’d written with my mom, dad, and family so they would know how I felt. So they could understand that I wasn’t mad at them. I was just this—there—in the story. I’d discovered the key to unlocking myself.
Why do I write, you ask?
Because even now, in my thirties and married, the pen is still my key. It’s the only way I know to open. I write about the things that keep me up at night. The emotions that feel so large and consuming that if I don’t write them down, I might burst. Yes, I’m no longer the shy girl. I’m comfortable speaking about my feelings and opinions; but 99 percent of the time, I’ve already written them out in my journal or my stories. I write to understand my world. I write to connect with people. I write to find and express my truth.
Sarah McCoy is the author of THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER and THE TIME IT SNOWED IN PUERTO RICO. THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER was praised as a “beautiful heart-breaking gem of a novel” by Tatiana de Rosnay and a “thoughtful reading experience indeed” by Chris Bohjalian. It is a Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club selection. Sarah has taught writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She currently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Drifting House by Krys Lee — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on the post, What and Why Krys Lee Writes by 8:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.