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Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

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I feel a little weird starting a thread on myself, but I guess I've done it before.

My reasons this time are a little bit different, though of course I want to let you guys know that it's coming and all that good stuff. This book may be as close to a "Christian novel" as I've ever written and will ever write, or maybe not, but it's a lot about faith. I'm excited and nervous to see how it's going to be received in all the various quarters. My biggest concern right now, and the main reason I'm posting, is that I want this book to find its audience. I think all my usual readers will pick it up, but I also know there's this other audience out there.

My book would never ever be in a typical Christian book store. All the more so because of the content of Story of a Girl. (It's like being vetted for the Supreme Court. "But she once used the eff word in her work. Therefore she is clearly Evil and trying to hurt The Children.") As you guys know, there are pretty narrow rules for what is marketable to the Christian subculture. Yet, I know, there are all these people like us who are not "a market" but are just people who are eager for stories in which faith is part of the canvas. And, obviously, with places like A&F and journals like Image and many others, there's a conversation going on. There are channels. It's just that I don't think the channels specific to young adult fiction have quite been forged yet.

My publisher is great and eager/willing for me to help them know how and where to market Once Was Lost (beyond their usual channels). But, they just don't really know. And I don't, either, as much as many of you. I know about Image, and Relevant, and Books & Culture, a couple of blogs, but that's about it. Long story short, I welcome any suggestions or recommendations re: venues where there might be interest in looking at faith in YA fiction.

Some relevant links, for info, and for fun:

About the book - http://www.sarazarr.com/books/once-was-lost

A recent interview about arts/faith - http://acoppedge.livejournal.com/44708.html

And for fun:

I just posted a couple of video blogs about the process of recording the audiobook version:

http://www.sarazarr.com/archives/1284

http://www.sarazarr.com/archives/1288

Thank you so much in advance if you've got any ideas. (I'm also putting myself out there as available to talk about this book, or this stuff, with any of you who have arts/faith blogs, etc. I can probably procure review copies as necessary.)

Edited by Sara Zarr

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Sara... I loved Sweethearts and am really looking forward to sinking into this!

When I was a Christian teen back in the late 70's, Campus Life was a great magazine. They are where I first heard about Mark Heard. They always seemed more in touch with life and issues and less subculturay if you know what I mean. They are still around, are part of Christianity Today and have a new name: Ignite your Faith. Here is their site. http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/. I know some folks around here have some connections to CT, so they might know someone. We ordered the mag for my nephew and niece a couple of years ago. He's now 18 and she's 16. They seemed to like it a lot. So maybe there would be something there. No idea as to subscriber base, etc.

Another thought off the top of my head is CCM Magazine. I don't know how conservative they are about what they profile or how big their readership is...but it might be worth a try.

One other venue comes to mind...the Cornerstone Festival. From what I understand its pretty big, encompasses more than just music and can be pretty cutting edge in a way for a Christian festival. They've had Over the Rhine, Vigilanties of Love and other play over the years who aren't in the CCM market at all. But maybe that's already happened. I can't believe we're nearly through July.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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Mike - I remember Campus Life! Great suggestion, thank you, that's perfect.

Thanks for the other ideas, too.

Think you'll ever get back to the Glen? (I'm not going this year, but probably next year...)

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Mike - I remember Campus Life! Great suggestion, thank you, that's perfect.

Thanks for the other ideas, too.

Think you'll ever get back to the Glen? (I'm not going this year, but probably next year...)

I would love, love, love to go back. Every year about this time I get get his lump in my throat when I realize I can't go. "Ever" is a big word. Right now, with effectively no job, a 20 month old and a new baby coming in December, it's pretty unlikely. But maybe in 4 or 5 years!

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Sara-is there a target age for your books? I've been wanting to get some of the girls in the youth group I used to lead to read your books. They're heavy readers. They even started a book club as 5th graders. I think they would enjoy them (mea culpa: I've only read Story of a Girl, but really enjoyed it). I'm just afraid they're not quite old enough. As the author, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ideal age of your readers.

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Sara-is there a target age for your books? I've been wanting to get some of the girls in the youth group I used to lead to read your books. They're heavy readers. They even started a book club as 5th graders. I think they would enjoy them (mea culpa: I've only read Story of a Girl, but really enjoyed it). I'm just afraid they're not quite old enough. As the author, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ideal age of your readers.

That's hard to answer, because teens are so diverse. There can be a big difference in maturity level across a group of 15 year-olds, for example. I tend to say 14 and up - high school, basically. Though, that said, I do hear from a lot of 7th and 8th graders who read my books. Story of a Girl is my "edgiest," by far. Once Was Lost really does not have questionable content at all. Okay, one character near the end uses the word "shitty." And there is a suggestion of an inappropriate relationship between a married character and someone who is not his wife. But then, I've never thought that "questionable content" has much to do with the right age level. There's emotional complexity in all my books that is definitely better understood by 15-20 year olds, but that doesn't mean the 13-15 year-olds can't also enjoy and get stuff out of it. Hope that helps a little!

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that I want this book to find its audience. I think all my usual readers will pick it up, but I also know there's this other audience out there.

My impression of YA readers is that they get a lot of their reading suggestions via word of mouth. (Well it also helps if there's a movie adaptation :)) Does your publicity budget have room for getting free copies to a couple hundred YA readers who are looking for something outside of the box? Preferably YA readers who are active on YA websites.

Or get in touch with Anne Lamott's people. Her books have managed to get pretty well accepted in the Christian community.

I'll be good for 3 copies, one for me, one for the library and one for my 16 year-old half sister as one of her Christmas presents.

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that I want this book to find its audience. I think all my usual readers will pick it up, but I also know there's this other audience out there.

My impression of YA readers is that they get a lot of their reading suggestions via word of mouth. (Well it also helps if there's a movie adaptation :)) Does your publicity budget have room for getting free copies to a couple hundred YA readers who are looking for something outside of the box? Preferably YA readers who are active on YA websites.

Oh yes, word of mouth is huge, and has been the main thing propelling my career thus far. All of the usual channels (including YA and librarian bloggers, etc) are being followed. I guess I'm trying to pinpoint sincere-but-conflicted Christian young adults as a market, and what kinds of blogs and publications they read. Most of the people reading YA and librarian blogs are already well immersed in the YA lit community and will know about the book anyway. I think of them as part of my "usual readers." But, maybe I'm falsely separating, and the word of mouth scenario will work exactly as it always does, only this time it will be more active among readers of faith...we'll see.

Thanks for the 3 copies! :)

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You should find a youth pastor's convention. Or a christian school association. Hmmm...my brother-in-law has presented his juggling act to children's ministry conventions. I'll ask him if he's got any leads. My sister (his wife) read your first two and could put in a good word.

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You should find a youth pastor's convention. Or a christian school association. Hmmm...my brother-in-law has presented his juggling act to children's ministry conventions. I'll ask him if he's got any leads. My sister (his wife) read your first two and could put in a good word.

Oh, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a youth pastor convention! (The fiction writer in me of course sees all kinds of story opps, there...)

Thanks on both counts.

And Christian - re: Relevant - yes, they are on my list. Though I haven't checked lately to see if they are still in print or online only or what...

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Thanks for filling me in on my age question Sara. I wasn't terribly consernced about swear words, mostly that Story of a Girl seemed a bit mature for 6th/7th graders.

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Sara,

Dave (my brother in law) responded with the suggestion of Youth Specialties, a national Youth ministers association. Looks like it may potentially lead to some opportunities. And if you end up in Cincinnati, my wife and I would love to get together with you. :)

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One other venue comes to mind...the Cornerstone Festival. From what I understand its pretty big, encompasses more than just music and can be pretty cutting edge in a way for a Christian festival. They've had Over the Rhine, Vigilanties of Love and other play over the years who aren't in the CCM market at all. But maybe that's already happened. I can't believe we're nearly through July.

Cornerstone takes place around the Fourth of July weekend every year, so it's too late for this year. But they have had authors and poets speak in the past in the seminar tents - Brenda Vantrease, Vinita Hampton Wright, Jill Alexander Essbaum - so that could be worth looking into for next year.

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Sara,

Dave (my brother in law) responded with the suggestion of Youth Specialties, a national Youth ministers association. Looks like it may potentially lead to some opportunities. And if you end up in Cincinnati, my wife and I would love to get together with you. :)

Youth Specialties! I know all about them from my days as a church secretary. Why didn't think of this? Thanks! (And I might actually be coming to Cincinnati - it's on my tentative list for fall. Though I know several people there and generally on tour it's hard to find a moment away...)

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As aside: Anyone who cares about the art of audiobooks should follow Sara's link. I don't agree with everything her audiobook boss has to say -- I like emoting, and performances, in audiobooks sometimes, if not always -- but in general, it's full of great information.

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As aside: Anyone who cares about the art of audiobooks should follow Sara's link. I don't agree with everything her audiobook boss has to say -- I like emoting, and performances, in audiobooks sometimes, if not always -- but in general, it's full of great information.

Glad you got the video to work.

One of the reviewers of the Story of the Girl audio complained about the low-key presentation, that there wasn't enough emoting and acting for her. I think it's a fair criticism - like you say, some people like that, sometimes. My current work-in-progress has two narrators and even if they asked me to come back and do the audio for that one, I don't think I would. I think I'd want someone (a real voice actor) to do that and really differentiate between the two narrators. Sometimes (but not often), audiobooks will actually have a cast, as I'm sure you know if you're an audiobook fan.

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Sara,

If you're interested in a venue of advertisement that sits at the intersection of YA and faith-full fiction, I help edit at a minor web magazine. We generally publish poetry and short fiction, and the majority of our output comes from young-ish teens, but we have done these sort of promotional pieces for authors in the past. The form such promotion takes is variable.. it's usually either a review or an interview, but an excerpt could work as well.

Here's the magazine website (yes, we are called TeenAge Magazine; and no, surprisingly, that name was not taken. I think)

..and the publisher's website.

By the way, I loved Story of a Girl. My friend even bought a copy when I told him about it.

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Go, Sara!

I'm almost finished with the Story of a Girl audiobook on my commute. It's even better the second time through this book.

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Apparently, Sara's included in the list of those writing "very bad books for teenagers" in the latest issue of Touchstone. I haven't found a copy yet, but I'll be interested to see what the writer's gripe really is.

Edited by Overstreet

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Apparently, Sara's included in the list of those writing "very bad books for teenagers" in the latest issue of Touchstone. I haven't found a copy yet, but I'll be interested to see what the writer's gripe really is.

Sara's book comes off better than most of those reviewed (I was able to download the article from the university library database), it seemed to me. Mills's conclusion is interesting, though, and although it may be extreme, and I'm sure Sara could point to any number of exceptions, I'm not sure he's completely wrong

[T]he publishers...sell their books by appealing to a child's worst nature--his resentment, his pity, his anger--when they could have sold more by appealing to his desire for glory.

He upholds several classics as alternatives, and although I'm all for classics, many of these, too, give us bad (or merely ineffective) or absent/dead parents, children who rebel, etc. What's the difference? Mills has some ideas. See what you think. All I can say is that I'm not too thrilled to find English majors posting on Facebook that Twilight is their favorite book.

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Do Over the Rhine fans know that Sara starts this book by quoting the lyrics to an OTR song? I don't know the song -- never got into OTR -- but it's a great quote.

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You betcha. In fact, Over the Rhine announced this in one of their fan club newsletters!

Christian, I suspect that the day you start listening to OTR's "The Trumpet Child" will be a day you look back on with gladness.

Edited by Overstreet

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