Sarah Frank is a sophomore creative writing major at Blake High School for the Fine Arts. Her novel, One Chance, was published by BeaLu Books in January 2018, and the sequel is set for sometime in 2019. The book has won awards, including a silver medal from the Florida Authors & Publishers Association. She has spoken to over 4,000 students and teachers, with the hopes of inspiring them to read, write, and pursue their own dreams. Other than writing, Sarah is involved in 9 clubs at her school, practices photography in her free time, and continues to be an avid reader.
As part of Celebrate Literacy Florida (#CelebrateLiteracyFlorida), guest author Sarah Frank shared her thoughts and dreams as she continues to speak to thousands of elementary and middle school students on literacy and following their dreams!
It all started with a red notebook and a dream. I was only 11, but in my mind, I could be anything. I could press my pen to paper and become a pirate, a time-traveler, a wizard. I could be anything. It was that thought, that creative freedom, that pulled me into writing. It was the way that words could build a new world for me, that the right words could make me feel something. I wanted to do that for someone else. I wanted to be that author, the one who put the right words in the right combination to take the reader on an adventure.
I wrote the very first word of my novel, One Chance, when I was in fifth grade, but the journey didn’t start there. It started long before that, before I’d even realized it, and it didn’t start with my writing. It started with my reading. Throughout my years in the Hillsborough County public school system, I explored new authors, new genres, new adventures. In first grade, the book was Magic Treehouse. I fell in love with time-travel, which set the foundation for the following year where I was head over heels for the Harry Potter books. When third grade rolled around, my teacher, Mrs. Clements, got me involved in the Battle of the Books, helped me edit my work, gave me information on a writing summer camp (affiliated with the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project) where I later found my true identity as a writer, and lead me to a biography series (Who Was) that I went through like water, igniting my love for history.
It was my fifth grade year when I wrote the first draft of One Chance. I didn’t start with a BMME planning sheet, or really, any plan at all. I started with an idea: The Stone of Discedo, a time-traveling stone. I combined my favorite elements of literature at the time: time-travel from Magic Treehouse, magic from Harry Potter, and history from the biographies I learned to love back in 3rd grade. I created the Stone of Discedo with a catch: the users, before they can change anything in their own lives, have to first fix three terrible events in history. The characters in the book attempt to save Abraham Lincoln from being assassinated, stop the Titanic from sinking, and warn the people at Pearl Harbor. Leading up to the time-travel, I intertwined the story with mystery, action, and so much else. One Chance became a book with a little bit of everything, and a little something for everyone. I might not have had a plan or structure of any kind for the first draft, but I sure had a great time writing it. It was a little more than halfway through that I came up with the title. I realized I wanted to take it to the next level, to publish it, to share my story and my characters with the world. I wrote my title on the cover of the red notebook, and in that moment, it was real. My #1 goal became to get the book published.
Multiple drafts, dozens and dozens of rounds of editing, a book contract with BeaLu Books, and a few years later, the book was released in January of 2018. My goals were achieved and my dreams had come to fruition.
But it didn’t end there. Since the book came out, library media specialists have helped get me in front of 4,000 students and teachers across Hillsborough County and a few in other places around Florida. It’s been an absolute dream and a privilege I will never take for granted to be able to talk to as many students as I have. I’ve also had the opportunity to present at the Florida Literacy Association Conference and Follet’s ReadingCon Chicago. I am still astonished when I look back at the little red notebook and see how far it has taken me. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing kids’ faces light up, or when they tell me I’ve inspired them to read, write, or to follow their dreams. There is no moment as fulfilling as when a kid tells me they are going to write their own book. There is no memory as magical when I hear that a kid who resisted reading before is head over heels for it now. Maybe it’s because I see myself in them, and in all reality, there isn’t much difference. I believe each and every one of the kids I’ve been lucky enough to speak to has a fire in them. I have taken it as my job to add a little ignition and make those fires stronger. More passionate. Those kids have it in them to do what I did and more. There is nothing greater than hearing about their newfound motivation after I’ve spoken. I tell them what I wish someone had come to my elementary school to tell me: you can do it. You have it in you. With a little patience, a lot of hard work, and a knowledge that you really have the power to do whatever it is you want to do, you can make it happen.