Sara Zarr

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Sara Zarr
Zarr at the 2011 SCBWI conference
Zarr at the 2011 SCBWI conference
Born (1970-10-03) October 3, 1970 (age 52)
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Period2007 - present
GenreYoung adult fiction, essays, short fiction

Sara Zarr (born October 3, 1970) is an American writer. She was raised in San Francisco, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband.[1] Her first novel, Story of a Girl, was a 2007 National Book Award finalist.[2] She has subsequently had six novels published.

Biography and career[edit]

Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in San Francisco, she earned a degree in communications from San Francisco State University. Zarr grew up as part of a Jesus Movement church and still identifies as a Christian. Her first three manuscripts were never published, but after winning the Utah Arts Council prize for best unpublished young adult novel of 2003,[3] she was able to find an agent who successfully sold Story of a Girl as the first of a two-book deal, to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.[4]

Inspired by the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart and Zarr's Christian roots, her third book, Once Was Lost (also published as What We Lost) addresses issues of faith, identity and home. The original title comes from the hymn Amazing Grace written by John Newton.[5] While the characters are Christian, the book was published for a mainstream audience and neither promotes nor criticizes organized religion.

In 2008, Zarr contributed to the young adult for Obama project started by fellow YA author Maureen Johnson. Zarr's articles included "Red State Jesus Freaks for Obama" and "Personal Sacrifice."[6]

Zarr has been a regular contributor to Image Journal's Good Letters blog.[7]

In 2010, she served as a judge for the National Book Awards.

From 2013-2015, Zarr taught at Lesley University’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.[8]

From 2012-2015; 2020-present Zarr hosted and produced the podcast This Creative Life. It featured Zarr in conversation with other writers. She has self-published a companion book to the podcast.

With her 2017 novel, Gem & Dixie (loosely based on some of her early life experiences[9][10]), Zarr moved to the HarperCollins imprint Balzer + Bray, and has another book slated with them for 2018.

Story of a Girl was adapted into a television movie that will air on Lifetime starting in July 2017.[11] It marks Kyra Sedgwick's directorial debut and features Sedgewick's husband, Kevin Bacon.


Standalone novels[edit]

  • 2007 — Story of a Girl
  • 2008 — Sweethearts
  • 2009 — Once Was Lost (Republished as What We Lost in 2013, then reverted to original title)
  • 2011 — How to Save a Life
  • 2013 — The Lucy Variations
  • 2013 — Roomies co-written with Tara Altebrando
  • 2017 — Gem & Dixie
  • 2020 — Goodbye from Nowhere
  • 2020 — Courageous Creativity: Advice and Encouragement for the Creative Life
  • 2022 — A Song Called Home

Zarr has also read the audio versions of four of her books.

Short fiction[edit]


  • "It Is Good" appears in Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?, edited by Marissa Walsh, 2008
  • "Who Is My Mother, Who Are My Brothers?" first appeared in Image, and appears in Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical, edited by Hannah Faith Notess, 2009

Awards and nominations[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Zarr has spoken and written openly about growing up in an alcoholic family system and its influences on her writing.[16][17] She was married in 1990; she and her husband have no children.[18]


  1. ^ "Class of 2k7 Sara Zarr". Archived from the original on January 1, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  2. ^ "The National Book Foundation". Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  3. ^ [1] Archived March 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Characters, small events are focus of Utah author". Deseret Morning News. 2007-03-18.
  5. ^ "Young adult novelist Sara Zarr finds third time with Mr. Media is the charm! (Or does she?)" (Interview). Mr. Media. 2007-03-18.
  6. ^ [2] Archived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "You searched for zarr - Image Journal". Image Journal. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  8. ^ "Sara Zarr - Lesley University". Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  9. ^ "Sara Zarr | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  10. ^ "Don't Talk, Don't Trust, Don't Feel: Gem & Dixie, Lucy Barton, and Dysfunctional Family Systems (not at all tiny)". TinyLetter. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  11. ^ Story of a Girl (TV Movie 2017), retrieved 2017-05-29
  12. ^ "Best Books for Young Adults 2008". Archived from the original on January 18, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  13. ^ "The 2008 Cybils" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  14. ^ [3] Archived April 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ [4] Archived January 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "This Creative Life with Sara Zarr: Corey Ann Haydu and Adult Children of Alcoholics - Ep 48". Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  17. ^ "A Prayer for my Father". Image Journal. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  18. ^ "Married, No Children". Image Journal. 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2017-05-29.

External links[edit]