Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#217 Sarah Black Likes to Do Things Her Own Way

Sarah Witte’s family moved every 2 years, so it was always a new school, new people, a new chance (she’s now lived in 14 states). By the time Sarah was 8, she already loved books and reading. She also loved pretending to be a nurse and bandaging skinned knees, which led to college at Old Dominion, where she became a registered nurse (and then, years later, a nurse practioner). After college, Sarah joined the Navy as a young ensign in the Nurse Corps. She loved belonging to a unit, but never stopped moving. At 25, Sarah met a young lieutenant commander and knew after 5 minutes that he was it. The first time she took his hand, Sarah could see their child’s face. Maybe they lived past lives together (though Sarah doesn’t believe in that). Regardless, the whole wonderful and heartbreaking affair seemed inevitable. He was married and a serial adulterer, but she forged ahead anyway. 7 years later, they had a baby. It was much harder than Sarah expected and that doesn’t even take into account her son, James. When James was 7 and failing in school and every interaction, Sarah quit her job, sold everything, and started driving west on a camping trip with him. Sarah likes to do things her own way, so she took James off all the meds and tried to figure out what was going on with him. It would have worked beautifully, but 6 months in they were broke. So Sarah drove onto a Navajo reservation and talked a small clinic at a boarding school into taking them both—a package deal. It was during this time (when she turned 40) that Sarah took on the last name Black and started writing. Sarah Black liked that the name was all hers. She discovered literary fiction, abandoned genre with almost no regrets (she has written romance novels and gay sleuth murder mysteries, but now she writes flash fiction), and started a publishing house for illustrated flash fiction chapbooks (Bannock Street Books). Sarah stayed at the reservation for 6 years, but eventually started taking long drives over the red dirt roads and thinking about Alaska. She wanted another adventure, so she found a small Inuit village on the Yukon River (no roads in or out; you get there by small plane). The clinic was next to the school, so she was right there if James needed anything, but Sarah hated it and only lasted 6 months. She left with James, but without a job, a vehicle, or a place to live. Now James is 17. He has autism, but not classic autism. He interacts with the world in his own particular way, but he’s a lovely person—full of affection, ready to help anybody. When it’s just the two of them, Sarah and James are a happy family. Now Sarah works as a nurse practioner at a community health center for the homeless in Boise, Idaho. She’s happy working there (and she becomes unmoored when she’s not working). She loves making people feel like they can change for the better.

Bannock Street Books


Tim Jones-Yelvington said...

Sarah's life and works are beautiful.

Greg Santos said...

This is lovely.