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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Sarah Gerard

Bill DeYoung



Wednesday on The Catalyst Sessions, writer Sarah Gerard recalled the recent discovery of a complete novella written by her late grandfather.

“I knew my grandfather was a writer, because I would spend spring breaks and summers at our house in Ohio when I was a kid,” the longtime Pinellas resident explained, “and there was a chest in the basement full of his stories that he had written when he was in the army. He was stationed in the Pacific during World War II.

“It wasn’t just stories. It was also screenplays. He wrote a treatment for Hawaii Five-O that he claimed they stole, and based an episode on his treatment, and never credited him (for). He loved reading, and my grandmother loved reading. My mother is a consummate reader, and my father was actually vice president or president of the Largo Library Foundation board for many years.”

Her father was also a journalist with the Tampa Tribune, and he spent a lot of time with Sarah, critiquing her early writing, helping her re-arrange words and phrases for maximum impact.

“I was an only child, so I would have to occupy myself a lot of times as a kid, and I would do that on our very first home computer, on which the only programs were a word processor and Reader Rabbit. So I would just read and write, for fun.”

Fast-forward to 2020. Gerard has just published her second novel, True Love, and has a sharply-etched short story (“The Midnight Preacher”) in Tampa Bay Noir, the anthology curated by Tampa Bay Times books editor Colette Bancroft.

Gerard is an incisive, superbly-skilled wordsmith. Sunshine State, her book of essays, was praised by Buzzfeed (among others):

A deeply intimate look at Florida and Gerard’s personal experiences growing up along its Gulf Coast. Gerard’s writing is entertaining and engaging throughout, exploring topics like addiction, incarceration, homelessness, and religion while highlighting the environmental and economic struggles (and her personal ones, both emotional and physical) of living in the state.

Her Catalyst Sessions covered a lot of ground. We talked about what makes people want (and/or need) to write, first-person narrative, fiction versus non-fiction writing, personal satisfaction, curiosity and drive. And we talked about Ralph Heath and the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, the subject of the longest essay in Sunshine State.

The collection was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize

And stay tuned, because near the end of the interview, Gerard reads a chapter from True Love.

Najar, Soledade

Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Musicians Nate Najar and Daniela Soledade.

Streaming at 7 p.m. weekdays on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube page.


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