Why I Write Wednesday: IUWC Intern Sarah Latona


As far back as I can remember I have always been addicted to reading. I remember lying on my pink princess reading couch, picture books splayed all around me like a moat, lost on my own little island of words. I would curl into a reading ball and wait for my older brother to get home from kindergarten. I was (and still am) fascinated with the imagination and playfulness that go into making stories. Later, when I was in elementary school, I became obsessed with Goosebumps. This was the start of my horror genre addiction. I would lay on the scratchy floor of my school’s library and parse through the Goosebumps shelf for any I hadn’t read yet. When my dad took me to Half Price Books, I would read $1 teen horror novels. As you can imagine, I had a very big imagination and a big vocabulary. I was obsessed with the weird and fantastical, and the stories I wrote began to reflect that.  

Since I was just writing for me though, I didn’t realize I was any good at it until I won an award in 5th grade. Well, I was the runner-up, but the sentiment still stands. Imagine my shock when my name got called in assembly. It was a contest across the entire school to write an essay on healthy lunches at school. Definitely not horror, but I found out that I liked writing different genres. In middle school I wrote a historical fiction piece about the Irish Famine, which received praise from all my classmates. I started building confidence that I could do this thing, and leaned into writing stories. Admittingly, some of that middle school/early high school writing haunts me, but I was learning and being a kid. 

A little hiccup in my journey I have not mentioned until now is my abysmal stage fright. I used to be terrified of showing others my writing, so it was more like a major roadblock. I’m talking cowering under the table, hands over my ears, while the teacher read my story out loud. Even if no one was reading it out loud, there was still a good chance I’d be hiding. What possessed me to take creative writing in high school is anyone’s guess, other than I was still drawn to writing. I spent a lot of class literally under the table, but I started to gain confidence. I understood I had my own writing style and my own little support system, and my writing started to blossom. I didn’t talk a lot (even less than I do now), and writing helped me connect to the kids in my class. Ironically, for how much I don’t talk, I have a lot to say. I liked hearing my peers’ stories and being able to work with them, and it’s probably one of the most influential classes I took in high school. Writing makes me braver.  

Now I’m an English major and I adore words. I figured this out in part to the Introduction to Poetry class I took, but I love how much power a well-placed word can have. A strategically made sentence can literally take your breath away. The number of words you write doesn’t matter, it is how you use them. Writing is an art. I have so many words and ideas in my head, and writing helps me get those out in a way that other art can’t. I’m also an avid doodler, but I need words. I love being able to build beautiful spiraling literary structures and connect to other people. I write to feel less alone (in multiple ways!). I’m mixed and I love seeing other people like me in literature. Being mixed can be an isolating experience, even though I know I’m far from the only mixed baby out there. My identity is important to me, and I want others to feel less alone too.