Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?
My time at Columbia felt like a kind of homecoming--up until that point I had only met a few people who love books and writing as much as I do, and then suddenly my life was full of them! For me that was really invaluable.
While I was at SOA I was working on my novel on and off, but Sam Lipsyte was a faculty member who had a big impact on the book's structure, even though I technically wasn't working on it in his class. After submitting a short story featuring some of the main characters that also appear in the novel, he was kind enough to let me bend his ear during office hours as I explained to him the bigger narrative, which I was struggling to structure. He drew out a squiggly map as I talked, and I walked out of there knowing exactly what I had to do next--a rare and magical moment for a writer!
Really though, the relationships I formed with my colleagues are the ones that continue to inspire and fortify me now that we're finished with the program. I got my agent on the recommendation of one of my friends, and I have another friend who is my "writing buddy" and holds me accountable for sitting down and doing the work.
What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?
I had a lot of great classes and a couple of particularly good workshop groups, but I was totally starstruck the day I saw Peter Maass's master class appear on the course listings. He'd written a nonfiction account of the war in Bosnia, Love thy Neighbor, and my novel takes place in the Yugoslav Civil War as well. I had read his book for research, and to be in class with him and have him give me feedback on my writing was thrilling for me; he also offered an important perspective as one of the rare readers who was knowledgeable about the historical and political nuances of the conflict.
About Sara Novic
Sara's first novel, Girl at War (Random House), will be out in paperback March 2016. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vice, The Guardian, The Believer, The LA Review of Books, Guernica, Electric Literature, The Agriculture Reader and others. She is the fiction editor for Blunderbuss Magazine and the Spring 2015 Kim Frank Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University. http://sara-novic.com.