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Along for the Ride

I got to see Along for the Ride, the Netflix film based on Sarah Dessen’s novel of the same name. It was written and directed by Sofia Alvarez, who previously wrote the adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved before. I’m not the target audience, but I loved it: breezy, fun, and awash with a kind of teenage nostalgia I’m here for all day.

But I also have to disclose this: Sarah is my cousin. She babysat me, and I got to see her career bloom. She’s inspiring to me as a human being first, and a writer second.

Writing, as I’ve mentioned here from time to time, is my first love. If I could figure out how to do that as a living, I would; I got into technology as a way to tell stories, not because I’m particularly excited by the discrete logic and how the components fit together. Programming is a means to an end. Every project I’ve started has been about storytelling of some kind.

Sarah’s been kind enough to share some writing tips along the way. The biggest one is something I’ve been bad at: just write. I’ve entered writing competitions and have published stories, but it’s always taken a surprising amount of effort for me to give myself permission to take it seriously. I think that’s because it’s something I want to do for myself, rather than something other people want me to do. Given the choice between nurturing my own needs and making someone else happy, I’ll usually pick the latter. In other words, I don’t take it seriously because I don’t take myself seriously.

So I’m in awe of people like Sarah who have the drive to make it happen. She’s a very talented writer who has built up a dedicated audience of people who love her work. Creating that work is hard: a novel is not a small undertaking, and building a story with emotional resonance that keeps the reader turning the page is a rare skill.

There’s a whole generation of predominantly women who have grown up with her books now. People have tattoos. That’s amazing.

At around the sixteen minute mark in the movie, Sarah leaves the Clementine’s boutique: a tiny cameo that I know she was nervous about. The girls say, “thank you, Sarah”. It’s a sweet moment if you know to look for it.

Every so often, Sarah will ask me how my writing is coming along. I don’t claim to have anything approaching her takent or dedication, but before too long, I hope to give her an answer that makes me proud. Thank you, Sarah.

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