Making Promises: Author with Stamford Origins Visits Library's T-MAD

Sara Kocek with her novel, Promise Me Something
Sara Kocek with her novel, Promise Me Something
The Ferguson Library's teen advisory board, Teens Making A Difference (T-MAD) received a treat during their monthly meeting Wednesday when they were paid a visit by special guest speaker and Stamford alum, author Sara Kocek.

Kocek, 27, currently lives in Austin, Texas, and recently published her first Young Adult novel, Promise Me Something. She paid a visit to the library's teen club, made up of city middle school and high school students, at the Harry Bennett Branch Wednesday evening while in town to see family.

A West Hill High graduate, Kocek was the editor of The Westward school newspaper during her time there. She recalled watching the library she was now standing being built from the ground up while she was in school just across the street at Turn of River Middle School and what it was like coming home to change.

"I graduated from West Hill in 2004 and, since then, mostly lived in New York and then, in 2010, move to Austin," she said. "It's awesome coming back. It's a little surreal. [...] I had wanted to be a writer since I was 7 or 8, so even at that time I remember being in book stores and libraries wondering what it would be like to have a book on the shelf. So it's very satisfying, but also a little weird. I think you come back and expect everything to be exactly the way it was."

Kocek hoped the teens would gain insight into the troubles they face in their own lives through her book. She said, as a teen, she couldn't recall many Young Adult novels that spoke to her in a language to which she could relate. Kocek set out and developed characters that were more like the latter of of Young Adult than the former.

"I like doing events for teenagers because that's who the book is for," Kocek said. "Hopefully, the themes and characters will resonate with them. This is the type of book I would've wanted to read when I was that age. I hated reading Young Adult books where the characters felt stupid or felt 'babyish' somehow. That the author was talking down to me. It was really important for me to write a book with smart characters going through difficult, real things."

The teens responded well to the book when Kocek read them an excerpt from it and each was given a postcard onto which they were instructed to write down a promise to themselves. Kocek said she would mail the cards back to them one year later to see if they'd kept their promise.

She talked to the students about her time in Stamford and her discovery that journalism wasn't where she could ultimately follow a career because, on paper, she just liked lying too much.

"I discovered I could tell the truth better through fiction," she said. "This is not a true book, but it is a book with a lot of truth in it."

The group of roughly 20 students said events like Wednesday's were a great resource for kids interested in books and the craft of writing and, to see someone from their own ranks as a success story was especially enlightening.

"It's a very special day," said 16-year-old King Low Heywood Thomas student and T-Mad President Katharina Focke. "It's really nice when we can have different guests come in, especially an author from Stamford."

Stamford Public Schools administrators heard about Kocek's visit and also praised her success in the following statement.

"Ms. Kocek, a Westhill Alumnus and former editor-in-chief of the Westhill award-winning school newspaper, is releasing a novel that explores some very relevant topics for young adults—friendship, bullying, and homophobia," said Public Affairs Officer Sharon Beadle in a release. "Stamford Public Schools is proud to count Ms. Kocek among our graduates!"


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