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Spotlight Sunday: Sara Mariah of Writing Dressage (aka Yours Truly)

Heyyo! It’s time for another new series on the blog called Spotlight Sunday, where I like to spotlight active members/professionals in the equine industry. Who better to kick this series off with than yours truly?

I figured I’d start off with myself to give y’all a little more information about me, stuff that isn’t really suited to a stuffy about page.

Yeah, it’s going to be a little weird “interviewing” myself, but hey, I’m weird.

Bio:

I’m Sara and I’m an author/blogger/equestrian/mermaid living in Georgia at the moment with my retired all-around show horse, Sunny. I run the blog Writing Dressage, where I help budget-conscious horse enthusiasts & entrepreneurs in the nerdiest ways possible. I like to keep busy, so when I’m not working on WD, I can be found doing yoga on the back deck, belly dancing in my room where nobody can see me, drinking copious amounts of sweet tea like a true southern woman, and writing various works of fiction that may or may not ever be published.

Interview:

When did you first become involved in the horse industry?

I was born into it. My mom is a BHS-certified hunter/jumper trainer and both grandparents on Mom’s side rode. Grandma was one of those rebellious women who wore pants and rode astride back when it was taboo for women to do that.

We lived in Florida for a few years and I started riding seriously at Grand Cypress Equestrian Center (which has since closed, unfortunately). When I first started riding, I struggled a lot because my allergies kept me from being able to care for my own horse before & after the lesson.

Imagine being a 4-year-old who just wants to brush your horse but can’t because you’ll start sneezing and break out in hives. It sucked. Luckily, I grew out of the worst of my allergies, but those were a rough few years.

How did you get into blogging about equine business?

It wasn’t my first choice, I’ll tell you that. It wasn’t even in the top 10. Long story short, a series of sad, unfortunate events after college left 23-year-old me at a dead-end job & still living at home with my parents. Dad has Parkinson’s and this was right around the time he was first diagnosed, which was rough because he’d been to three different doctors over the previous 2 years who all said he had a dozen different things, none of which was Parkinson’s, even though it was obvious to literally everybody else around.

To cope with it all, I disappeared into my fiction writing and especially blogging. I had started WD out as an author/lifestyle blog originally, but because horses took it over (as they tend to do with all aspects of my life), I got a request from the ASPCA to write a blog post spotlighting Help a Horse Day. This wasn’t a sponsored post or anything so I didn’t make any money off of it, but it opened my eyes a little.

Around the same time, I found Mariah Coz and Melyssa Griffin, two badass online business mavens who opened my eyes the rest of the way.

In a serendipitous turn of events, they were both having webinars the same week. Mariah was having a three-part webinar leading into her course and Melyssa was having a single webinar leading into her course. I couldn’t afford either of their courses, but during Mariah’s webinars, I got an idea—several ideas, really—for a course that I could teach. Melyssa’s webinar (and web site) gave me the tools to set those ideas in motion.

And thus the newly-revamped Writing Dressage came to be. After consulting with a few close friends in the industry, I settled on a direction, and now I can honestly say this feels like what I’m supposed to be doing.

What’s interesting is that, when I graduated high school, I couldn’t afford a 4-year college, let alone pick a course of study, so I chose to go to a community college and study equine business management because at least I knew how to do that.

That turned out to be the best decision I’ve made so far.

What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?

I could put a lot of things here, like my public speaking state championship or that time I rode with a reiner who competed at WEG, but all of those really pale in comparison to the accomplishments I've achieved with Sunny.

Long story short, my first fall was a really nasty one and it shook my confidence something awful. After that fall, I had issues just being around horses on the ground, let alone while riding. 

Part of why I love Sunny so much is I firmly believe that, without him, I never would have gotten back into riding after that fall. He babysat me while I rebuilt my confidence brick by brick. I went from being scared to walk into a stall with a horse to cantering Sunny around bareback in a halter. 

From there, he took me to the 4-H state horse show 4 years in a row. I won't lie, we had some tough times. He wasn't a big fan of cattle, so the fact that we had to pass the cattle pens to get to the show ring at state rattled both of us the first couple years, but we dealt with it. 

It probably sound ridiculous considering all of the accomplishments I could've listed, but my greatest accomplishment so far is the partnership I forged with Sunny and the experience I've gained along the way with him. 

What was the biggest or most humbling lesson you’ve learned?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to waste time waiting. If you want to do something, get up and get to it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to give you permission because it won’t happen. You’ve got to get up off your butt and make it happen for yourself.

The amazing thing about the time we live in now is that we can do anything. There are so many options out there for people to take advantage of, but complacency keeps us at our dead-end jobs wishing we were elsewhere. Rather than wish you were somewhere else, get to work and make it a reality. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

What’s the number one piece of advice someone gave you that stuck with you?

"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."

-- Earl Nightingale

This one kind of goes hand in hand with the last question. Whatever it is you want, do it. Become it. Time passes no matter what we do, so if there’s something you want, get on it.

When did you first begin writing? What was it about writing that drew you to it in the first place?

I started writing back in middle school. I’ve always loved stories in their various forms and I’d been a voracious reader, so I guess I really need to thank my 7th grade English teacher for lighting the beacons of Gondor and setting me on the path to authorship.

What drew me to it in the first place was the promise of possibility. In stories, the possibilities are endless. As a reader, I can go anywhere and do anything through the characters I’m reading about. I guess that’s why I’ve always gravitated toward the fantastic in my reading. Science fiction and fantasy are where my heart lies because, well, let’s face facts here: it’s not likely that we’re going to be able to bring dinosaurs back from extinction and train velociraptors for use in the military. Unlike contemporary or literary stuff, where they’re all very grounded in reality and limited in what can happen, scifi and fantasy let us do the impossible. And it’s awesome.

What do you write? What projects are you working on right now?

Mostly, I write various flavors of fantasy. While I love reading science fiction, I only have a basic understanding of science because science and I never got along very well in school, so writing it isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

Fantasy-wise, I love urban fantasy, historical fantasy, and straight up high fantasy. I’ve got works-in-progress in all three subgenres, though my focus is mostly on my urban stuff.

Additionally, I’m giving contemporary romance a try. The reason for this is because it’s such an incredibly high selling genre and, from a business standpoint, I’m more likely to make money off of contemporary romance than any fantasy work I write.

Right now, I’m in the midst of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which spans the month of November. The point of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in a month and if you meet that 50K mark, you “win”. Last year, I drafted my high fantasy novel thus far only known as my Egyptian equestrian manuscript because I’m comically bad at coming up with titles.

This year for NaNo, I’m drafting my African safari/internship manuscript, which is a contemporary romance based on a fictional wildlife conservancy in Kenya. In addition to the six million things I’ll be doing during November for my business, I’ll also be posting weekly updates on my author blog, Sara M Writes. Y’know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

How do you deal with your inner critic?

HAHA I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that question. I’m really bad at fending off my inner critic, both when it comes to my business ventures and my writing. One thing that I can rely on, though, is getting feedback from others. I have a select few friends in the horse industry that I trust and consult when I need to, and I seek out beta readers for my writing. So far, they’ve been able to help me shut my inner critic up.

(And now for the awkward part where I say "you should follow the person I just interviewed!" and drop links to their various internet profiles. Except I'm going to skip the first part and just drop links because, well, interviewing myself has been an awkward enough experience already.)

Twitter: @saramwrites
Pinterest: @saramwrites
Instagram: @saramwrites
Personal blog: http://saramwrites.wordpress.com/