Sara Johnson Allen discusses the first pages of her debut novel, Down Here We Come Up, and her long road to publication. We talk about the power of the first pages in keeping you going, the importance of place description and how to make it move, how to find the balance between your front story and larger back story, and why it’s often necessary to put a book aside to understand it fully enough to revise.
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Sara Johnson Allen was raised (mostly) in North Carolina. Her first novel, Down Here We Come Up, is the winner of the 2022 Big Moose Prize and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in August 2023. Her fiction has appeared in PANK Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Reckon Review. She was recently awarded runner-up in the 2022 Third Coast fiction contest. In 2018, she was awarded the Marianne Russo Award for Emerging Writers by the Key West Literary Seminar for her novel-in-progress. In 2019, she received the Stockholm Writers Festival First Pages Prize. She has also been awarded MacDowell fellowships and an artistic grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. When she is not grading papers or chasing after her three kids, she likes to write about ‘place’ and how it shapes us.