Watkins Mill Teacher, Sara Goodman Confino, Will Be a Featured Author at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20

by MCS Staff

Written by Ashley Huynh and Julien Payen, graphic by Sanjay Fernando (all seniors at Watkins Mill)

They say those who can’t do, teach. Bestselling author Sara Goodman Confino, who teaches English, journalism, and creative writing at Watkins Mill High School, likes to prove them wrong. Confino will be a featured author at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20, talking about her most recent novel, She’s Up to No Good, at 11:15 am to 12:05 pm. Her book signing begins at 12:15 pm.

The festival, held at Bohrer Park from 10 am to 5:15 pm, is free to attend and fun for all ages. “It’s still crazy to me that people are reading my writing, let alone coming out to hear me talk about it, so I’m extremely honored that they asked me,” Confino said. Confino graduated from Rockville High School and the University of Maryland, College Park.

She’s Up To No Good is Confino’s second traditionally published novel and follows Jenna, an almost-divorcee who takes a road trip with her grandmother to discover more about the history of her family… and finds her future along the way. She’s Up to No Good is a very special story for me,” said Confino, whose grandmother loosely inspired Evelyn’s character. “The idea came from my real grandmother, who, when my uncle rented a house in her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, decided she was going to drive herself the nine hours there.”

Confino remembers thinking that if she didn’t have a newborn at the time, she “would have just driven to her house and been like, ‘Hop in, we’re going.’” Aspects of Confino’s Jewish heritage are represented in the story and characterization as well. “Judaism is big on sharing stories and memories…We believe you live on [after death] through the memories that you leave,” Confino said. “As Evelyn shares her life with Jenna, Jenna begins to realize more of who she is and what she actually wants.”

Evelyn’s story, which is set in the 1950s shortly after World War II, explores the pressure to marry within the Jewish community. Confino also wove references to Shabbat, the weekly Jewish day of rest, and themes of education throughout her book. Confino likes that the book’s “characters are Jewish and that played a part in the story, but it wasn’t their only defining characteristic,” Confino said. “I think it’s important to show real slices of life [and that] no one is just one thing.”

“I was able to explore how social and societal norms have changed as time has gone on,” Confino added. “So some of the issues that young Evelyn faces seem foreign as she relates her life story to her granddaughter.” Writing has been a lifelong passion for Confino. When she was eight years old, her uncle gave her a typewriter and told her that she would be an author when she grows up.

“He gave me my first car, but that typewriter was the most special gift because he saw something in me, even that young, and it’s really shaped who I am as a person,” Confino said. “He died well before I got a publishing contract, but it was after I wrote my first self-published novel, so he did get to see that.” Confino’s next novel, Don’t Forget to Write, is a fun romp with lots of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel vibes that comes out on September 1, 2023. It’s about a 20-year-old girl, Marilyn, who is caught making out with the rabbi’s son in 1960 after they crash through a stained glass window.

 Her mortified parents give her an ultimatum: marry the boy or go stay with her matchmaker great aunt in Philadelphia. Figuring a summer of boredom is better than a lifetime of it, Marilyn chooses her great aunt, who is not what she expected at all. Together with her aunt, Marilyn begins to realize what she actually wants her life to look like.

 Confino’s biggest challenge right now is finding the time to write (though she never forgets to!). As a teacher and mom to two little boys, Confino’s main time to write is the 90 minutes after her boys go to bed at night. Stephen King said in his book, On Writing, that prospective authors need to treat writing as a job. If someone needed money, they’d get a second job and show up.

 “If you don’t treat writing the same way, it’ll never get done.” Confino said. “There are plenty of nights where I’d rather zone out in front of the TV. But if I do that, living my lifelong dream gets pushed further and further away.” Being an author has given Confino a unique perspective into teaching literature and writing. “I know firsthand that when an author includes a detail, it has meaning,” Confino said. “I’ve used examples from my own work to prove that point and help students see the significance of details in their reading that they might not have before.”

 Many students in Confino’s creative writing class aspire to be published authors someday. “I’m able to share what I’ve learned. I think that’s really important,” Confino added. “I like walking my students through what the process looks like so that when they get to this stage, they know more than I did.” Her students were especially impressed the first week of school, when Confino received a message from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo author Taylor Jenkins Reid and went to go answer it. “True story! I tagged her in something with a joke and she laughed and we started talking,” Confino said.

 Despite being a bestselling author, “I don’t think [my readers] realize how completely normal I am. I’m still working on potty training my three-year-old and taking the dogs out and cooking 87 meals a day that get rejected by my kids,” Confino said. “I don’t know if there’s ever a point where you feel like you’ve ‘made it,’ but I love that I get to do what I love and actually get paid for it,” Confino added.

Don’t Forget to Write is available for preorder from Amazon,Barnes & Noble, or a bookstore of your choice. Copies of She’s Up to No Good will be available for sale at the festival from Politics and Prose.



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