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Raison d'etre: to write

One essayist's dream? She wants to be a paperback writer.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

HERITAGE ISLES -- Sara Patric writes in pencil, not pen. The permanency of ink mocks people's imperfection, she says.

Like most accomplished writers, she prefers nouns and verbs to adjectives and adverbs. Her dream is to compose novels. And at just 17, she already seems willing to take the writer's vow of pain, poverty and habitual rejection.

"I'll do whatever I can to (write)," Patric says. "If that means I have to balance five part-time jobs to stay alive, then I'm going to do it."

The future is not all gloom and doom for the Wharton junior, however.

Her essay, The Pencil, reached the national round of the PTA-PTSA Reflections Writing contest. Judges selected 16 Florida students; Patric, who lives in Heritage Isles, was the only one from Hillsborough County.

The essay celebrates the power of words. "Words are not fickle; they do not choose a sole master and defy all others," reads one passage. "They can be an ally or an enemy. What they become is up to you, because you cannot force them or let them run wild all the time."

Another passage reads: "It is amazing the power a simple pencil gives a person. A few scratches from it form a signature and someone can declare war, agree to the treaty to end it or execute the guilty."

Patric produced three versions of her essay before submitting The Pencil.

Patric's real literary passion lies in other worlds. She hopes to write her own versions of the fantasy novels she reads. She has been through a Mercedes Lackey phase and a Jack London phase, but she doesn't have a favorite author at the moment.

"I have this weird God complex," says Patric, dressed in a khaki button-down shirt and chocolate brown corduroys. "I like being able to create an alternate universe of characters."

Her characters are antiheros -- thiefs and sorcerers -- and in her stories they overcome being misunderstood. Though she has tried putting them in epic battles, the battles tend to get out of hand quickly.

"I don't know how to write about people fighting," she says. "I do much better with mundane things."

She spends time after school editing and designing Wharton's literary magazine, Cat Tails.

"I write to make people happy," Patric says. "I like to be able to make people laugh. I'll admit, sometimes I'll try to put a moral into it, but it won't be very obvious. You'll learn through the characters."

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at

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