Moses doesn’t have the opportunity to count blessings very often, so when he walks into the mail room, the seasoned wood of the counters and the boxes used for sorting that have been here since the prison’s beginning a century and a half ago, the old, oiled smell of the room, and the light tickle of her citrusy perfume move him. She stands on the other side of the low wall. She wears her uniform. Institutional slacks, a conservative white shirt tucked in, comfortable rubber shoes that let her stand for hours. A fuzzy lavender fleece cardigan keeps her warm. Her hair, shoulder-length, blond, soft and curled, is lightened by whispers of white. She lights him up the way a mother does her child. Lila is an island Moses claimed for himself when he was lucky enough to get transferred from laundry fourteen years ago.
–Excerpt from You Are Free To Go.
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Sarah Yaw: Old prisoner’s death reverberates inside and outside the prison walls.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
SY: The End by Salvatore Scibona and Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood is its favorite aunt.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
SY: Ask a question. Be patient. Stay calm. Write it down.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
SY: Just one? The End because of its beginning. It made me sit up and pay attention. I want to feel that way again.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
SY: For you, I’ll let this cat out of the bag: Writers write for ourselves. We share it with you only because we’re pretty damned proud of ourselves for having done it. Then we basically regret that choice immediately.
Get a copy of You Are Free To Go at IndieBound.
Sarah Yaw’s novel You Are Free To Go (Engine Books, 2014) was selected by Robin Black as the winner of the 2013 Engine Books Novel Prize. Sarah received an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College, and is an assistant professor at Cayuga Community College. She lives and writes in Central New York.