Editor’s Note: Girls Write Now has always been supportive of passionate songwriters, and we have a long history of amazing songwriters who have aligned with us, such as Suzanne Vega, and Suzze Roche who collaborated with our girls on the music video, “Ode to Malala”. Over the years, we have also partnered with Josh Groban’s foundation, Find Your Light, a generous supporter. To highlight our love of singer songwriters, and to provide a behind-the-scenes look, we’re sharing a first person account from Program Coordinator Emily Yost, who set out to meet Sara Bareilles and introduce her to Girls Write Now. Sara even received our newest anthology, Voice to Voice.
A friend generously invited me to attend Sara Bareilles’ Unbound event at BAM in Brooklyn for the release of Sara’s first book, Sounds Like Me. The Unbound event, which was in partnership with Greenlight Bookstore, included an interview conversation with fellow music artist Ben Folds (listen to “The Luckiest” by him after you read this), a performance by Sara Bareilles, and a book signing where I would have a brief moment to talk with her!
I’ve been a fan of Sara Bareilles since high school, and now that she has added a book and musical to her repertoire, describing my emotions as “excited” to attend the event would have be an understatement. The thought of meeting Sara Bareilles seemed super fun but the thought of having an opportunity to communicate with her (in less than 30 seconds) was stressful. Wanting to tell her about Girls Write Now, I prepared with our staff and felt confident with the advice that had been given to me. Despite the preparation, I still wondered: how would I compliment the woman who penned the songs “Love Song” and “Brave” and speak on behalf of Girls Write Now in real life?
Apparently like this:
Like, how could I not have mentioned that I admired her wit and candor during her interview and how incredible it was that she sang a 45-minute set?
I have now officially included: “word vomited on Sara Bareilles” to my list of fun facts and additional resume skills.
Here is what I would have said to Sara Bareilles after her Unbound conversation and performance if there had been more time.
“Hi Sara! My name is Emily Yost, I’m really happy to meet you because I have been a fan of you for years. Your voice is amazing to hear in person! It’s so effortless, I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing and thinking during “Gravity.” I’m so excited to be able to speak with you because you are an inspiring woman writer, and I work for Girls Write Now, a non-profit that would love to honor you. It’s amazing to me how perfect you would be for GWN. You are the epitome of written expression through the arts and you mean so much to our girls.
I wanted to jump out of my seat and run onto stage during the part of your conversation with Ben Folds about the chapter in your book called “Beautiful Girl” in which you wrote a series of letters from your current self to your younger self. You said that you wanted to create some type of program that encouraged people to write letters to their younger selves so that they could experience the same type of catharsis or expression. That is exactly how Girls Write Now promotes the craft of writing to be for our girls! Our mission is for girls to find their voices to and use them proudly.
I want to thank you for sharing about your experiences about body image regarding The Sing-Off. I admire you for sharing that even as a “grown ass woman” you still felt frozen in moments when you felt like your appearance was being objectified or ridiculed and it reminded you of traumatic moments being made fun of as a kid.
I wish that more people could have heard when you said that, while femininity and the female image that the Sing-Off wanted isn’t a bad version, it’s just not your version, and that is okay, that it’s okay to not measure femininity by the amount of make up, jewelry, and glitter that you wear.
I feel like I needed to hear that, and the 16 year-old version of myself that still influences my thoughts when I look in the mirror is happy to have heard that, too. Sixteen year-old me found relief when I looked in the mirror, because in a sea of Britneys and Christinas, there was a Sara, a more relatable role model who also had brown hair and strong facial features like I do. Shout out to you, Sara, for my side bang hairstyle of 2007! You gave me confidence when I felt ugly, and I’m sure I’m not the only young woman with that story.
Which is why I am so thrilled to be able to speak with you for more than one minute. I do hope that one day Girls Write Now can collaborate with you in some way. You are a positive enforcer of finding one’s voice and written expression to girls like me, girls like you, and the girls who are here.”
Since then I have read Sounds Like Me. It has been my commuter companion for the past week, and every time I began to read I felt like I was having a conversation with someone who was letting me into this secret creative world of songwriting. I loved reading the super truths Sara shares about growing up and evolving with experiences like studying abroad in Italy (all of the pizza) and that “Gravity” was written about a first love when she was only 19!
In the alternate reality blog post version of our interaction we would have hugged afterwards, and she would tell me that we could be best friends who talk about writing and musical theatre forever. Instead, the actual ending of my evening at the Unbound event is that I left the room completely flushed, autographed book in hand, and immediately recounted every single word of our exchange. Even though I felt like I wasn’t exactly eloquent I didn’t doubt and still don’t doubt that Sara listened.