The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Sarah R. Baughman, author of the MG contemporary novel, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Spending time in nature with my family gets me as close as I ever am to fully appreciating the moment (which I suspect is the key to everything, including happiness).
What is your greatest fear? Besides something terrible happening to my loved ones, the thought of writing a book that includes any kind of inaccuracy or misrepresentation keeps me up at night.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I worry too much.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? I get frustrated with people who aren’t self-reflective. I might go overboard with second-guessing myself, but the other end of the spectrum isn’t so great either! 🙂
Which living person do you most admire? Both Obamas are pillars of intelligence, grace, leadership, and strength.
What is your greatest extravagance? Books. I love surrounding myself with them and keep lists of books to buy as the budget allows. I also do not skimp on good maple syrup.
What is your current state of mind? Full. I’m juggling multiple deadlines for my day job and writing, but I feel lucky to have both.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Busy-ness, and I’m guilty of this! Sometimes I think it’s an avoidance mechanism against the introspection and responsibility that comes with quietness.
On what occasion do you lie? I’m pretty terrible at this, but I’ve been known to skew things just a tad when the truth was too embarrassing (at which point I also commence overthinking the whole situation for weeks).
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? According to my editor (and I believe her!), the word “just.” I really need to get a handle on that. <I’m *just* as guilty of this. –M.R.>
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I wish I could draw, paint, or do some other kind of visual art.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family (I have a terrific husband and two awesome kids), but also getting my first book published. They’re all dreams come true.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A tree: specifically, a white pine. They’re rooted and strong and stay green all year. Plus, they have enough prickles to keep the troublemakers away.
What is your most treasured possession? It was this beautiful Petoskey stone ring I had for fifteen years. It stayed on my finger 24-7, a reminder of home to keep me grounded as I lived and traveled on four continents. Then I inexplicably lost it this summer while swimming in a lake in northern Michigan (where I got it in the first place). I still miss it, but it turned into a good lesson on the value of letting go.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Loneliness.
What do you most value in your friends? Depth and authenticity.
Who are your favorite writers? Always a tough question. But Mary Oliver, Madeleine L’Engle, and Toni Morrison leave me awestruck.
Who is your hero of fiction? Most recently, Jude in Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home. She is the essence of bravery and resilience.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? When I was young I had an interesting fascination with the mountaineer Toni Kurz, who died tragically while attempting to climb the North Face of the Eiger. I’m not sure we have much in common aside from a love of the outdoors, but I was awestruck by Toni’s persistence during the attempted rescue, and horrified by the outcome.
What is your motto? I have this quote from Jason Reynolds’ Ghost posted on my bulletin board, and it keeps me going every day: “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”
SARAH R. BAUGHMAN is an author whose debut middle grade novel, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE, is out now from Little, Brown Books For Young Readers. A former middle and high school English teacher currently working as an educational consultant, Sarah graduated from Grinnell College and the University of Michigan, where she studied English, German, and Education. Learn more about Sarah on her website, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.