Rath, Sara

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Rath, Sara

(Sara Lindsay Rath)

PERSONAL: Born in Manawa, WI; married fourth husband, Del Lamont; children: (first marriage) Jay Rath, Laura Rath Beausire. Education: University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.A.; Vermont College, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—E4581 Sherwood Dr., Spring Green, WI 53588–9279. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Wisconsin—Madison Extension, faculty member, c. 1980s; Goddard College, Plainfield, VT, writing instructor, 1991–94; Writer's Center, Chautauqua, NY, former workshop leader. Producer of television documentary Views of a Cameraman.

AWARDS, HONORS: Banta Award, Wisconsin Library Association, 1984, for Remembering the Wilderness; Ucross Foundation fellowship, 1987; MacDowell Fellow, 1989; Wisconsin Arts Board individual artist grant, 1994; Weston Cate fellowship, Vermont Historical Society, 2003.

WRITINGS:

Whatever Happened to Fats Domino & Other Poems, Wisconsin House (Madison, WI), 1971.

The Cosmic Virgin (poems), Wisconsin House (Madison, WI), 1973.

Madison and Dane County (guidebook), photographs by Rick Smith, Tamarack Press (Madison, WI), 1977.

Pioneer Photographer, Wisconsin's H.H. Bennett (biography), afterword by Miriam E. Bennett, Tamarack Press (Madison, WI), 1979.

Remembering the Wilderness (poems), Northword (Madison, WI), 1983.

About Cows (nonfiction), Heartland Press (Minocqua, WI), 1987.

Dancing with a Cowboy (poems), Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts & Letters (Madison, WI), 1991.

The Complete Cow (nonfiction), Voyageur Press (Still-water, MN), 1998.

The Complete Pig (nonfiction), Voyageur Press (Still-water, MN), 2000.

Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages (novel), Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2005.

Contributor to Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink and Hunger Mountain. Contributor to COPIA, Boston Review, Green Mountains Review, Poets & Writers, and the Arkham Collector. Also author of television, film, and radio scripts. Screenwriter for the television show Annzinetta.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Songs without Words, a biography of Achsa W. Sprague (1827–62); Double Exposure: A Mother/Daughter Travel Journal, with daughter, Laura Rath Beausire; the poetry collection The Night You Played the Snowy Mountain Blues; a novel, Trespass.

SIDELIGHTS: Wisconsin-born writer Sara Rath has proven her versatile talents in a wide range of genres, including print, radio, and television. The author of several volumes of poems, Rath also writes fiction. In her first novel, Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages, Rath tells the story of Hannah Swann, who finds herself in the woods of Wisconsin after she inherits a broken-down resort from her uncle. Hannah decides to refurbish and reopen the resort, despite a reluctance to spend too much time away from her previous life, and in the process discovers a whole new world of friendships and people. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that the novel's "eccentricities makes for a diversion as pleasant as a quiet summer day at the lakeshore."

Rath has also written several volumes of nonfiction, including a pair of humorous fact books about pigs and cows: The Complete Pig and The Complete Cow. These books cover the history of the animals, including their original use as domestic beasts and their appearances in literature and popular culture. In a review for Booklist, Nancy Bent called the first title "not only fun but informative," and the latter a "delightful romp through the bovine world."

Rath told CA: "When I was a teenager I babysat for the children of the newspaper editor in our small town. He invited me to write articles about our high school band's travels (we had a pretty good band—I played the oboe and twirled a baton), then advised me to become a journalist.

"I grew up in north-central Wisconsin where life was pretty idyllic in the 1950s. Much of my work and imagery is drawn from that time. Then, as a young wife and mother I was introduced to Wisconsin author August Derleth, who drew from his deep Wisconsin roots to write in a wide variety of genres. He encouraged my work, published my first poems, and was my mentor until his death in 1971.

"I am always writing, whether I am at my computer or scribbling in a notebook. I have kept a daily journal since the early 1960s. A favorite day would find me sitting at my computer in my study with snow falling outside my window, my cat in my lap and my dog lying at my feet, soft jazz playing in the background. Revision is my favorite part of the writing process. With first drafts I sometimes need to set a kitchen timer and write anything until the buzzer rings, be completely nonjudgmental, and just get something on the page. I usually overwrite as I prefer to pare away rather than puff up.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how much influence I can have on someone else's thoughts. The biography I am working on, Songs without Words, is my favorite of my books. It combines meticulous historical research with imagination. The woman I wrote about, Achsa Sprague, became like a sister to me. I often sensed she was guiding my work—which would not be unusual since she was a spirit medium.

"I'm fond of a quote from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: 'Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.' I hope my books will live long after I'm gone."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1998, Nancy Bent, review of The Complete Cow, p. 714; July 1, 2000, Nancy Bent, review of The Complete Pig, p. 1825; July, 2005, Annie Tully, review of Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages, p. 1901.

Library Journal, May 15, 2000, William H. Wiese, review of The Complete Pig, p. 118.

Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2005, review of Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages, p. 186.

ONLINE

Capital Times Online, http://www.madison.com/tct/ (November 28, 2005), "Sara Rath."

Sara Rath Home page, http://www.sararath.com (November 28, 2005).

Wisconsin Book Festival Web site, http://www.wisconsinbookfestival.org/ (November 28, 2005), "Sara Rath."

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