New York Times Notable Book of the Year author to visit SSU

October 20, 2013

Award-winning author Sarah Willis will visit Shawnee State University to give a reading and to do a book signing on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Advanced Technology Center Room 201.

A Cleveland Heights native, Willis was born to actor and well-known director, Kirk Willis of The Cleveland Play House. After her father’s death when she was 12, Willis struggled to find her calling in life while unknowingly struggling with dyslexia.

After moving through multiple high schools, she rose from the position of janitor to medical coordinator at the Cleveland Free Clinic.

During her time with the clinic, Willis attended Cuyahoga Community College at Otterbein before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Case Western Reserve University, at which point she decided to quit acting because she didn’t think she was really very good at it.

At the age of thirty-four, following yet another endeavor (this time a photography certificate), Willis began to take non-degree graduate classes in creative writing at Cleveland State University. She finally found her calling, writing fiction — making up stuff.

Willis’ first novel, “Some Things That Stay,” was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction 2000 and was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature in 2000.

Following the novel’s success, “Some Things That Stay” was made into a movie that opened in Canada in October 2004.

In addition to her first notable work, Willis’ other novels include: “The Rehearsal,” “A Good Distance” and “The Sound of Us.” Currently, she is busy writing her fifth novel.

Free refreshments will be available at the event. In addition to the reading, Willis’ books will be available for purchase and signing. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Neil Carpathios at or 740-351-3476.