• New job for a day!

    For one day only, I’m going to be a bookseller again, and I can’t wait! Come and see me at the East Grinstead Bookshop between 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 15 May – I’ll be behind the counter selling books, chatting about writing, and trying to resist buying a heap of books myself. I’ve been a bookseller twice before, in Goulden & Curry in Tunbridge Wells in my teens, and at the Oxfam Bookshop there more recently, and I love selling books – you have such great conversations, learn masses, and these days there’s excellent coffee too!
  • Ripple Effect

    That’s me on the banks of the Eridge Stream, in pouring rain, testing the water for signs of pollution. I’m a co-founder of the Ripple Effect Project, a citizen science project to bring volunteers together to learn about the health of the Upper Medway and its tributaries, sharing our results publicly and with organisations like the Environment Agency. It’s a collaboration between the University of Sussex and Friends of the River Medway, and I’m loving being part of it, finding out not only about the river, but also how different people connect with it, and how we can build sustainable ways of protecting the natural world together.
  • Three top books of 2023

    Luckily, I keep a list of every book I read. It’s in the Notes in my phone, and it is simply that – a list. I once tried to allocate a star rating, but I was never going to share it, because I’d hate an author to see a 1* rating beside a book they’d worked so hard on. And I briefly wrote notes, but the list grew unwieldy as a pool of kelp. So now it’s just a list. And compiling this selection of the three books I loved most last year was – in the end – quite easy. They’re the ones that jumped out at me as I skimmed the page on my phone, and said, ‘Pick me! You couldn’t wait to get back to your armchair and keep reading!’ So if you’d like to see my list, head over to Shepherd, where there are many fascinating lists of books alongside mine.
  • My life in books

    Now this was hard! So many books have wrestled, slipped and tickled their way into my life, rising into my consciousness at all kinds of unexpected moments, that it was incredibly difficult to choose these. I agonised. Then I told myself to get over myself because surely no one would read the piece. That was many months ago and I forgot all about it, until two people completely separately came up to me this months to talk about the books I chose for Sussex Life. A lovely surprise, and a little daunting. And who knew that Stig of the Dump is a book so many people love, and others really don’t get?
  • Five books about being alone

    There’s a great new website for readers called Shepherd.com. If you’re looking for a book about 1920s Chicago jazz, or the best books by badass women with grit – there’s a book list for you. The difference about Shepherd is that all the recommendations are by published authors, each choosing their favourite books on a theme they have some expertise on. I could spend hours exploring the stranger themes in there – and it’s an excellent way to follow up on a book I’ve loved, though my reading pile is teetering so I’m trying hard to resist! Here’s my list of five books about solitude – a mix of fiction and non-fiction, all of them books I’ve come back to because the writing is gorgeous and I’m fascinated by the idea of choosing to be alone.
  • Middle-aged woman in glasses, blue scarf and baggy trousers leaning on a shop counter behind a sign advertising a sold-out literary event for her book, Starling
  • Sold out!

    Huge thanks to Alison and the team at Barnett’s bookshop in Wadhurst for selling every ticket to their Starling event – and then cramming in a couple more, their marketing is so excellent! It was such fun, and I loved meeting so many readers from near and far – from Wealden to South Africa. Especial gratitude to bookseller Clare, who apparently sells a copy of Starling every day she’s in the shop!
  • Busy, busy – Literary Lounge and two sets of workshops coming up!

    I love meeting people, talking books and working with writers, and the next two months are going to be fun:
    • Literary Lounge at Barnetts Books in Wadhurst, 12 October, talking about Starling and much more
    • Short Story writing workshop series at Barnetts Books in Wadhurst, weekly through October
    • Writing Nature workshop series at East Grinstead Bookshop, weekly on Thursday mornings through November.
    There are only two tickets left for the Literary Lounge as I write, so ring the shop on 01892 783566 if you want to nab them. The short story workshops in Wadhurst are fully booked, but you have time to grab your place on the nature writing workshops in East Grinstead. You can book in the shop or on the bookshop’s website.
  • “Butler’s writing is a joy”

    Another lovely surprise – this time a wonderfully positive full-page review in Sussex Life. Excuse me if I quote from it, but Anne Hill’s response to Starling really made me happy: “Starling’s inner journey is brought to life as vividly as her physical trekking through the countryside, and her final decisions seem fitting. Luc, Kit and the many other characters are similarly well-rounded and convincing – it’s a pleasure to spend time with them. And throughout, Butler’s writing is a joy, effortlessly moving from detailed nature observations to sharp dialogue – at times lyrical, at times blunt, but always apposite and engaging. … This is a thoughtful book which stays with you for days.”
  • Starling review in The Observer

    Well, I really didn’t expect this – I know just how rare it is for any book to be reviewed in the national press. So thank you to Fairlight for making it happen, and an even bigger thank you to Hephzibah Anderson for writing such generous things about Starling. Here’s a link to the review on The Observer’s website.
  • I have an agent!

    Wonderful news today – the lovely literary agent Julia Silk at Greyhound Literary has taken me on as one of her authors! We’ve been chatting about my Medway book and very soon I’ll be taking Julia for a walk down to the river as we refine the submission before she sends it out. I cannot tell you how exciting this is! So I’m celebrating by bringing out my favourite but very delicate tea cup. Later, perhaps, I’ll have a small glass of wine by the river … This is a happy day!
  • Nature writing workshops

    Our writing workshops planned for June have been moved to November, when we can wrap up warm in the upstairs room at the East Grinstead Bookshop and dream of summer or immerse ourselves in the wind and rain of winter. Booking details will follow, but save Thursday mornings in November if you’re interested. This is a series of writing workshops exploring how we can write about nature. It’s open to every writer, whether you’ve never dared put a word on the page before or have been writing for years. I’m looking forward to it enormously – do sign up if you’re interested!
  • What’s the recipe for an ideal writing workshop?

    Great coffee, comfy sofas, an ancient panelled room and six writers who are open, engaged and so happy to be there that we couldn’t fail to enjoy ourselves. For four Thursdays in March, I led a series writing workshops above the Bookshop in East Grinstead exploring short stories. We read, wrote and experimented and thought about our process. The writers were such a pleasure to work with, and I’m looking forward to the next workshop series already.
  • Faversham Literary Festival

    I’ve discovered that I love to talk about writing and books and Starling on a stage so I had a wonderful time chatting with fellow author Peggy Riley at the Faversham Lit Fest on 18 February. The audience was warm and friendly and asked great questions – I came home buzzing! (I was so involved in the moment that I can’t remember any of the questions now but I do remember thinking how good they were at the time.)
  • Creative writing workshops in East Grinstead – March 2023

    Following our packed Starling event in December, the lovely team at East Grinstead Bookshop asked if I’d be interested in teaching some writing workshops in the shop. Easy question – I’d love to! It’s always interesting to meet other writers, wherever they are in their writing lives, and it’s such a privilege to be able to share some of my experience and knowledge. So from 3 March I’ll be leading a series of four workshops looking at the art of writing short fiction. Do book – it’s going to be fun! Book here.
  • Faversham Literary Festival – 18 February 2023

    The Faversham Literary Festival has some amazing big names lined up this year including Michael Palin, Simon Armitage, Hollie McNish, Maggie O’Farrell – and me! I’ll be chatting on stage with wonderful novelist Peggy Riley so do come and join us. I’d love to say hello! You can buy your tickets here.
  • Local bookshop love!

    I am so grateful to my local bookshops for the amazing support they’ve given me and Starling. They’ve gone so far beyond simply stocking Starling in their shops – and even that is a big step for a small shop, as debut novels in hardback aren’t always the easiest to sell! Barnetts of Wadhurst put Starling in their window from the first day. Kemptown Bookshop in Brighton held a launch event in the shop’s warm and welcoming cafe upstairs (I’ll be heading back there for a day of coffee and writing for sure). East Grinstead Bookshop held a signing event in the shop, and followed it up with a Meet the Author event in the Junction Inn in my own village – we expected maybe ten people to come, and in the end there were so many that people had to turn away because there was no more room! Mr Books of Tonbridge made Starling their Christmas special offer for loyal customers, placing it front and centre of their main display (and said lovely things about it!). And – a complete surprise – I walked past the big Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells and there was Starling right in the middle of the main display window, and face out in their New Fiction wall. Thank you, booksellers, I love you!
  • US literary podcast

    Lovely US literary podcaster GP Gottlieb interviewed me about Starling just before Christmas. I was a little apprehensive because GP likes to record in one take, with no questions sent in advance, but she is so delightful and friendly that I enjoyed chatting with her from the start. The podcast is now part of the New Books Network archive so you can listen to it any time you like.
  • Starling in the news

    Local press is so important when a book comes out so I was incredibly happy to see Starling feature in the Times of Tunbridge Wells in October – half a page, no less! And in February 2023, very local magazine Langton Life asked me to write up a walk around my village. It explores a landscape that Starling would recognise, even though the book’s location is imaginary. It’s a gorgeous walk of hills, valleys and rivers so I hope readers will head out in their wellies to see it for themselves – and imagine Starling striding out ahead of them.
  • Two women on a stage. On the right, poet Jess Mookherjee, holding microphone and looking surprised. On the left, writer Sarah Jane Butler, listening.
  • Wordstock 2022

    Fabulous poet, Jess Mookherjee, and I had a ball talking about her latest collection, Notes From a Shipwreck at Wordstock on 12 November 2022. Jess and I used to belong to the same poetry workshop so it was huge fun to interrogate her about poems I’d seen in their earliest stages and how she brought them to the page. Wordstock is organised by professional writers’ organisation, 26, which I’ve belonged to for many years. This year’s guests included Esther Freud, Sharlene Teo and movement coach Polly Bennett revealing the secrets behind films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Elvis.
  • Snow on the Tracks: folk night

    On 11 November I was invited to read a wintry passage from Starling at a folk night in my village church. The music was wonderful – ancient tunes and modern songs – and I heard a hammered dulcimer for the first time, a truly magical sound. Outside, the snow fell, and the village was cut off – a perfect symmetry.
  • Musicans in a church
  • Starling: reading and signing in East Grinstead

    My first reading and signing of Starling is at the lovely independent bookshop in East Grinstead on Saturday 8 October. Come along and hear me read, or drop by later and have a chat. I’m looking forward to it!
  • Starling is published!

    And here it is in my happy hands in Kemptown Bookshop in Brighton and in the window of Barnett’s of Wadhurst. Seeing Starling in these wonderful shops was the moment that I finally believed my book is really out in the world!
  • Writing while living with ME

    I’ve had ME for over 25 years, so was delighted when the Irish Times asked me to write a piece about how it affected the way I wrote Starling. You can read the piece online here.
  • Sarah on the radio!

    On Sunday 2 October, I was interviewed by Emily Jeffrey on BBC Sussex – we walked to the rocks near my house and talked landscape, nature and the inspiration behind Starling. You can hear the interview on the BBC Sounds app (it starts just after three hours into the show). The photo is Emily on top of the rocks!
  • Talking Place

    This is my kind of heaven – two whole days of fascinating and brilliant writers talking about the connection between place and creativity. Even more exciting – I’ve been asked to take part! I’ll be chatting about Slow Medway on Day One, Friday 9 September. I’d love to see you there! There’s a free online day on 2 September, and the in-person symposium is on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September, in Manchester. Talking Place details and tickets.
  • Friends of the River Medway

    The lovely people at Friends of the River Medway asked me along to speak at their Water Saving Week event on 17 May 2022. Alongside national campaigners Tristram Stuart and Paul Powlesland and local activist Zofia Page, I spoke about the vulnerability of the river and read from my work in progress, Slow Medway. Taïs Bean and her band sang beautiful river songs to end a wonderful, positive evening.
  • Two women on a stage - Rachel Millward and Sarah Jane Butler Rachel Millward interviews Sarah Jane Butler about Slow Medway
  • Starling is officially announced

    Huge excitement! Starling finally felt real when, on 18 February, the publishing press announced that Fairlight had acquired the rights. I was writing at Gladstone’s Library and had a huge grin on my face all day.
  • What a fabulous cover!

    On 25 April, Fairlight revealed the gorgeous cover they commissioned for Starling. The artist is James Weston Lewis and I think he’s caught the atmosphere of the opening chapters, where Starling is alone in the winter wood, perfectly. Thank you, James!