From Audience Member to Award-Winning Author

Sara Barnard is an award-winning author of books for young adults. Her first novel, Beautiful Broken Things, was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and selected as part of Zoella's Book Club. Her more recent novel Goodbye, Perfect has just won the YA Book Prize which was announced at Hay Festival on Thursday 30 May. Here she reflects on her writing journey and experiences at Hay.

I was here in 2016 with my family and we had a cottage for three weeks so we could be here for the whole festival and I watched the YA book prize ceremony then, from the audience, when the winner was Sarah Crossan. I was planning the book and I wrote the whole synopsis and sent it to my agent, all while I was there. I didn’t even realise the circle until I was actually here again and remembered that I was planning the book at Hay.

Having the space and the time at Hay Festival was really helpful. I remember talking a lot about the themes of the book with my parents and I don’t live at home so I don’t see them a lot. So, it definitely had an impact being here. In the atmosphere surrounded by books.

The year 2016 was the first time I was able to go to the festival and it’s such a nice vibe and atmosphere. Everybody is so friendly. It sounds like such a cliché but it’s true. It’s such a nice place to be, the festival and the town. Coming here is a treat. I’m really glad I was able to come as an audience member before because you do feel even luckier to be here as an author because you’ve known what is was like to be here in the audience. It really enhances it.

And the town has got such a history. It’s the town of books. I’ve been coming to Hay-on-Wye since I was young with my dad just to go around the bookshops. It was a treat, a day out, to see all the second-hand bookshops. I had a collection of Sweet Valley Twins books by Francine Pascal and we used to go around every shop asking if they had any. I’m half Welsh so we came to Wales we’d have a day trip to Hay, so the place is really special to me.

Looking back, if I could give any advice to my teenage self it would be don’t worry so much. I was a very anxious and self-conscious teenager with that feeling that all teenagers have of ‘everybody is looking at me, everybody is judging me, everyone can see my thoughts’ and of course they can’t. And you think it’s just you who feels that way and then you get older and you realise ‘oh no everybody felt that way’. And if I’d have known that everybody had felt that way then I wouldn’t have worried so much. So, I suppose it would be that, the spotlight isn’t there, just relax.


Sara Barnard talked Goodbye, Perfect at Hay Festival on Thursday 30 May and Friday 31 May. Listen again on Hay Player here.