A Portrait of the Writer

Sarah Frye is becoming a literary lynchpin in Providence, but her story is full of twists

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You can meet Sarah Frye pretty easily. She created a new literary series, Out of State Plates, which takes place regularly at Twenty Stories Books. She’s vibrant and fashionable and easy to chat with. You quickly learn that she’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the most esteemed writing program in the country. Every day, Sarah works on her novel, and she loves talking with authors about the craft of fiction writing. If a director was casting a movie about a literary bohemian in the East Side, she would be a shoo-in.

But Sarah’s biography is full of surprises. You would never guess that she grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and studied International Relations at Northeastern University. You’d be surprised to learn that she dropped out of college and worked for the Department of Management at the United Nations. Or that she studied painting in Paris. Or that she came back to New York to work in PR. Or that she slung coffee in San Francisco. Or that she worked as a pattern-maker in a Garment District factory.

“I think it’s the mistake people make when they find everything interesting,” she quips. “You start whittling away all the different jobs you can take.”

Sarah has always been a reader, and she cites Jack Kerouac and Simone de Beauvoir as early influences. In San Francisco, she would hang out at City Lights Books and pick through tomes. After taking a class at the Gotham Writers Workshop, Sarah realized how much she wanted to pursue a literary career. When she finished her program in Iowa – an experience she now describes as transformative – Sarah and her husband triangulated their next move. They wanted ocean access, affordability, and walkable streets. So, they picked the East Side of Providence.

“Providence is a scrappy, artsy, fun little city,” she says. Sarah moved to Providence three years ago, and she now owns a house with her husband and two children. “You picture your kids as teenagers, and you want them to be in an art-noise band, and you want them to skateboard, or join roller derby. And I can see that happening here.”

As Sarah works on her novel, she situates herself at cozy Providence go-tos like The Shop coffeehouse, the RISD Museum, or the Athenaeum. In the past six months, Sarah has started to connect with her adoptive home.

“Organizing the reading series has made a huge difference. This is the first time in my life I haven’t wanted to move back to New York. It came up recently, where someone asked, ‘Do you want to move back?’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m good.’”