By Leah Fallon
Sarah Hough is a teenager with initiative.
As a 16-year-old junior at Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn, she’s not only practicing for her SATs and keeping her grades up in school, but she’s publishing a book of poetry.
“She Danced For the Night” is an emersion of her poetry and art, taking on social issues and coming of age. With help from her father, Brad Hough, she started a Kickstarter campaign to help underwrite the publication.
Raising money for a book publication wasn’t the original idea. After visiting a friend who had attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, she commented on Sarah’s work and suggested she make an art portfolio as part of her application for college. As the project started, her father saw a real potential for publication, and knew that a published book is much more interesting than a portfolio.
“This is not your typical high school poetry. Her poetry is well beyond her years and will make you seriously stop and think,” Hough said.
The artist and poet in Sarah Hough has only recently emerged. She said that after having inspiring teachers in middle school, she began to experiment with art, and using a variety of mediums such as colored pencil, charcoal pastels, and paint. Her love for creating has extending beyond her classroom works, and has been supported by her high school art instructor Heathre Mills. “After reading her poetry, I was amazed at how insightful about human nature and the human condition it was,” Mills said. “She is fantastically talented in many ways.”
Paul Koch, Sarah’s English teacher, sees her “tireless commitment to the process” of writing. “Her process is unique and produces fantastic results.” And her process is unusual for a teenager. When she gets an abstract idea, she’s not sure what the result will be. She just chooses a medium and follows it through to the end, he said.
Her writing started through a journal assignment, covering topics such as social injustices, coming of age, and abstract descriptions of nature. The writings impacted her parents and teachers at her school.
“A lot of her poems are thought provoking,” her mother Nassim Hough said. “They describe current issues that society is facing, but in a subtle way. They resonate something inside of me.”
Sarah’s commitment to social justice doesn’t end with her art and poetry. She is co-president of her school’s Feed the Phoenix group that supports various charities including animal shelters and food banks through bake sales and food drives.
Her project is moving along, with some of the artwork and poems paired up in a prototype. Sarah said she feels good about the way it’s turning out so far, though she’s still looking for a publisher. So far she’s raised $1,800 with 30 supporters, surpassing her goal of $1,000. She says that anything else she earns beyond the publication costs will be used for college expenses. She hopes to attend Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue education in the arts.
See her artwork and poetry on display from January through February at the Ashburn Library, 43316 Hay Road in Ashburn. Support her Kickstarter campaign here.