Sarah Laing (left), 44, is a cartoonist, fiction writer, illustrator, and graphic designer. Sarah Lang, 37, is the books and culture writer for magazine, and a freelance journalist. The writing Sarahs share a co-working space in Wellington. SARAH LAING/ Sarah actually interviewed me for Sunday magazine, funnily enough.
I’d written a book of short stories and she was getting all of these random congratulatory texts and people telling her that she was a bit of a dark horse and they didn’t know she was actually a fiction writer as well as a journalist. I too had been receiving random compliments for these book and film reviews I had not written, but I was like: “Oh, I did write for the Dom Post in the 90s – maybe they’re talking about those...”
You always have this anxious feeling when you’re being interviewed that actually perhaps the journalist hates your book, but Sarah said she liked it.
After that we had a series of other funny coincidences. I went to the dentist and it just so happened I came straight after her appointment. She’d had like, thousand-dollar dental work done and my teeth were relatively clear, so I think the dentist had fun talking about how we could mix up our teeth records – I could get random implants and she could walk away with her mouth still crumbling.
Once at 2am one of her ex-work mates drunkenly rang me up because she wanted to reminisce. I was living in Auckland and my name was in the phone book. Because I was half asleep, it took me quite a long time to figure out that it was not me she was wanting to reminisce with. It was the other Sarah Lang.
Sarah moved to Wellington first. She advertised on Facebook she had an office at Toi P neke and wanted somebody to share the space with. I messaged her and said that sounds great – I love living in the suburbs but I’d love to come into town and feel like a proper person. I wrote my Mansfield and Me graphic novel there, but at the moment I’m teaching short fiction online and my internet connection is better at home.
I’m very easily distractible and could quite happily chat away for way too long and waste way too much time. Sarah’s super focused, she sits there going type-type-type-type-type-type-type and I’m thinking: “How can you type for so long?!” I’m checking Twitter and Facebook and getting up and making myself a cup of tea. I’m slightly in awe and in envy of Sarah’s incredible focus and stamina when it comes to her work.
Her mother is married to Lockwood Smith. When my mother was at university in the 60s in Palmerston North, he’d taken her on a date. My mother would always say to us: “I went out on a date to a dance with Lockwood Smith, but there was not a flicker! He was not at all interested in me!” So I thought it was kind of funny – this other Sarah Lang, her mother ended up marrying Lockwood Smith. Because, obviously, there was a flicker between them. SARAH LANG/ I’m in the office either three or four days a week. She has a desk in there. She works mainly from home but she likes to work from town occasionally.
Sarah always has 101 things she’s trying to do at once. I can never keep up with all her different pieces of work – comics, designing book covers, tutoring… I cover books for Capital magazine and she often suggests people to me. She’s very much part of the literary clique in Wellington. I’m on the outskirts looking in.
She won the Sunday Star-Times short story competition in 2006. I got so many phone calls, voicemails, texts, emails congratulating me. I kind of started feeling quite proud of myself. Then I felt slightly miffed when I had to go: “Oh, no actually it wasn’t me.” I’d started feeling quite impressive.
I did a story on her once – that’s how we met. I thought she was incredibly shy. She’s not like that, actually, once you get to know her. Then we were kind of acquaintances but we’d email each other when we got mixed up. At a writer’s festival someone thought I was her and tried to usher me on to the stage... We had the same dentist and for some reason, we’d booked in on the same day. He almost got our treatments mixed up. She’s had late-night phone calls meant for me. I get emails meant for her all the time. It’s got the point where I’ll get introduced to someone and they’ll say to me: “Oh, I love your books! I love your graphic novels!” So I always introduce myself as “The Other Sarah Lang”.
Sharing an office took us from being acquaintances to being friends. She has a very, very dry sense of humour, which I like.
I love her comics. They’re often about just funny things that happen – parenting, menstruation – things that happen in women’s lives. I thought her graphic novel on Katherine Mansfield was very, very brave. It told Sarah’s story as well; there were some naked scenes in there…
I think she finds it hard to say “No”, so she ends up doing too much. She’s got three children. She’s often a bit frantic and wishing she was doing a little bit less. She keeps obsessive track of social media – she actually tried to do a social media blackout for a month but she only lasted a few days. Sarah and Sarah are speaking at separate sessions held at the same time on the Saturday night at LitCrawl Wellington, November 10-12. Sarah Lang is hoping people don’t come to her session thinking they’ll see The Other Sarah. See litcrawl.co.nz.