Bloomfield Hills native and author Sabrina Must shares her personal stories to inspire others. She wrote her first memoir, “Must Girls Love,” after losing her sister from suicide. The book release for her next work, “A Terrible Dater,” will be in Birmingham on Feb. 21. She tells us more in 20 questions.
By Alana Blumenstein
Featured photo courtesy Thomas Lynch
1. Tell me about yourself: I have a lot of energy. I would describe myself more than anything as very driven. When I’m focused on something, I am very passionate about making it happen.
2. I hear you’re a Michigan native. Can you tell us more about your background? I am. My whole family lives in Michigan, except I have one sister who lives in New York. I grew up in Bloomfield Hills up the street from the Franklin Cider Mill. I know the area very well. I’m very integrated to Detroit, and that’s one of the main reasons that I’m returning for the main book release party. Just because it’s all about community.
3. You received both a bachelor’s in writing from Johns Hopkins and a master’s in writing from Northwestern. Have you always loved to write? Not at all! I had applied to Johns Hopkins and didn’t know what I wanted to study. I was originally an international relations major, but I didn’t like that. And I just happened to like all of the courses that I had to take for the writing seminars. And so, I just was like, “OK, I guess I’ll just do this!” I was probably the only person in my writing major that didn’t plan on writing books or plan on some type of writing career. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then when my sister died, it just kind of happened that my whole life was focused around writing.
4. Your first book, “Must Girls Love” published in 2009, details a very personal event in your life. When you started writing, did you know you were writing a book? Did you go into it with the intent of publishing? I started writing it not knowing that it was a book. And then within a few months someone had referenced it as like, “Oh, the book that you’re writing,” and it just kind of became that. It was a very natural progression. I fell into it organically, and it took on a mind of its own. I would finish writing one about something, like, my sister’s childhood. And then I would just keep adding and adding and adding until it became this whole thing of its own.
5. What made you decide to share it with the world? I wanted other people to know what really goes on when someone commits suicide. Or even when you lose someone really close to you. And I think there was a lot of mystery around it. Not so much now, I think people talk about it a little bit more, because it’s become more mainstream in the media. But 11 years ago, I didn’t know anyone that committed suicide — other than my great aunt, who I’d never met. Some of it was for my own selfish reasons of I didn’t want my sister to be forgotten and I didn’t want to forget about her. But a lot of it was with the intention of wanting to start conversations around things that happen to almost every family. And it’s not just about suicide. Death, mental illness, just grief in general, family issues, drug abuse, eating disorders — everything that is covered in that book.
6. You’ve dedicated your life to sharing your stories with others. What do you think is so important about sharing our experiences? Each person is not just one thing. They’re not just a student. Or, they’re not just an artist. Or, they’re not just this or just that. There are so many different experiences that you go through every day or every year. My blog is sometimes all over the place, where I don’t have a quote-on-quote niche. But I see it as they’re all part of the same thing because it’s all about sharing about life, all with the undertone of, “If I’ve been there, you’ve been there; if you’ve been there, I’ve been there.” Enjoying life more is hard to do if you’re so caught up in your head and not living more authentically. Especially in the age of social media. You kind of get caught up in it. So, I just share it all, for better or worse. And, instead having this façade of social media, it’s like we’re actually having real conversations. And someone feels like they’re understood.
7. You have overcome a lot and still manage to stay positive and happy. How do you stay so positive? Well, I’m not always. There are definitely times where I’m like, “Man, I’m being so negative.” I mean, I’m still a human. I’m not always smiles and giggles. But at the same time, I also think there’s a lot of beauty in crying. But for the most part, I really love what I do. Like, I couldn’t wait to get up and start working today. And I think that is one of the intentions of why I write and why I create what I do. Because I think that more people should feel that.
8. Describe your writing process. Do you have a favorite place or time of day to write? If anyone watched me writing, they would think I wasn’t working. Whenever I’m ready and inspired, I go, “OK I’m ready.” And then I write a bunch and then I go to a yoga class and I take a break. And then I go and do something else and I take a break. I work all day long, but I have to wake up and go to yoga or go for a run or go surf or whatever it is, and then I sit, and I’ll work and write.
9. Who, or what, inspires you? A lot of times, I strive more so in positivity. If someone’s like, “Great job,” I’m like, “Great, I’ll keep going!” And my mom is extremely supportive. She thinks I’m like the greatest writer in the world. Having that kind of support is very motivational for me because I don’t feel like I’ll fail.
10. What are your interests and hobbies? I’m an athlete at heart. So, I am very, very active. My time, when I’m not writing creatively or working for a client, is spent playing outside. So, going to yoga, surfing, running, biking around and running with my dog. I like to travel, but honestly, no matter where I am, I end up doing the same thing. I’m still going to bike around town, I’m still going to get in the ocean somewhere, and I’m going to go surf — even though I’m not that great.
11. You’ve traveled all over the world. What do you love most about traveling? I like the unknown. And just going somewhere that I don’t know anything about. That’s typically how I approach traveling. I don’t plan too much. That being said, I work a lot while I travel, so I’ll go and do something fun in the morning and then work all day at a café and people watch and experience. And then I’ll do something else fun at night. Again, it’s kind of what I do normally in San Diego, but it’s just different. You’re kind of learning about other people…learning about yourself more than anything.
12. Do you have a favorite place, memory or experience from one of your trips? There’s a trip that I went on with my sister Miya, a year before she died. I was studying in Thailand and she flew out with my mom and they spent a couple days with me. And then, my mom flew home, and I stayed with Miya for about a week and a half. We had gone down to Southern Thailand, and we got certified in scuba diving together. I like to travel alone sometimes, but I definitely have learned that it’s just so much more joyous to do it with someone else. It’s a different kind of experience.
13. Can you share some of your career highlights? Any moments you are most proud of? Coming out with “Must Girls Love” was one of my biggest highlights, more than anything, because it was an extremely hard time in my life. I didn’t realize even at the time what an accomplishment it was. And it’s the same thing for the Living Witnesses series (“Living Witnesses: Faces of the Holocaust”). My mom’s a photographer, and we did those together. Everything in our family was tough, but I still feel like we honored the survivors.
Now, on to your style…
14. Three words to describe your style? Beachy, flowy and comfortable.
15. What’s the one thing you never leave home without? My dog.
16. Favorite book? “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.
17. When you travel, what are your three essentials you never forget to pack? Bikini, flip flops and summer dresses.
Your Local Love List…
18. Favorite spot to visit? I love to go back and see teachers and walk the grounds.
19. Go-to spot in Detroit? Buddy’s Pizza.
20. What final message do you want to leave your readers? Just do something that you love. Be you. As cheesy as that is, the only person I know how to be is me. So, just be as authentic as you can be.
Catch Sabrina Must 6 p.m. at Dick O’ Dow’s in Birmingham Feb. 21 for her book launch for “A Terrible Dater,” about what it’s really like to be a single woman.