by Ellen Frantz ’19 (De La Salle House)
On Thursday, March 7, author Tara Sullivan came to visit Trinity High School. She is the author of The Bitter Side of Sweet, THS’s first ever “one-book-one-school” novel.
Mrs. Sullivan spoke with the whole school that morning before she led some writing workshops with several English classes and held Q&A sessions with others.
During the talks, Mrs. Sullivan kept repeating that she is married and a mother of three children. Her two books, Golden Boy and The Bitter Side of Sweet, both deal with social issues. She said that researching these topics have definitely impacted her life and, in turn, the lives of her husband and children.
Since The Bitter Side of Sweet deals with the topic of child trafficking and slavery in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast, Mrs. Sullivan had to do lots of research. But, in the Ivory Coast, they were imprisoning journalists who asked about child slavery.
“Cocoa is the main export of the Ivory Coast,” Mrs. Sullivan explained, “so they didn’t want to ruin it.” she told the journalism class.
Because of this and the family she left at home, Mrs. Sullivan had to cancel the research trip to the Ivory Coast that she had planned. Instead, she toured a fair trade cocoa plantation in Haiti.
“You can go into the cocoa plantation,” Mrs. Sullivan said about the Ivory Coast cocoa business, “but will you be safe?”
Instead, Mrs. Sullivan had to interview journalists who did made the trip into the cocoa plantations that use child slavery. Some of these reporters now have to live under the constant watch of security, she said.
“This is what makes being an author so hard,” she said of the intense amount of research she had to do.
Besides her work being a potential threat to her life and the lives of her family, her work has also impacted her day-to-day life. Mrs. Sullivan explained to the students how the editing process of her books is the hardest part. She explained how she covers the walls of her home with pages from her novel and then uses different color highlighters to identify certain literary devices in her book to make sure they are evenly spread out throughout her novel. This, she said, was her family’s least favorite part of her writing process since that is how she spends most of her time.
“It also makes for a messy living room,” she quipped.
Due to Mrs. Sullivan’s intense research into child slavery in the chocolate industry, she now no longer buys mainstream chocolate, much to her children’s dislike. After learning about the horrible conditions these chocolate workers put young kids through, she no longer wants to buy chocolate from a company that buys from these farmers. Although most people would not hesitate to buy a mainstream candy bar, it is all a part of Mrs. Sullivan’s goal to get kids to help change the world, even at a young age.