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'The me I was born to be'
Wildflower women: Sarah Taylor and 'King Zara'
Sarah Taylor

A deeply personal story that for years lived scribbled on scraps of paper tucked inside Sarah Taylor’s jewelry box has come to life between the covers of King Zara, the local author’s debut children’s book released earlier this year by Rebel Queen publishing.

A Licensed Professional Counselor by trade, Taylor, 41, has worked in both community and private mental health care since graduating from Georgia Southern University in 2007 as a Double Eagle, with both her bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology.

“I always knew I would go into a helping profession, but it wasn’t until I took abnormal psychology in college that I knew counseling was the path I should take,” she said.

“I had a professor in grad school who used to say, ‘A therapist at 20 is 20. A therapist at 40 is a therapist.’ This statement makes more sense every year I’m in this profession. College prepares you for your career to a certain extent — learning theories, diagnostic criteria, ethics, interventions, tools — but it isn’t until you’re sitting in front of a person who is hurting that you truly begin to learn the art of counseling.”

For much of her career, Taylor has counseled active-duty members of the military and their families, both stateside and abroad. Over the years, this work has helped her to better understand the lives and struggles of others, and while her ultimate goal as a counselor is to nurture positive change in her clients, it’s been life-changing for her, too.

“We often say that therapy is a reciprocal relationship — while we, the therapists, are helping our clients, they in turn are helping us as well,” she said. “Realizing (that) my own struggles as an adult began in childhood, I began to look inward and heal from the moments that caused me trauma in my own life.

“Most people, when they hear the word ‘trauma,’ think it only applies to major, devastating events — the ‘big T’ traumas. But we experience ‘little t’ traumas frequently throughout our lives — moments that make us feel unsafe or change our perspective of the world or our lives,” she continued. “When I began working with children, I started seeing these ‘little t’ traumas happen in real time in the form of peer rejection, bullying, unhealthy interactions with caregivers (and so forth). It became my goal to fight against unhealthy narratives and self-beliefs setting up in their minds.

“So many of us still operate from unhealthy beliefs about ourselves from childhood.”

Sarah Taylor
"King Zara" author Sarah Taylor holds a school photo of herself at age 13. By the seventh grade, she had developed Social Anxiety Disorder, fueled by extreme insecurities and self-consciousness and an intense, persistent fear of being judged by others. She recalls back in those days, she always pulled her hair back into a ponytail and wore a letterman jacket year round, and refused to go anywhere because of her crippling anxiety. It has taken her years of work to learn to accept her authentic self. "Thirteen-year-old me would be mortified that I'm sharing my school picture," she said. "She is a part of my story, and she deserves to be loved, even if she doesn’t feel worthy." (SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

It’s a reality she has experienced on a profound level, not only throughout her years of training and counseling but also in her own life. Taylor was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1983 to parents Steve and Judy. Three years later, her father became a Primitive Baptist preacher, a profession that took the family on a series of moves between Georgia and Tennessee before they finally settled in Statesboro in 1996.

“My childhood moves had a huge impact on my life and development — we would move to a place, try to make friends, finally get settled, then have our worlds ripped away from us,” she said. “Being the constant ‘new kid,’ I had more than my fair share of peer rejection, bullying, and time spent dreading recess because I had no one to play with.

“I first started experiencing anxiety and depression in the third grade, and by the time I was in seventh grade I had developed Social Anxiety Disorder, which is an intense, persistent fear of being judged by others, being very self-conscious and having intense anxiety (and) fear in social situations,” she said.

“I went from being the kid who was so confident that she refused to let her mom walk her to her classroom the first day of kindergarten to being withdrawn, anxious and lonely.”


King Zara is dedicated to Taylor’s mother, Judy Taylor, who supported her daughter’s love for reading and bought her every book she ever wanted, even as an adult. Judy passed away last year after a brief battle with brain cancer. Taylor has already written a second children’s story, a book about grief, which she hopes to publish soon. 

Semi-autobiographical in nature, Taylor’s newly published book follows the tale of young Zara (a play on Sarah’s own name), a bright girl destined to stand out and shine, whose crown emanates light and hope to all in her kingdom. But when her classmates begin to tease and reject her, Zara locks away her crown — and her light — giving up the very thing that makes her special in an attempt to fit in.

In the absence of her bright light, a dark monster creeps in, sending the kingdom into peril. As darkness spreads and fear consumes its people, Zara must decide whether to continue seeking the acceptance of her peers, or to embrace her power and light — her true self — to conquer the monster and restore her kingdom.

“Admittedly, there are several metaphors that might go over a child’s head, but this book is meant for readers of all ages — parents, grandparents, caregivers (and) teachers included,” Taylor said. “My goal for the book was twofold: to remind children entering school that, yes, they may be different and misunderstood, but it’s OK to be yourself, it’s OK to have goals and dreams different from your peers; and secondly, to invite healing in the adults also reading the book.”


Florida-based creative Hannah Decker was hired by the publishing company to bring Taylor’s vision to life. “It was amazing to see a world that had only existed in my mind at one point be manifested on paper,” Taylor said of Decker’s work. “She is a very gifted artist and was able to take my descriptions of the characters and kingdom and create the beautiful illustrations she did.”

She recalls a client with whom she was working to improve his communication skills. He sought Taylor’s help after his wife had become frustrated with his tendency to shut down during conversations.

“Who taught you it was safer to be quiet than speaking your mind?” Taylor asked him.

“He thought for a moment, and began to describe interactions he had with his father growing up where he felt that his opinion wasn’t important and often ridiculed,” she said.

“We all have experienced rejection in one form or another; we’ve all given up something, chiseling away at our core selves in some way,” she continued. “Giving away these pieces of ourselves can cause depression, anxiety (and more). As a therapist, I have no magic wand to instantly cure anyone; all I can do is plant a seed of healing and hope that it will grow and help them. King Zara is the invitation — the seed — for adults to think about what they’ve given up of themselves and how they can return to themselves.”


King Zara is available to purchase on Amazon, both in digital format and as a hardcover or paperback. Taylor also will be selling and signing her books at a number of upcoming local events:

  • ArtsFest | Saturday, April 20 | Sweetheart Circle at GS
  • Meet the Author | Saturday, April 27 | Statesboro Regional Library
  • Pecan Festival | Saturday, May 18 | downtown Register

For more, visit Taylor's website here.

King Zara cover

Sarah Taylor

Though Taylor’s parents and brother have since moved away, she decided to stay and put down roots in Statesboro, where she currently lives with her boyfriend, Juan, and their furbabies, Reese and Bubby. The relationships she’s built along the way have played a crucial role in her journey to facing her own “little t” traumas, to overcoming the darkness and embracing authenticity — just like Zara.

“I joke that luckily a few extroverts adopted me and helped me learn that it was OK to be myself, it was OK to let down my defenses and enjoy life again,” Taylor said. “Between them and the work I’ve done with therapists, coaches and others who have helped me along the way, I’ve come back to myself — the me I was born to be.”

In fact, the book itself is very tangible evidence of that growth.

“I’m most proud that I didn’t allow the fear and insecurities I had about putting my work out into the world stop me,” she said. “This message is one that I’m very passionate about, and I’m proud that my desire to help others overpowered the doubt I was experiencing.

“I truly hope this book will help facilitate the healing process for anyone in need of healing.”