A Slant of Light, Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley is a volume that celebrates the contemporary prose and poetry of more than a hundred women from New York’s Hudson Valley. As the social media intern for the Hudson River Valley Institute, I had the opportunity to ask Judith Saunders, a contributing author to A Slant of Light, some questions about her love of writing and literature. Below are her responses. Judith will be reading an excerpt from A Slant of Light this upcoming Monday, March 31 at the launch party. The event will take place at 7:30 pm at the Henry Hudson Room in Fontaine Hall.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
Inspiration doesn’t visit me “dailly,” alas! Triggers for poems typically are unforeseen and unexpected, often mundane, e.g. a road sign, a line from a magazine article, an unusual pattern of snowdrift in the backyard . . .
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously since about age 15.
What got you interested in writing as a career?
Admiration for the work of other writers probably stimulated the urge to perfect and publish my own.
What is your favorite genre of literature?
I have no one favorite genre, just as I have no single favorite author: there is amazing work everywhere. I do have a special passion for humorous and satiric writing, whether it takes the form of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or verse.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have too many favorite writers even to begin to name them, but here are a few that come to mind immediately: Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Tomlinson, Mary Oliver, Kay Ryan
What advice would you give to student writers?
To student writers I would say this: Over the years I’ve noticed that it’s not necessarily those with most talent who go on to achieve success as writers but, rather; those who persist. All the talent in the world is of no use without long-term dedication of time and energy. Not long ago I read an interview with the wildly successful Nora Roberts. An unusually prolific writer, she works in two different genres (romance and mystery). Asked the secret of her success, she replied succinctly: “Ass in the chair.”
Where is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is wherever I am when inspiration strikes (even if it’s just an idea for an improved line or phrase). I keep a little notebook and pen in my car, and frequently I scrawl in it at stoplights (I tend to get ideas while driving). I also get ideas while walking, so as soon as I get home I write these down on whatever comes to hand. I have notes and drafts on backs of envelopes, margins in magazines, all kinds of crazy places. I have a notebook and a pen that lights up beside my bed, so I can put down any ideas that come to me in the middle of the night. When the bedside pen doesn’t work (as often seems to happen), I grope my way into my office and write my idea down on whatever paper comes to hand, without turning on a light. In the morning I try to decipher these nighttime sparks of creativity.
What is your all-time favorite quote from a book?
There is no one quotation I could pick out from all the great passages I have admired and memorized. Some lines sticking in my head right now are these from Wallace Stevens:
Beauty is momentary in the mind,
The fitful tracing of a portal,
But in the flesh it is immortal.