Saxifrage interviewed Grace Garvey-Hall, a Junior majoring in English writing and Hispanic studies at PLU. She has been featured in Saxifrage twice, and is a very talented poet. We decided to ask about her writing origins, inspiration, and advice to up-and-coming writers.
SAXIFRAGE: Why did you chose to major in English writing and Hispanic Studies English?
GRACE: I’ve always been really interested in education, but I just think that there’s a different sort of education that comes from reading books and talking to people and traveling that goes beyond the classroom; I want to teach in the classroom with a broader picture of the world. Also, I do have a lot of interests, and I couldn’t just pick one thing, and so with English I felt like I could be exposed to a lot of different things and learn what I wanted.
SAXIFRAGE: Tell me about the pieces you’ve had published in Saxifrage.
GRACE: There were two poems freshman year, and one last year. Freshman year I was very surprised because I really decided to do it [submit] on a whim. One of the poems was up at a gallery Saxifrage had at NPCC of photography and poetry, and my poem was picked. I was like, “Wait, what? I just write this stuff!” It was really rewarding to be recognized and come into this community as a Freshman, and I guess see that my work was universal enough that others liked it too.
SAXIFRAGE: Do you notice any themes in your writing, any topics you particularly enjoy touching on?
GRACE: Umm…myself? Haha. Well, I feel like my poems [often focus on] summer days—my best poems have been written about these summer days when you’re just like, “Wow this is really awesome!” Or myself and my family—I really like to talk about the women in my family—my grandma, my mom, my sister, and me. I like that matriarchal line. I feel like I know about it the most and so have the authority to write about it, so personally and creatively I like to write about my own experiences. And traveling, since that’s something I’ve done.
SAXIFRAGE: I know you’ve mentioned traveling a lot; tell me about how that ties into your writing.
GRACE: I define myself as someone who has traveled and had the opportunity to experience that. The whole reason I started writing was because in high school during my junior year, I was asked to be part of the writing center there, and part of that involved taking a special class, and for my final project in that class I wrote a children’s book about traveling. The theme was that underneath all these differences is basic humanity. I mean, maybe I’m just a girl from a suburb in Minnesota, and maybe this is just a child in Peru, and at the end of the day it’s that basic humanity that ties us together. Once you understand someone it’s a lot harder to hate them. That’s [my] ultimate goal.
SAXIFRAGE: Who’re your favorite authors?
GRACE: Kate DiCamillo. I just love, love what she writes. It’s kind of weird to cite this children’s author but [her work] is so universal, and so much of my exposure to reading and writing is from my parents and they were just as invested as I was in those stories. Also Barbarah Kingsolver, Sharon Creech when I was younger, and Mary Oliver was the person who got me into poetry—my sister introduced me to her. They’re all women! Look at that!
SAXIFRAGE: What writing classes have you most appreciated at PLU?
GRACE: I’m really liking this creative non-fiction class [taught by Rick Barot], and I don’t think I was very good at it, but I really enjoyed Intro to Poetry and Fiction too [taught by Barot as well]. I love the way he goes about teaching writing – half of the class is reading these great writers, and I think that’s totally where good writing comes from, and then the workshopping [comprises the second half]. My Writing 101 class was “Sense of place” with Nathalie op de Beeck, and I really enjoyed focusing on that concept of place and home. That’s something I’ve been meditating on and preparing myself to write about. Then my English 300 course with Lisa Marcus was fantastic; there were really creative assignments. Also, we were really vulnerable because we were writing memoirs and very personal things, so having that close environment was cool.
SAXIFRAGE: What is your favorite part of writing, and what is the most challenging aspect for you?
GRACE: I feel like my answer to both of those questions is kind of the same. The way I write is basically my thought-process, and I’ll write 1,3, 5,8 pages and then I’ll get to my central theme and say, “This is what I wanted to write about!” All those pages won’t be shared, but we talk about writing as a process, exploring your ideas until you really hit home and reach that one thing that’s like, “Yeah! I totally believe in this!” Writing is a very internal process. All writing starts out with you writing for yourself, and then having an audience totally changes things. It’s good to challenge yourself that way though. Also, I love when I’m reading and I get to a sentence I just want to bathe in and wrap myself around in it and live in that sentence. It is so rewarding when I write a sentence and I think, wow, people will really want to live in that sentence.
SAXIFRAGE: What advice do you have for beginning/first-year writers?
GRACE: I was always really intimidated to share my writing and I wanted it to be perfect before I showed it to people. There will always be something you want to change, whether it’s a week later or years later. You’re a different person at that point. There is so much value in letting someone else read your work. And be critical about it, even though it’s really hard—it’s made me a much better writer. With the piece I wrote last year [in Saxifrage], it was scary because it was a self portrait, and I was thinking, “This just got real, really fast, and I don’t know if I want to read it aloud to my class or submit it.” But it’s a good piece of writing, and I realized it would speak to other people, and that’s the best writing you’ll do.