Author Sandra Scofield Brings West Texas Heat to SPU Literary Event
ORDINARY AMERICAN PEOPLE. Hard lives. Spiritual dilemmas. Vivid, sensual descriptions. A backdrop of history and heat.
These are distinctives of Sandra Scofield’s stories, which have earned the admiration of readers across the country. Before an attentive audience in Seattle Pacific University’s Art Center Gallery on February 1, 2005, Scofield read from her work and then answered questions, winning some new fans in the process. The event was part of the annual Fan Mayhall Gates Reading Series at SPU.
While Scofield has been living in green, rainy Oregon for decades, Texas is the prevalent context for her storytelling. Vast skies and empty spaces set the stage for spiritual dramas at the crossroads of memory and yearning, where discontented characters — teen-agers in 1950s West Texas, a widower in Mexico, mothers and daughters trying to relate — struggle toward insight and compassion. These tales have earned Scofield an NEA fellowship, a New American Writing Award (for Gringa), a place among National Book Award finalists (for Beyond Deserving), and a Best Fiction award from the Texas Institute of Letters (for A Chance to See Egypt).
Her latest work — a memoir titled Occasions of Sin (Norton, 2004) — finds her revisiting the West Texas of her childhood and wrestling with memories of her mother. A second memoir and a book for aspiring writers are in the works.
Professor Emerita Fan Mayhall Gates, herself an enthusiastic attendee of the Gates reading, has become a Scofield fan. “I have heard no other writer speak more lovingly of reading and writing,” she says. “In person or on paper, she is luminous, generous, completely unaffected.” Gates describes Scofield’s literary voice as “evocative, compassionate, and trustworthy.”
Scofield advises aspiring writers with the secret of her memorable honesty: “Nothing comes fast or easy. Everything is about discovery. You have to think of writing as day labor; you show up. You work. At night, you study. Only you don’t get a paycheck, you get insight and story. And if you don’t get them the hard way, they won’t be worth very much. If you do, they are grace.”
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