Here is Saxifrage's interview with Valkyrie Benson,a first-year with intended English and Psychology majors:
Sax: What year/major are you?
V: I am a first-year, and I'm planning to declare my majors (soon!) in English (writing) and Psychology, as well as a minor in Hispanic Studies.
Sax: What initially got you interested in writing?
V: Cliché as it might sound, I think I've always been interested in writing. I learned to read early, and even before that my parents read to me, so I have always been an avid bookworm, and I think at some point it just clicked: "Hey, I could do that!" There are still stapled-together "books" lying around my house somewhere that I wrote and illustrated; I particularly remember one I dictated to my mom in preschool, something like "Mommy and Daddy and Kyrie Go on a Roller-coaster." I also remember my first poem, written in first grade:
A bear in red underwear
Might go flying through the air
But that would be very rare.
More than anything, I think I've just always loved words, and I love playing with the infinite ways I can use them.
Sax: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
V: Gosh, you have to ask the hard questions, don't you? All around me, I think. I remember telling someone once that I like writing nature poetry, and living in Washington, I have written a lot of poems about the rain! For stories, I really like playing with already-existing ideas and people's expectations about them. Right now I'm really into taking characters from mythologies and fairy tales and exploring them more deeply. However, I think my favorite inspiration is those just-popped-into-my-head-for-
no-earthly-reason ideas. Those are the ideas that can sometimes give me goosebumps when I start to write them down.
V: There are so many! I think first of all, the wonderful authors whose books I devoured as a child -- J.K. Rowling, E. Nesbit, Gail Carson Levine, Sharon Creech, Shel Silverstein, Norton Juster, Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the list goes on and on -- because they taught me to love reading. I also love the work of Ursula K. LeGuin and her fantastic descriptions as well as the poetry of Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay, poetry that you can immerse yourself in.
Sax: What artists have most influenced you?
V: Again with the tough questions! I think maybe the best word is "quiet." I think a lot of my work has a pensive, reflective quality to it -- my characters don't tend to get in big fights; my poems often describe something I'm thinking about or something happening just outside my window. I guess a lot of my writing is very personal, in a way, too. I don't write a lot about things that have a global significance -- political issues or societal problems or the like. I prefer to just illustrate scenes from my life or thoughts I'm having and let the reader read into them what meaning they will.
Sax: How would you describe your style?
V: Imaginative, perfectionistic (is that a word?), pensive.
Sax: What three words would you use to describe your self?
V: I picked up a copy during the activity fair at the end of orientation and signed up to receive the emails. I thought it was really cool and would be fun to be a part of, and my friends kept encouraging me to submit things, so I did -- just before the deadline.
Sax: How did you get involved with Saxifrage?
Sax: What words of wisdom would you give to beginning artists?
V: Definitely the old "follow your dream" is true -- keep doing what you love; you never know where it will take you! Also, be open to inspiration -- don't be afraid of the weird ideas; sometimes they're the best. For writers, especially, I would say to love words -- play word games, read poetry, eavesdrop on conversations -- and let the way they reverberate in your head lead you to create your own reverberations.
Sax: What are your post-PLU plans?
V: Well, it's a long way in the future, so don't be surprised if they change! I would like to take a year off after graduating to travel and teach abroad, then go to grad school and get my Master's degree and PhD in English/Creative writing so I can teach them at the college level.
Sax: What is your idea of the worst possible summer vacation?
V: See, all these tough questions! I guess for me, a terrible summer vacation would be one where I was trapped inside all summer. I come from a family that really likes to camp, so a summer without a shower-less week by a lake or a hike up a mountainside would really be bad. I like to explore and see new places as well as have those quiet moments many miles away from a freeway (and yes, sometimes even far away from flush toilet) to sit and ponder a placid lake or a tumultuous river or some yellow-throated wildflower. So, I guess the worst vacation would be being cooped up in my house all summer, and the best would be a long camping trip, although the best could very easily turn into the worst if it was still mosquito season. Yeah, I guess that would really be the worst -- I swear I've seen mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds!