Sandra Gail Lambert writes memoir and fiction that is often about the body and its relationship to the natural world. She is a 2018 NEA Creative Writing Fellow, and her memoir, A Certain Loneliness, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2018. Among the places her writing has been published are The Southern Review, New Letters, Brevity, Water~Stone Review, the North American Review, DIAGRAM, Hippocampus and The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Vol. 11. She is co-editor of the anthology Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival. Her work has received Pushcart Prize nominations and is a Best of the Net finalist. The River’s Memory (Twisted Road/2014), is her debut novel. Sandra lives with her wife in Gainesville, Florida—a home base for trips to her beloved rivers and marshes.
Art Talk with NEA Literature Fellow Sandra Gail Lambert: Interview by Paulette Beete—excerpts
LAMBERT: I was that girl who hung out with the school librarian and read with a flashlight under the covers until my mother came in and threatened me with ruined eyesight. At school I’d have my current book opened up inside the math textbook I was supposed to be studying and, later in life, I’d call in sick to work to lie in bed and read a novel all the way through. Reading could soothe me or empower or educate or offer a desperately needed moment of escape. It’s a cliché, but reading did save my life (So my poor eyesight, bad math skills, and lying were worth it.) My job as a writer is to offer at least some small part of what saved me to others.
NEA: Are there questions you find yourself returning to time and again in your work? What’s your obsession as an artist?
LAMBERT: The body. For me, it’s always the body. Writers with disabilities write all sorts of ways in all sorts of genres, but it’s not often that one of us will leave the body out of our writing.
NEA: What’s your superpower as an artist, and what do you wish you were better at as an artist?
LAMBERT: My father was a drill sergeant. This is not a metaphor. He was a real drill sergeant. I know how to make a bed the correct way. That is not a writing skill, but what is a writing skill is that for better and for worse, I am a disciplined person. Not that I don’t procrastinate and fritter away time as much as the next writer, but I show up. Just that can take a writer a long way. But discipline, that rigid sometimes self-bullying type of discipline, makes it harder for me to access all those other necessary parts of being a writer—openness, trust, embrace of the unexpected and the unknown.
“A woman born without legs spends her days swimming with manatees. Two artists, separated by centuries, guide each other’s hands. And a child of the Florida frontier sits on the graves of her siblings to think about race relations and the habits of caterpillars.
These are some of the women who live along the banks of a river where water billows from caverns of silent lakes. None of them are famous. None have children.
Instead, their stories exist in a mosaic of time and shadowed history, and the things of the river–clay and water, trees and bone–carry their memories forward.”
“Lovingly crafted details abound, succinctly revelatory of women’s lives.”—Booklist
“Sandra Gail Lambert has an ear for the poetry of voices, the music of land, and the roar of history.”—Tayari Jones
“Here are stories . . . digging deep and calling out old spirits.”—Janisse Ray
“The writing—over and over again—is beautiful, transcendent, and engaging.”—Connie May Fowler