Ampersand: Meet Tya

Jacob is out and about once again, this time interviewing poet and writer Tya Saunders about her creative process and emotional investment.

Jacob Mauser, Associate Editor of Creative Content - Touchstone

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. This interview was originally conducted in February 2019.

Can you talk about who or what inspires you when you write?

Well, the only person who inspires me is probably my own damn brain. I read different types of poetry all the time, and sometimes I don’t remember the authors at all, but I usually just copy what they do, different things that I find interesting, different techniques…


Can you talk about some of your favorite other poets in your field?

Maya Angelou. I love her to death. I love all kinds of poetry, and I can’t really remember everything, but the main person I know is Maya Angelou.


What’s your routine for when you work? How do you get into a groove?

I pick a place where it’s completely quiet, no noise, no thumping, no tiny areas, and I take a notebook and I basically write down everything that comes to mind. Everything, anything, even if it’s weird. And then I put it on the internet, if I have to.


How did you get started?

Well, I was in high school when I started, because I wrote fiction first before I wrote poetry. I was still kinda rusty on the fiction part, but I’m still pretty good, apparently. But I was worrying about not having a talent, because I couldn’t sing, I could barely dance, so then I started writing, and people liked it, so I kept writing.


What themes draw you in? What do you like to talk about- is there anything you find yourself returning to a lot?

Depression. I return to depression and anxiety a lot, apparently. There’s no happiness.


Along those lines, are there any major challenges that you’ve faced?

More or less dealing with the depression that really gets me going. It could be something that I’m trying to get over, but it would be fresh in my mind, and sometimes I can’t really finish certain things because it would take over me, physically. I power through it, but sometimes it becomes too much.


Can you talk specifically about how you handle it when it does become too much?

Usually I just put my pen down, I walk away from my writing, and I take a few deep breaths and watch YouTube, and watch funny videos to distract myself for a bit and make sure I’m calm before I return to my writing.


Can you think back to a pivotal moment in your artistic career? Any moment where you thought: “this is what I need to be doing,” or, “I should work this way.”

It was when I took Ms. Randall’s class- her Introduction to Writing poetry. She basically gave me all these resources to continue writing poetry and she motivated me to write more instead of writing less. Then I met Terri- Terri Witek- and then she motivated me even more to write more, because she loved me so much. It’s mainly the professors, Terri and Ms. Randall, who write the most creatively, who motivated me to push, to keep writing, and who motivated me to keep enjoying what I do.


So you’ve found a lot of help from the English Department?



What other art are you into right now?

Writing fiction. I’m taking the Introduction to Writing Fiction because I haven’t written fiction since freshman year of high school, so I thought I was gonna be kinda rusty until I actually turned it in recently, and everybody loved it. So I was really surprised, I was like “I thought it was gonna be basic!”


Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get started writing fiction or poetry?

My only advice is to use it as a therapeutic method first. If you have something that’s on your mind, that’s really building up and stressing you out, write it down how you feel it should be written down. If you feel like there’s artistic value to it, read it to somebody that you know writes poetry. They’ll tell you how to “scaffold.” Use it as a therapeutic method first and write down all the things that worry you.


So the emotions are definitely important?



If you could work in a different kind of art, do you know what it would be?

Piano. I used to play all the time and I took a class on it. I really liked playing piano, I don’t know why I didn’t continue. But it hurts my fingers.


Can you think of any of your pieces that you think best describes you?

Does it have to be poetry?


It doesn’t have to be poetry. Anything you’ve created.

The one that describes me in a nutshell would be my fiction right now. More like a memoir, “Death of an Army Man” (published in Touchstone 2017). That’s the one that mostly describes me. It’s a memoir, not a fiction, about my mom, and having a fear of her dying while she was oversees in the army. That’s the one that would put me in a nutshell basically.


I know we all really liked that one.

I’m glad.


If you had to describe yourself and your work in one or two short sentences, do you know what you would say?

I’m a very strong and independent person, but inside I am more crumpled up than any piece of paper that you would throw in the garbage. So many people claim that I’m so strong and independent, and they’re like, “oh I wanna be like you, I wanna have your confidence.” I even got comments on how I walk, because it looks like I don’t care. I don’t care what anybody else thinks, which is true. At the same time, inside, when I’m alone in my room, I do care. It hurts my feelings, or I cry, but I try not to let people see that part of me because I know I’m supposed to be some strong-ass trunk, or some shit, and be there for my friends and my family. But I can’t hold it all, all the time.


Are you working on anything right now that you’re excited about?

Well, I’m finishing my fiction for my class, and it’s horrendous. Not like the writing’s bad, but the story itself- you’d think I have a phobia of old people. I’m finishing that right now, and it’s taking a toll on me, it’s tiring, but I’m very very excited to finish it, and maybe even publish it.