Few area organizations have quietly impacted Westchester’s artistic landscape quite like the Hudson Valley Writers Center (HVWC). For more than three decades, the center has offered graduate-school-quality courses, readings by some of the world’s most lauded writers, a range of community outreach programs, and hosted countless special events. On May 18, the HVWC will be participating in the first-ever Sleepy Hollow Lit Fest with a veritable fleet of acclaimed poets and writers.
According to HVWC co-director Jennifer Franklin, the organization is, to say the least, multifaceted. “Our mission is four-pronged: our press, the reading series, the courses, and our outreach program,” explains Franklin. “With writers like Chen Chen, Natalie Diaz, and Michael Cunningham, we have an extremely exciting and diverse reading series. In addition, we have both six-week and one-day courses, as well as master classes and hybrid one-day courses,” adds Franklin, who possesses an MFA from Columbia University and teaches a poetry class herself. The center’s Slapering Hol Press (an Old Dutch derivation of the name Sleepy Hollow) provides two prizes for up-and-coming poets and operates its own bookstore.
In addition, the center’s community-outreach programs include events like Open Write, in which community members of all walks of life are invited to create new works together, and another program geared toward helping individuals unaccustomed to using computers submit their creative works to literary journals.
Like its programming and press, the HVWC building — located at 300 Riverside Drive in Sleepy Hollow — is also quite notable. “We are in a registered Historic space in a former train-station building that is actually still an operating train stock on the Metro-North Line,” says co-director Krista Madsen. “Our founder, Margo Taft Stever, already ran a poetry series out of Warner Library in Tarrytown, and she had her on eye on the space to create more of a center with workshops. It took a long time to convince Metro-North that we could take over this station and then get the money to restore it. We finally moved into the building in 1996.”
This month’s Sleepy Hollow Lit Fest is perhaps the ideal time to see what the HVWC is all about. The organization will be featuring roughly 50 noted writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including T.S. Eliot Prize-winner BK Fischer, Ilya Kaminsky, Pamela Hart, Joshua Becker, and Cynthia Cruz.