Bedford serves as inspiration for local writers
Matt Costello, author of games, novels, and TV and film scripts, begins each day with a run through the streets of Katonah.
Photos by Sally Green, Paul Hodara, Jamie Kilgore, Wayne Matthews-Stroud
Bucolic Bedford may be the perfect place for writers. The town’s quiet and seclusion nurtures the creative process. At the same time, for writers who thrive on the energy of the city, New York is close at hand.
A hugely prolific writer, Matt Costello has been able to combine his love of literature and games by turning some of his books into successful video games. Costello’s writing process is highly disciplined. Running through the streets of Katonah each morning, he waves to friends on his way, but what looks like exercise is really the beginning of his writing day. As he listens to music, he’s thinking of scenes and characters. He returns home recharged with ideas and writes in a blur through the morning. For Costello, writing fiction is a bit like watching a movie in his head, and the story pours out. Afterward he reflects, going back over the morning’s work with an eye toward editing.
“Writing is very solitary,” he says. “But in some of my other projects, I have worked closely with others. The creative and collaborative part is great. Most writers don’t have that. There is just the screen, the coffee, and the bunny slippers.”
While Susan Hodara writes for the New York Times and other publications alone in a converted bedroom in her Mount Kisco home, collaboration has played a major role in her writing and teaching. Hodara teaches memoir writing at Hudson Valley Writers Center. While the focus of her class is teaching her students to become better writers, she finds the group setting helps because, “Writers can lose all perspective. It can be hard to know if your writing is any good or how well you have communicated with a reader. Classes offer writers a structure—you have to show up with a piece of work. People really get close to each other. Memoirs are often tales of survival or transformation, and in our class that can be inspiring,” she notes.
We write for many reasons—some of them very public, others entirely private. Marlene Gallagher’s love of poetry led her to volunteer for the past decade at the highly acclaimed Katonah Poetry Series. But Gallagher’s own poetry is a deeply personal experience and a way to create a record of her own life for herself and a way for her daughters, both writers, to know her better. “Writing became very therapeutic for me. My husband passed away ten years ago. I have written about his illness and dying, about losing him, and how that changes your identity and your life.
I don’t know how people who don’t write process the same kind of thing because it was very helpful to me. When you sit down and focus your thoughts with a notebook and then look at them, it can be extremely enlightening.” Without the pressure to publish, Gallagher composes poetry when she is inspired. Her poems have become a memoir and, taken together, form a picture of her life.
Jill Brooke, journalist and author, always knew she wanted to be a writer and, as she explains, “wander in the wilderness of words.” She has written for both television and print and had a stint as a CNN correspondent. Brooke credits journalism as exceptional training to be an author, “it turns out to be the best training because you don’t speak in your voice, you speak in an objective voice, you have to wiggle your toes in someone else’s shoes and understand their cadence and point of view.” Brooke would take that training and the desire to comprehend others’ lives into writing her first book, Don’t Let Death Ruin Your Life, which focused on how people successfully deal with loss.
The process of writing the book allowed Brooke to reflect on losing her father as a young girl. “My family life in Bedford transformed me, and it shifted my priorities. I also wanted to be an author because it allowed me to have more time with my son.” While Brooke thrived in the fast-paced world of journalism, reacting to daily events, she finds writing in northern Westchester offers something different, “The real beauty of Bedford for an author is that it is such an idyllic place that I can be reflective, not simply reactive.”