Sunday, October 6, 2019

Interview with Rebekah Palmer | Author of A Letter to My Friend

Amanda: Give us a quick introduction to you. Published books, what you write, etc.
Rebekah: My published works to date are A Letter to My Friend, A Letter to Myself, and
Map of My Heart. About 7 poems included in the Map of My Heart collection were
first published inside Strength: Lives Touched By Cystinosis, a book that includes
stories by patients, caregivers, and family members affected by Cystinosis in
which you edited with Amanda Buck.

In addition to writing, I volunteer as an actress in community theater as well as do
tour guide work at a local history museum and local historic theater that is
actually one of the top fifteen historic theaters in the United States. I often write
on topics related to advocacy for adults in the world of rare disease.

Amanda: Favorite book you’ve published so far?
Rebekah: I would say A Letter to Myself because of how personally healing and
empowering it was for me to have in print what I wasn’t able to talk about for over
20 years.

Amanda: You and I both have cystinosis, as well as other chronic illnesses. How do you feel this
has effected your writing? As well as its effect on how you approach achieving things
important to you? (Publishing a book, volunteering, etc.) Any advice for others in similar
Rebekah: The way I have been affected by living with Cystinosis is complicated. I was
diagnosed in the early 1990s, and at that time, the medical literature made clear
it was a childhood disease with a very specific life expectancy. So I dealt by
becoming that kid and teenager who had goals and accomplished them because
I didn’t expect to be earth-side very long. It made me an “old soul” as well as a
nervous, worried, and a thoughtful being. It drove me to connect and reach out to
any other human being with kindness as my purpose in being alive.

It is debatable how writing and performance art became an activity I did: did my
rich inner life and mental and emotional habits result due to many clinic and
hospital stays/visits or because I experienced sexual abuse pre-pubescent and
retreating into myself and creating art was my flight and freeze response? If living
rare and coping with abuse through the written and spoken word was not my life,
would I still gravitate toward the arts? In other words, what if I had not been born
with a rare disease and that person didn’t choose to sexually abuse me? I would
like to think I would have this thoughtful, slightly neurotic personality because one
does not need to have any sort of unique past to work and find joy in the creative
world. One doesn’t necessarily need “bad things to happen to them or bad things
to go through” nor does anyone necessarily need to be grateful they had a harder
life because of good they have now created.

Many in the arts community write, speak, create, ext because it entertains and
inspires themselves. No one should have to feel that their in-ability or disability or
hurt and pain is for any one else’s entertainment and education. It is our choice if
we decide to share our work with the world and the world receives the good from

While there is an artist “type”, we are not a collective stereotype and we all
represent what we want to see in our world. Any body that is human has
something going on, be it what people consider “hard” or just “life”. And anyone,
regardless of the life they lead can create beauty in the humanities and arts

Amanda: Some people get frustrated when they aren't making progress on their goals and dreams as quickly as they'd like. Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for anyone feeling this way right now? 
Rebekah: If the frustration comes from a lack of motivation (which included with other symptoms can signal depression), try writing as little as a twitter or Facebook post of words a day. For example. the last seven years I have been experiencing sever bouts of depression and anxiety and I feel the frustration in my writing. Every time I wrote that little limit of 130 character types, I saved them in a file on my computer. After seven years, I realized I have some material to brainstorm from and also some poetic lines I can re-write.

f the frustration comes from getting your manuscripts rejected and no editor seems to want to publish your work, consider self-publishing. Consider starting a Facebook page with your author personae and reach out to other writers. They may have more advice to share.
Amanda: Now, this is a very difficult question, but do you have any favorite poems of yours?
Any that stand out most for any reason at all? I’d love to hear about it if you’d like to tell
Rebekah: I don’t have a specific favorite poem of mine, more like a favorite topic I have
written poetry around. I enjoy writing poems that deal with juxtapositions and
merging of seemingly opposite ideas. For example, the secularism within religion
and the justice within faith. I don’t have a lot of this in Map of My Heart. I have
submitted this type of poetry to contests and have yet to see it in print.

Amanda: Did you like to read as a child? Favorite book? Do you still have that book or reread it
Rebekah: I liked to be read to as a child. When I read by myself as a child, I often got
anxious about finishing the book as quickly as possible.
My favorite book under age five was I Can Do It Myself. My favorite book series
in elementary school was Little House on the Prairie. My favorite book series in
high school was the Bracken Trilogy by Jerri Massi and Christy by Catherine

Amanda: Have you always been a writer/storyteller? How did you start?
Rebekah: I only really wrote for homework assignments until about fourth grade. One of my
essays (about forts my brother and our friends built during the summers we
spend in the woods behind our house) was read out loud by my fourth grade
teacher. When my peers made comments on how they could see the forts and
could feel the summer sun, I got excited about writing outside of class.

Amanda: Do you write to music? If so, what kind? I love to hear about new music!
Rebekah: I don’t write to music but I will listen to music if I experience writer’s block and
need inspiration for poetry. If I want to remember something about my childhood
or past to write about, I listen to certain music that came out during the past
decades or a movie soundtrack from then. Music jogs my memory in ways other
mediums don’t. I think in pictures and color and music brings out the scene and
colors of my writers mind.

Amanda:  I know for me, there have been some funny stories since I’ve been deep in the trenches
of writing. Like a realization about a work in progress or characters (the funniest has to
do with the song Mirrors by JT.) Do you have any funny stories that you’d like to share?
Rebekah: It’s not specifically funny and it also has to do with the previous question. I
started writing the first draft of the poem “Out There”, which is included in Map of
My Heart, while driving down the highway. I had to pull over and scribble it out on
a notebook I kept in my car. I had been listening to songs from Disney’s The
Hunchback of Notre Dame and was just filled with this need to write down how I
really felt about living in a diseased body and watching those living in able-bodies
like Quasimodo must have felt living in the Notre Dame church watching the
people below him.

Amanda: Do you have a typical process or any writing rituals? Anything you have to have with
you while writing? (Besides computer, paper, typewriter, whichever…)
Rebekah: It’s mostly just the basics for me: notebook, journal, and pen. The computer
comes in when I am transferring my scribbles on paper to screen.

Amanda: Who is a character that has influenced you (not from your books)?
Rebekah: Roald Dahl stuff mostly influence me like Matilda. As well as the book Harriet the Spy. This is really telling on my age as someone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s
because not only the book characters inspired me but the page to
screen counterparts in those 1990s films of the same name. Digital media does
play an immense part in my writing world.

Amanda: Your second book, A Letter to Myself: Speaking Out After Silence, is about such a
sensitive and taboo topic. (You actually did a guest post on my blog about Healing From
Sexual Abuse. Click here to read it. Also check our Rebekah's previous interview on my blog here.) Where did you find the strength to speak out for
yourself and others? Doyou have advice to anyone who wants to write about something
they’re afraid to speak out about?
Rebekah: A lot of stress was going on in my life after I graduated from Bible college in
2010. I wasn’t going back to finish my masters and I was in the most serious
doubt I had been in up until that time about church and my own faith in God. I
was also starting to be in physical pain, which wasn’t really a big deal up until my
junior year of college. I didn’t have a steady teaching job after college due to
health and emotional reasons. I was only attending my childhood church
sparingly and decided to attend elsewhere away from my family. It was at this
church that they noticed my behavior was symptomatic of someone who had
been abused. I started going to therapy.

Ironically, I took my youngest brother to see the new Disney movie Frozen. (I say
ironically because as a student in Bible college I would not have been allowed to
go to a movie theater while enrolled.) I know the song became way overrated but
before everyone was singing it and listening to it those words belted by Idina
Menzil as Elsa: “Don’t let them in Don’t let them see Be the good girl you always
have to be Conceal don’t feel Don’t let them know Well now they know!” broke
me down to just write what happened to me as a 5 year old. To just write and
reveal what a whole church community didn’t know their pastors had hidden from
them, and what my family thought was just the emotional behavior due to
growing up with a rare disease and battling cancer before middle school.
Actually, there is something I have been writing about that I am afraid to speak
up about concerning myself (yes, even more so than the sex abuse which is
telling of society and the community in which I live) but because I tend to reveal
myself in writing I have been submitting work under a pen name. So I would
advise writing about it under a pen name. There is a book I recommend in A
Letter to Myself that is about abuse in a Jewish community and is written under a
pen name: Hush by Eishes Chayil.

Amanda: Top three favorite books and authors right now.
Rebekah: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
Strays: A Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America by Britt

Amanda: What about poets? Do you have any favorite poets or poems?
Rebekah: Marilyn Nelson, Shel Silverstein, Meg Kearney, Christina Rosetti, William
Shakespeare (his sonnets not his plays), Alfred Noyes, Lord Tennyson

Amanda: Poets who have influenced your work? Or authors who have?
Rebekah: Meg Kearney and Charles Dickens and Laurie Halse Anderson

Amanda: Favorite writing craft book?
Rebekah: I don’t really have a favorite writing craft book. I took a correspondence course
through the Institute of Children’s Literature out of Redding, CT and they often
assigned readings that were from writing craft books.

Amanda: Are there any places you draw inspiration for your poetry and writing? Words of
wisdom to share on inspiration?
Rebekah: I find Wisconsin inspiring. It’s a bit morbid these days because the rolling
farmland has these old barns and abandoned silos that look like alien residences
because the small farms are getting bought out due to increasing milk prices and
low income for farmers with small herds. The changing leaf color, the woods, the
rivers and lakes, and the cornfields are all a landscape for the people who inhabit
rural counties.

I would say to just look around where you live and observe the land and the
people living on it and one can find a lot of reasons for societal issues.

This or that:
Strawberry vs. Chocolate
Poetry vs. Fiction Poetry if I’m writing, Fiction if I’m reading
First draft vs. Editing
T. V. Show vs. Movie
Book vs. Movie
Hero vs. Villain
Villain vs. Anti-Hero
Witch vs. Vampire
E-book vs. Physical Book
Tea vs. Coffee

Amanda: Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now? Plans for future books,
books, etc.?
Rebekah: Well…I do have two collections of my more dark and edgy poetry (some that is
written under a pen name and most not) but I am not sure if they will be self-
published or if I will continue to submit them to various contests first.

Amanda: Any last comments to share? Advice to aspiring authors/poets?
Rebekah: I really appreciate what you do for indie/self-publishing authors, Amanda. Without
you, I really would not be able to share so much of my poetic voice. I heard from
an editor who publishes poetry at a small publishing house that between 2-7% of
poetry that gets submitted gets chosen to print. That’s incredibly small. Many
who write poetry aren’t winning contests or chosen for university reviews
because of numbers of people who write poetry, not necessarily that they aren’t
writing great poems. On one hand that’s great that so many write in the poetic
medium but it also makes poetry a difficult genre to break into.
Amanda: Thank you so much for saying that, Rebekah. It means a lot that we've able to work together and help each other along this journey. I'm so glad to have formed this friendship with you. Yes, it can be discouraging hearing the numbers but to at least try to put yourself out there is an incredible step. Thank you so much for being on the blog today, and or your thoroughly thought out answers.
Everyone, don't forget about Rebekah's newest poetry collection, Map of My Heart, available in ebook and paperback now!! Just click on the picture below to be taken to the GoodReads page. You can see my review there, as well.

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