Last September, I was the Featured Dream Weaver (Featured Poet) at Chaotic Dreams Online for the magazine's third issue this year. You can catch a glimpse of the interview here:
CDO_ Editor: How long have you been writing and do you write anything other than poetry?
Rachelle: I started writing poetry as early as six years old and prose at about eight. Since then, I've been writing on and off. I think the reason I started that early was because I felt the thirst for expression and the yearning for attention from my parents and aunts. Writing was a way for me to speak my mind and to draw people's attention to things I deemed important. Writing made them walk a mile in my mocassins, so to speak. Aside from poetry, I've also written a few fiction and nonfiction stories, personal essays and articles about life, family and relationships for magazines and journals.
CDO_Editor: What are your sources of inspiration for your poetry?
Rachelle: I draw inspiration from just about anything. Sometimes, inspiration just jumps up and hits me over the head when I'm least expecting it. (laughs) I tend to write based on my experiences with the physical world - from things that I can see, to things that I can touch, hear, smell, or feel. Then I write them down (or type them on the keyboard) for them to unfold.
CDO_Editor: Are there any notable authors who have influenced your writing?
Rachelle: I think I have integrated a wide spectrum of influences in my psychic landscape (I've absorbed the vibes and themes of my cultural roots, devoured texts from age-old classic masters and have delved my fingers on urban moderns) that it's difficult to point out just a few. But in general, I like writers who challenge the status quo, those who ask the difficult questions. Writers who knock my socks off, to paraphrase Dickinson.
CDO_Editor: Is there any research involved in penning your poetry?
Rachelle: I'm what others would refer as an impulsive writer. By and large, I don't consciously decide what I'm writing about. Thoughts and truths make their own way onto the paper (or the keyboard for that matter). But being a stickler for spelling accuracy and correct word usage, I often check certain words' nuances especially concocted terms, verbal prescience and stilted phrases before using them in my quatrains and free verses. So, I guess, there is a bit of research if you can call that such.
CDO_Editor: Is there any particular target market you are trying to reach, and what do you want them to get out of your work?
Rachelle: It is difficult to pigeonhole my work to a niche per se because my poetry or my writings in general are not confined to ghettos or categorically biased to a particular apartheid. I write based on my senses and my interpretation of the world around me regardless of what others have to say.
CDO_Editor: Do you follow a strict writing schedule or just write when the spirit hits you?
Rachelle: I don't really have a writing schedule. I write when I feel moved to, when I'm inhabited with strong emotions, when rapidly fleeting thoughts start bouncing around my head or when provoked by something in the outside world. Sometimes, though when I have to produce something, like for a magazine or this interview or my recent writing engagement, I'm left without a choice but to sit down with a bowl of salad and just crank it out.
CDO_Editor: Have you ever had writer's block and how do you overcome it?
Rachelle: In my own opinion, there is no such thing as a writer's block. It's nothing more than a plausible excuse of writers who are unable to devote themselves to, or concentrate on, their writing. There might be a natural ebb and flow in the creative process but that doesn't justify the impulse "to not write at all".
CDO_Editor: Is there any particular process or setting you require to stimulate the writing process?
Rachelle: When I find myself in scanty output of creative expression, I simply seek diversion. Oftentimes, I just move around and exercise. At other times, I read magazines, get a snack or drink, talk to someone or simply watch TV. There is always something around that recharges the brain and invokes the trapped waves of creativity so I make it a point to utilize them wisely.
CDO_Editor: How are you working to grow as an artist?
Rachelle: I'm constantly writing and revising my work and making new ones in between. I make sure I develop my creativity at its own pace without compromising my exposure.
CDO_Editor: Do you belong to any writing groups? How has that helped you?
Rachelle: I often found myself working in a bubble when I took poetry seriously a few years ago. Getting feedback seemed the intellectual work necessary to gain a basic mastery of the literary art, and yet it was difficult to obtain one that is not biased or too critical to the point of being destructive. Then came a point in my life when I considered the merits of joining a writing colony. By gathering together with other writers via the internet, I was able to share my work without the fear of getting rejected or getting sugar-coated feedback. I was able to find understanding and advise on the unique requirements of my poetry in the open arms of Christian Writers Group, The Writer's Asylum and the Garden of Friendship Poetry Committee among others. They were able to identify with my issues and were dedicated to giving constructive criticisms. Their feedback on my poems helped me to grow not just as a writer but also as a person.
CDO_Editor: What advice would you give to poets who are just starting this literary journey?
Rachelle: The ability to string words together is not enough. You've got to have passion and dedication alongside ambition and faith. Seek to understand the true nature of creative growth. Never give up despite the torrent of rejections and criticisms. Read and reread to understand and enrich your vocabulary and experience. Show a few of your poems to someone whose judgment you respect but do not rely heavily on what others have to say. This may be a pedestrian phrase but always "be yourself". It works all the time.
CDO_Editor: Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years in the future?
Rachelle: No one really knows what the future holds but I'd like to think that in a few years, I'd be an editor of a reputable publication with a number of poetry books and chapbooks under my belt. Well, dream's the only thing that's free in this world so I might as well dream big. (grins)
CDO_Editor: Have you done spoken word? How is this different of written poetry to you?
Rachelle: I've never been into poetry jams or slams that is greatly resurgent in foreign countries but I've tried oratorical speaking and declamations. I was also a favorite at extemporaneous events so I guess, I have done spoken word as they call it. I think there's not much difference between spoken and written poetry. For me, in writing poetry, you create a solitary sanctuary where you sink deep into yourself and intertwine with your own root energy or Qi. On the other hand, performing live is losing self-consciousness by sinking deep into oneself to intertwine with a synergy of your own Qi plus the audience's Qi at the same time.
CDO_Editor: Gene Fowler said: "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead". What are your thoughts on this statement?
Rachelle: I think Miss Gene Fowler's half-sardonic half-trenchant quote holds some truth for some people. Although it's hardly the case for me, but I do admit that there really are times when the brain gets too saturated that the process of weaving words takes a backbreaking wait for the muse to strike. Nonetheless, I think it's normal and it's just a matter of applying a couple of sound strategies to get those creative juices stirring.
CDO_Editor: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Rachelle: Writing down feelings and emotions, simply because they are raw and genuine, does not qualify them as good poetry. A great poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." If you want to stand out from what appears to be an acceptable mode, don't just write out what you feel or what others feel, write with emotion AND with a unique approach.