Interview with Rachel Stewart

VOLUME II, ISSUE I

What is a current project you are working on?

My biggest focus at the moment is trying to refine and find homes for a backlog of poetry I’ve been keeping under lock and key for years. I’m also a big fan a pop culture and how it can impact people emotionally, so I’m kicking around a few ideas for non-fiction essays there, too. Like most writers, if I feel compelled to write about something I will, but I guess I’m not limited by a specific genre or set project.

What is the one piece of writing advice, good or even bad, that you have received that has impacted you the most?

Leave breadcrumbs to get back to yourself. Write everything down. Even if you don’t think it amounts to anything. Scrawl down those ideas. Some ideas might get abandoned. Others you’ll circle back around to when you least expect it and be glad for that random notebook or saved draft in Google docs.

What are some of the greatest influences upon your writing, whether other
writers or outside influences?

I’m this terrible mash-up of influences, but female voices come to mind first and foremost. There are the literary icons that everyone always mentions – Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, the Bronte sisters, Christina Rossetti, Virginia Woolf – and then there’s Anaïs Nin. She’s problematic, yet ridiculously fascinating to me. On one hand, her goal is to go deep down and explore her personal and emotional truths, while on the other she keeps a box full of index cards with which set of lies she’s told to who and why. She was also a bit ruthless, working her whole life to make sure her voice was heard. I also think Francesca Lia Block is criminally underrated and underread (mostly because her books are banned a lot of the time). She has this dreamy, West Coast fairy tale vibe I love to dive into. And while she’s not a writer per say, her musical works cite literature and often help me understand the world-building process on a sonic level and that’s Kate Bush. Her album “The Dreaming” is my favorite because each song is its own story, a micro-cosmic opera of sorts. If you listen to only one song on that album it should be “Houdini.”

Do you have a favorite place to write, or are there any habits, inspirations, or
rituals that help you?

Nothing would get written without cups of tea (that are typically forgotten and go cold), and music (which can range from film scores to Kesha). A snuggly lap cat named Tux and a husband who proofreads and pushes me to round out my writing arsenal. I also make to-do lists with goals. I’ve done this for years – like, we’re talking LiveJournal here – before bullet journals were a thing. I’d be lost without a list – and writing everything down means I remember it.

All three of your poems in the issue have an element of fairy tale in them. What draws you to these images and ideas? Is this a common thread through your writing, or is this experimental in some way?

I grew up on a heavy diet of fairy tales as a child, but they were the real Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen texts, the scary ones where the evil queen in Snow White has to dance wearing hot iron shoes, or the stepsisters in Cinderella slice their toes off so the glass slipper will fit. I was probably the only child who went to see Disney’s version of “The Little Mermaid” and was mad she didn’t turn into seafoam. There’s lessons to be learned in these tales, and they are filled with both darkness, longing, and magic – and I see ordinary life as the same. I lean into these metaphors and points of references, or try to imagine the story from another angle to push my writing further.