Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Rachael: I was really young when I started writing. I made up stories all the time as a little kid, and I remember my first “book” was a mess of pictures and random sentences. I’m sure at some point I wrote a My Girl inspired story, and I know I wrote a lot of Charmed fanfiction in third grade (I always wrote myself as Paige). Also that year, I discovered how much I loved playing the piano (poorly—I was convinced I could learn how to play My Heart Will Go On all by ear, and of course I couldn’t), so I wrote a lot of lyrics. I distinctly remember a language arts class where we were asked to write imagery about different landscapes, and I really liked doing that. I feel like I still write about landscapes, even now.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Rachael: I read a lot of contemporary poetry. I don’t think I have a true favorite or a go-to writer, but any time I read prose I feel more inspired to write poetry than when I read poetry. I recently read The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, and Sarahland by Sam Cohen. I love all three books for so many different reasons, and all three have strong queer themes in them. Other than that, I’m always inspired by my friends: Isaura Ren, Shyla Jones, and Pascale Potvin.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Rachael: I grew up in the suburbs outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rain and driving as been an on-and-off recurring theme in my poetry. However, I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for two years, and my family would often vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. So, living in the city has influenced my writing as of late, and beach/summer imagery has always pervaded. I tend to derive a lot of inspiration from landscape and weather patterns, examining how it makes me feel physically and tying it to some sort of memory or emotional connection.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Rachael: Of the things I’ve had published, I’ll split this answer into two: body of work and an individual piece. For the body of work, I’d say that’s MIXTAPES—a poetry chapbook that was published by ELJ Editions, Ltd. in April 2021—because it was the first time I was really honest with myself, my writing, and my grief. The chapbook is in the style of a tete beche—its two sides are surrealist and realist. I really dived deep in the grief I felt for those I’ve lost: friends, family, and my younger self. I pushed boundaries for what I’d allow myself to write and the forms I’d write them in as well, which the former took a bit of a toll on my mental health. Fun fact: I wrote the entirety of the first side in two months. As for side two, I wrote that over the course of a few years. Anyway, for an individual piece that’s been published—I’d say that’s a tie between “SHE TOLD ME SHE DIDN’T WANT ME”, which was published by warning lines magazine in June 2021, and “Playing with Polly Pockets or Poltergeists”, which was published by Pink Plastic House in June 2021. The first poem, CW for relationship abuse, is in the form of a ‘reductive triptych’, which is a form I designed. It’s a triptych (specifically, a poem in three columns) that sheds the second column for the next set until the poem reaches its desired reduction, peeling back layers to bring out the core of it all. The second poem, CW for sexual abuse and emotional abuse, was so heartbreaking to write and still hurts to read/look at, to be honest. So, both of these poems mean a lot to me for different reasons.
Q5: Any pivotal moments when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Rachael: In high school, I took a creative writing class that I loved so much, I took it three times even though two of those times wouldn’t count for credit. The teacher was really encouraging and saw something in me I really didn’t have, but it’s where I realized how much I love the sound of words as well as the images they can produce. That class convinced me to become an English major in undergrad, and I have my Bachelor’s in English Literature now.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Rachael: Well, I do love to read! I find myself reading a lot of poetry, comics, magical realism, essays, horror/thriller, and queer prose. Other than reading, I love to play GURPS with a group of friends—including my fiancé. GURPS stands for Generic Universe RolePlaying System, which is “a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting” (Wikipedia/SJGames.com). We’re currently running through a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time campaign, and we each play original characters instead of Link. For something even more relaxed, I love to watch TV shows (my all-time favorites are Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, Westworld, She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, Avatar: the Last Airbender, BoJack Horseman, Mr. Robot, Lucifer, The Haunting series on Netflix, and Ash vs. The Evil Dead), horror movies, and TikToks.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Rachael: I’ll piggyback off of my answer in #4—MIXTAPES, “SHE TOLD ME SHE DIDN’T WANT ME”, “Playing with Polly Pockets or Poltergeists,” “What Kind of Vampire Are You?”, and “Fun House or Your First Day on VampireFreaks”.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Rachael: The closing in “Fun House or Your First Day on VampireFreaks” was really fun to write and still sticks with me, which is: “let yourself become glass that can’t reflect anything in the night”.
If I’m choosing from someone else…please don’t make me chose. There’s so many I love. A poem that’s been swirling around in my head for weeks now is “Little Beast” by Richard Siken. Every line is perfect and powerful and I can’t just pick one.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Rachael: This really depends on specific points in my life. In high school, my creative writing teacher helped the most. In college, my poetry and creative non-fiction professors helped me the most. Post-college (including graduate school), some of my friends helped me the most. Above all, my fiancé and my cats remain my biggest supporters. Special shoutout to Cuties/Mimi, Skitty, Cosmo, and Peanut for being the best cats anyone could ask for.