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Interview with Rebecca Pierre, October 22, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Rebecca Pierre, October 22, 2007
Date:
October 22, 2007
Description:
Poet, freelance writer, and potter Rebecca Pierre discusses her experience as a freelancer, her involvement with the Brunswick Arts Council, and her sources of creativity and inspiration.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Pierre, Rebecca Interviewer: Diesenhaus, Doug Date of Interview: 10/22/2007 Series: SENC Writers Length 60 minutes

Diesenhaus: Just say something.

Rebecca Pierre: My name is (laughs)

Diesenhaus: That sounds good.

Rebecca Pierre: What is my name? (laughs) Okay.

Diesenhaus: So I'll just say the brief introduction.

Rebecca Pierre: Okay.

Diesenhaus: Hello, I'm Doug Diesenhaus, and today, October 22, 2007, I'll be interviewing Rebecca Pierre for the Randall Library oral history project on creative writers. I think a good place to start is to ask you how you got started writing and how you come to it.

Rebecca Pierre: How far back do you want me to go? (laughs)

Diesenhaus: I'm okay with as far back as you like. If it's...

Rebecca Pierre: I can't say that I've always written, although I know a lot of writers say, "Oh, ever since I can remember." But I do know that I always enjoyed reading very much, and I enjoyed writing. And I think possibly, because I read so much, and I was read to as a child, which I think is very important, I read to my children, my children read to my grandchildren-- anyway, so I kind of think that from having that basis helped me to be able to write myself. Always, from grade school on up, I enjoyed writing. And I did well in writing and did the scary thing of reading in front of the class. Because I used to be terribly, terribly shy, and I'd get up there shaking like crazy. But, you know, I'd get through it. So how I began, you know, I guess it's sort of began back then. And some jobs that I had through my life, I found that I was required to do some writing. For example, I wor-- I was a director of personnel volunteers at a retirement center nursing home. And so I had to write up job descriptions. I had to do a newsletter for the employees. I had to do a newsletter for the volunteers. These are things that were just kind of part of my job description, but they were things that I really enjoyed. And then I also initiated a weekly column in the newspaper about volunteers during that time in my life. I didn't really do a lot of sort of freelance then. It was mostly job related kind of a thing. And then, as I got older and my children went off to college, because I raised them by myself, I was by myself. And I began to do more poetry writing then. It was sort of a catharsis kind of thing, but it's just something that helped me. And, of course, I have some first poems that are absolutely awful. (laughs) But hopefully, as we, you know, continue, we grow with things like that. So we can I guess stop there, or we fan go on with, from that, or--

Diesenhaus: You talked about going back into your childhood and your early years. Were there any teachers who encouraged you, were influential, and kind of made you want to keep writing and reading?

Rebecca Pierre: I remember my seventh grade English teacher, who was, now I realize, kind of-- she's kind of woman that I've become. She was kind of wild and crazy and all over the place. But she was interesting, and so she, you know, engaged me very much in that class. And we did writing and we did poetry writing. And then, again, in my senior year in school, I had an English teacher, who was completely opposite personality but always praised what I wrote, always gave me good grades, always had me stand in front of the class. (laughs) And so, you know, I felt very good about her encouragement because I respected her very much. I'm not, I didn't go the traditional route. I got married quite young and had children and had not-- did not go into college at that point. Later on in my life, during my working life, with help from an employer, I did begin going but never got into taking writing. Because I was beginning with the basic courses, the economics, those kinds of things, and actually didn't finish that. So I do-- can't say that I have a background in having taking creative writing classes in college or-- always dreamed about it, always thought I wanted to get a master's. Now, I don't have enough memory to do all that. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: When your children grew up, time opened up a bit. That's when you started working on the poetry. Given that it was the time that allowed it, was it something that you feel had been kind of boiling to the surface?

Rebecca Pierre: Oh, most likely, most likely. Because I always-- as I said, even through my adult life, I continued to read as much as I could when you're raising children and working. And I always had an interest in writing. So I think it was always there, and the time was the issue.

Diesenhaus: The things that you were reading, where are your tendencies? What was your favorite kind?

Rebecca Pierre: I still tend to re-- well, I read poetry, of course, think it's important for anyone who's writing that to be reading it. And I enjoy doing it. And I think my-- I do a lot of reading now, again. And I really prefer to read fiction, but literary fiction, and a lot of new writers. I enjoy, you know, new-- the new fiction. I mean, I've read the classics. Because I love finding philosophy in fiction, and it's there, and psychology. And I, also, love finding things that say, "Hah! I was right! It's right here!" And I tend to have to be careful, because I get a lot of books out of the library and I have to remember whether they're library books or not. Because I tend to underline when there are very poetic things in the book. I just recently reread The Great Gatsby and took a short course that was offered at the library, where the professor, or used to be a professor anyway, talked about book and, also, then, showed clips of the two different movies that were made and talked about whether or not they were well done and what things were well done. It was really interesting. We were each given a book. And mine had underlinings in it, because Fitzgerald has some very poetic lines in that book.

Diesenhaus: When you're doing that reading and you're underlining and finding things, how do they inform the work that you want to do, the writing that you do? Is there certain things that kind of spark or inspire you?

Rebecca Pierre: I think more than anything else it's finding the lyrical lines and saying these are important and I want to be sure to use lyrical lines in my writing. So maybe in that way.

Diesenhaus: I know that, also, you do a lot of freelance work. I wonder if you could just talk about that process and how it might be different from the poetical side and just how you come to freelancing, what your interests are?

Rebecca Pierre: I came to freelancing through a life changing experience pretty much. About seven years ago, I nearly died. I didn't know that I had suspended lupus, and it flared up. And I was admitted to the hospital, in emergency, ICU for a week, and then in the room for a week. And what had happened is it had given me kidney disease. And I had to have chemotherapy, which spread the kidney disease and sometimes will put the lupus in remission. But that didn't happen for me. But what happened is I wasn't able to work. So I had to apply for disability and go through all the mess you have to go through to try to get it and finally go to a hearing before a judge who looked at me and could see that I wasn't able to hold down, you know, eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, kind of work. It's just not possible with the lupus. I'm doing very well. But what it did is it made me realize that life is this moment, and that's all, and this moment and this moment. And it, also, had me, here at home, without-- I did feel a bit like I was not being useful. So a friend told me about the pottery classes. So that's how I started taking those and started doing clay art. But I also needed to supplement the disability with a mortgage and practical things. So I had made some friends through writing. Because, through my poetry, maybe, I guess, three or so years before that happened to me, I had received a grant from the Wacenter [ph?] Council to attend a weeklong poetry workshop, in Buxton [ph?], North Carolina, which is wonderful. It's very helpful. And then the following year, I received a partial grant, from the Vermont Studio Center, to spend a month there. And even though it was only a partial grant, I managed to find ways to get the rest of the money together and I had spent a month there. So I had gotten into my writing in other ways even before all this happened. And I had met some people through doing those things. And so I was contacted by a friend of a f-- by a friend whose friend, in Wilmington, had told her about the-- that the Insiders' Guide was looking for a Brunswick County writer. And so I contacted them, and they contacted me. And I had interview. And that's how I got started writing for them. That sort of began everything for me as far as freelancing. I had been doing some things in a little local monthly rag here, which they paid me a little bit for. And it was nice. And sometimes they'd put my poetry in and paid me for that. But when I started on with the guide, it kind of gave me more confidence in the freelance kind of thing because it requires a lot of writing and deadlines and those kinds of things. And then it, also, made it possible for me to have other kinds of contacts. For example, one of the realtors that I was writing for the book liked my work so much that she asked me to start writing descriptions of houses, for brochures, for her, which was a lot of fun. I'd get to go to the house and go through the house and get inspired, spend as much time there as I wanted and write it up. And, also, U.S. Air was doing a-- for what used to be called Attaché Magazine-- they've changed the name now. But they were doing a special on Wilmington and saw my writing in the guide, got ahold of me by e-mail. And I got to do, you know, a bunch of writing for them. So it's kind of gone that way, and that's how I got involved.

Diesenhaus: For those, for that kind of publication, are you trying to recreate a place? How do you go about kind of recreating a place or describing a place?

Rebecca Pierre: They gave me assi-- specific assignments. One was to write about The River Keeper. One was to write about the aquarium. So and then the funny was they actually gave me and paid me for more assignments than they actually used in the book. And then they said, "The ones we didn't use are yours. So you can sell them elsewhere if you want to." Wow! Anyway, and they were things that were interesting to me. One of them that they actually ended up not publishing was the architecture of Wilmington, and so that's one that I still sort of have. I mean, I have it on my-- on Creative Wilmington site as my portfolio, but I've never actually sold that anywhere. It's fun doing. And I went into the library, for that one, particular one, went into the library, in Wilmington, researched, in the history area, to make sure I had correct information and that sort of thing. The aquarium one, I didn't have to do that because I'd been there and I love it there. So, you know, I ha-- although I d-- I did still do research, like, online to make sure that I was getting everything correct. But it was fun to do. So...

Diesenhaus: That research process, it sounds like it was fun. Do you ever find it tedious, or do you really enjoy using the...?

Rebecca Pierre: Sometimes it's tedious. It depends on how involved it gets. I really, I do it a crazy way. Because even if I'm, you know, talking to someone as I'm writing up their business, I do the same thing. I have this yellow pad, and I scribble all over it. I mean not on the side that, it has lines, but I don't use the lines. I just scribble all over. And when I get back home, I have to try to read because the writing is terrible. (laughs) So I can't wait too long afterward to, you know, at least try to put some of it together. But it's the only way I seem to be able to do it. It works.

Diesenhaus: Is that, you think, I mean, like an artistic mind that it-- what's the sense of order that works for you?

Rebecca Pierre: Maybe. Because I think-- I don't ju-- I don't necessarily write it in the order of what I'm writing down. So writing it down in order wouldn't necessarily help me. And, also, I don't have very good handwriting. And if I've got to write fast, I can't help it. It's scribbled. So...(laughs)

Diesenhaus: When you bring it home, you said you can't wait very long afterwards. But then how do you go about making sense of it? What do you do? Do you start putting it in a kind of order?

Rebecca Pierre: Usually, what helps me put it in order is to work on computer.

Diesenhaus: So are you transcribing?

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, because then I can start-- so nice about computers, which I didn't used to have, is that, you know, how you can go back and insert. You can change. You can move. And so I might even start, like, you know, sort of start on the thing. But then I can jump around, and I can put it together. And that's--I really enjoy being able to use computers to do that.

Diesenhaus: So there's something in the jump from that kind of notes and research too that helps.

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah.

Diesenhaus: When you're doing these articles or working on these stories, are you trying to create a story or a narrative that someone can kind of connect to or are you using characters or sort of describing place in a certain way?

Rebecca Pierre: Okay. Depends on what you're referring to. In a way, I'm using characters. For example, say I'm writing up somebody's restaurant and I go and talk to them and there's a really cool background story. Then I put their names and I use that background story in addition to talking about the ambiance and what they have to offer in their restaurant. So in that way, it's sort of a character-driven thing. Also, when I write poetry, sometimes it's, I use very d-- all kinds of different approaches and sometimes it's character driven. I remember one, that's in a recent book that was published, that I called The Pearl. And it came from, of all things-- I picked up a hitchhiker right down near Southport. And, of course, normally we don't do those sorts of things. It could be dangerous. But it was so funny, because that day, I mean, it was right in the middle of everything. And I saw the man, and I knew I needed to do it. And we had this wonderful conversation. We only drove a couple miles. I let him out. And I had got this whole poem from it. And his name was Paul. That's all I knew, and so that was character driven from me picking him up and that conversation that we had. So it really kind of depends.

Diesenhaus: With the freelance work, what is it like to kind of interact with the community that you live in, the places that you might go to, the restaurant that you might be familiar with? You talk about the aquarium. Is that kind of an enriching experience? How does it change your experience?

Rebecca Pierre: I enjoy that a lot. Because I get to meet people and I get to know the community better. And I especially since I'm writing for all of Brunswick County, I'm going to, like, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, down to Calabash. And then most recently now, since Leland is booming like it is, we're adding Leland. And it used to be just the coastal areas. And I'm learning more about where I live by doing those things and meeting some really neat people.

Diesenhaus: Are you writing new things, or you're also kind of revising and updating things?

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, the book comes out once a year and so every year we have deadlines for chapters. And we have to go through everything that's in there and update it, sometimes revise it, sometimes not. Just depends, you know, how long something's been in it, if it's gotten stale, if we needed to change it a bit. I have to contact people, all the people, every year and say, "Are there any new things you'd like to add? Do I need to change anything?" I prefer to do it in person, but the time does not allow for that. So I found the easiest way to do that now is by e-mail. Some people, believe it or not, do not have e-mail. And I have to call them on the phone and/or stop in and see them. That can become tedious. That's not my favorite part about the writing, that catch-up. But I love writing anything. But it's part of doing it. So, you know...

Diesenhaus: That sounds sort of like a reporter's kind of work.

Rebecca Pierre: It could be, yeah, sort of like that.

Diesenhaus: Obviously, poetry is very important to you. How is that different from that kind of reportorial work? What's the experience of the poetry writing and the writing process for you? Or maybe it's not so different.

Rebecca Pierre: It is in most cases. Because the poetry is more something I do alone. It's not always interviewing Paul in my car. But one of the things I found is that living where I do is such a great inspiration for my writing. So much of my work is informed by my morning walks on the beach. It's just, I began the walks for health reasons. They're great for health reasons, but they help in so many ways. And one of those ways is that they inform my writing. It's amazing how the ocean is always there, but it's never the same. Every morning it's different. And so many times it will give me something that will later show up, maybe even the same day but not necessarily, but will later show up in the writing. And it isn't always necessarily at description of what I'm seeing but even a philosophy. So it's really-- I'm blessed to be here. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: And also when you talked, When you picked up Paul, the hitchhiker, did he come into the work? Because you said his name was used. So that's kind of more like a somewhat narrative poem. Does your work tend towards that side, or is it a mixture of kind of the lyrical side that you've spoken about?

Rebecca Pierre: It's definitely a mixture, definitely. And the approaches-- someone said that recently I had-- in critiquing the book, she said how-- that all the poems in the book s-- almost all of them seem to have been approached in a different way. I did one called Naming the Apple, which I actually wrote while I was at the Vermont Studio Center. And it's almost a-- it's take on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And it's satirical and it's funny. And it's almost like a story. But then I did one about a woman, dear friend of mine, who told me she was-- had non-l-- Hotchkins-- non-lymphoma-- I can't remember the name of it, anyway. And it's approached in an entirely different way. And it's almost written in a way, it's hard to tell you, to avoid. The poem is about her having the illness and that she's going to die. But it's written in the way to avoid all of that. And then I might write a silly little poem about kissing a frog that gets published in a book, and I can't believe it, book about frogs. So along with w-- Mary Elmer was in the same book. I'm like, "(breathes in loudly) You were my favorite!"

Diesenhaus: So as another strand possibly, is there kind of a natural world element that comes up because of the walking on the beach?

Rebecca Pierre: Definitely, yeah, yeah.

Diesenhaus: And the two places that you said you've been for retreats, the mountains of North Carolina and then kind of a mountainous Vermont.

Rebecca Pierre: Mountains of Vermont, yeah.

Diesenhaus: How is that landscape different from the kind of ocean or water landscape?

Rebecca Pierre: You know what I learned in Vermont that amazed me? I was there in the winter, was there for the month of January. And every morning, I would walk up the mountain. And I always thought it was quiet here where I live. Found out it's not. It's quite noisy here where I live. It's so quiet, absolutely still, in those mountains. And even though I don't live on the beach, many times, with my windows open, can hear the ocean. But I'd become so used to it that I had-- I was missing it. And when I went to Vermont and found a house, still it was there-- it made me recognize more that it isn't really quiet here. Now, it can be. I got up at five o'clock in the morning, Sunday morning, to watch the Orionids streaking in the sky. And, of course, it was still dark. And luckily, on this island, we don't have streetlights on the street. So you can see quite clearly. And it was very quiet then but, even then, not as still as up in the mountains in the winter.

Diesenhaus: And, is the quiet important to you?

Rebecca Pierre: Yes.

Diesenhaus: That's where you can find certain kinds of inspiration?

Rebecca Pierre: I do not watch television at all. Some people have to have it on all day long. I often don't even have music on. I like the quiet.

Diesenhaus: Given that contrasting experience, does it make you want to think about living somewhere else? That's more mountainous?

Rebecca Pierre: No.

Diesenhaus: So it's a short...

Rebecca Pierre: It just was something tha-- it just revealed to me. It's still quite quiet here. It's just that it revealed to me that it's noisier than I thought it was. But however it was that I came here was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me, very good place for me to be.

Diesenhaus: Are there other reasons why it's the best? It sounds like it was a really important move to you. What are the other--?

Rebecca Pierre: Oh, I have this wonderful support group. I think it was probably during the first year that I moved here. I found a group. They now call themselves The Live Poets, but it was a group of women who met once a week. And there was a woman, that'd been a college professor, who was like a mentor. And we would meet and talk about poetry. And when she was with the group, we pretty much listened although we did contribute. But it was more like her teaching us in a way. She had so much in her head. It was just wonderful. Eventually, she had to move away. She was elderly, and she had to move away. But it's nearly 15 years now, and the group has continued. The dynamics have changed. Some of the people have changed, but the group has continued with this weekly meeting sort of thing. And even though most of them never even try to write poetry-- it's not a group where you write and you read, blah, blah, blah. But it's a group where we take poetry and read sometimes. I take my own. But, you know, we will bring in books of different-- read poems. We relate to them and talk about it. And they have been so supportive of my writing. They have helped me so much in growing in my writing and even to the point of encouraging me for a couple of years before I finally went about putting together poems for a book. So...

Diesenhaus: And perhaps when you are bringing your own work and reading it, what are you looking for? How does feedback affect you? How do you work with it?

Rebecca Pierre: Fortunately or unfortunately, (chuckles) they don't really critique. They either like it, or you don't hear much of a response, or somebody really loves it and somebody really doesn't. But then if you go to workshops, you get that same thing. So I remember, when I first started going to poetry workshops, I would get hurt feelings. And then I eventually learned that you take from it what works for you. And so, you know, you might have two completely different opinions. Actually, I kind of like having two completely different opinions. Because then it says, it says something, that both people were relating to it even though in different ways. And...

Diesenhaus: Can you talk more about your experience with workshops, maybe where they've been?

Rebecca Pierre: I haven't been to any in a long time. But I remember one with Joseph Bathanti. I'm a member of the North Carolina Poetry Society. And so some of them work through that, you know. So it's many years back when he still had long hair. He doesn't anymore. (laughs) And I think one of the reasons I remember him so well is because I was raised Catholic and so was he. And he writes poetry about having been Catholic. I don't really think I've ever written any. Not any worth anything about that. But his intrigued me, because it took me back, made me remember some things. But I can't tell you when it was. A professor at Laurinburg, ooh, I can't think of his name. Or he was professor there. You know, I've had with him. I've had one with a woman, whose name I can't remember. But Rebecca McClanahan was my leader at, when I went in the mountains of North Carolina, Wildacres. She was just wonderful. That was, like, the best experience. So, of course, we had a whole week of doing it. But it's really great.

Diesenhaus: I know your book was in 2005. You said that you don't experience too much of a critique from your writing group. Are you showing the work to other people, where you are getting more criticism or constructive feedback?

Rebecca Pierre: The man who wrote the forward to my book was really, really good about feedback. And he offered to write the forward after reading the poems, which was-- really made me feel good. I also, I had one of the places, I mentioned earlier about this woman critiquing about the different ways that I approach the poems, was-- I had entered it in a national book competition. I didn't win. But I did get a critique, which I liked very much that that happened. I'm trying to think. Course, I sometimes read, at open readings, at the poetry society meeting, although I haven't been in a couple years. It's in Southern Pines. It's a little far for me to go. But then they don't really critique there. I really don't have a whole lot. I don't have a specific person or a specific critique group. And it's kind of difficult here. Because there might be some place in Wilmington, which-- but, for me, is, what, almost 45-minute drive? I rarely ever go anymore. I used to go a lot before the lupus thing happened. I used to belong to the Contra Dancers, there, which I love. (laughs) Anyway, but a little bit difficult now.

Diesenhaus: Maybe you could talk a bit about the process of publishing the book. Were you getting feedback from an editor? How did the whole process go for you, and did you enjoy it?

Rebecca Pierre: Actually, because of the way the book was published, I didn't. It was published through a grant from the Brunswick County Arts Council. And then I approached Main Street Rag to have it published, because I knew their work and I knew they did good work.

Diesenhaus: In Charlotte?

Rebecca Pierre: Yes. But because it was a book that I was paying to have published, so would my-- would be called self-published, it was not critiqued at all. Although the man, whose name I can't think of, who owns the Main Street Rag, was very good about helping me with cover and placement and that sort of thing. He's really great. So I didn't have that kind of an experience with it. I have had some good things happen. It's for sale at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. And they've asked me to do a reading, which is coming up this Friday. I'm really excited about that. So that'll be a lot of fun.

Diesenhaus: How do you prepare yourself for the readings? Do you do--?

Rebecca Pierre: I try not to think about it. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: That's one way to do it.

Rebecca Pierre: What I did is I-- last week, when our-- when the group that I've been meeting with every week got together, I said, "Okay. Everybody write down which poems you think I should read." Because, you know, they have favorites. And it was funny how many of them were overlapping. Same people, I mean, different people writing the same thing. So I figured I would use that as an idea for where to start. And then, of course, I have my own reasons for wanting to read certain ones. So I'll do that. But I really have not-- been trying not to think about it. Luckily, I have a friend in Chapel Hill who's inviting me to stay with her. So I can drive over there and stay with her. We can go into Raleigh together and, you know, I can stay overnight. And so I'll do that.

Diesenhaus: I don't want to force you to think about it too much. But when you're talking about when you were younger, the experience of reading was kind of a nerve-wracking one. Sounds like that remains a bit. It's a little bit nerve-wracking.

Rebecca Pierre: It's really odd how I am a totally different person than I used to be. And I didn't come to the-- actually didn't come to the reading, you know, as-- being comfortable reading is a big change. Being a member of the poetry society and going and doing readings and things gradually helped me with that. Also, getting feedback from people who hear me read, especially, you know, if they really liked it, helped. But I do believe that I am much better at it since I-- what happened to me. Because I have changed into a completely-- I've changed into myself because of what happened to me. And I wish it had happened to me when I was younger. But I'm there anyway. So...

Diesenhaus: Do you think that the poems are experienced differently when they're read, excuse me, when they're heard by a reader rather than being written on the page?

Rebecca Pierre: Definitely, definitely. And two things I'd like to say about that. It's my opinion that poetry is meant to be heard and read with the eye at the same time. So it's really-- I think it's best if someone is reading and you're seeing on the page in front of you. But one of the reasons I'm so definite about that is one of the meetings recently with my group-- I hadn't read anything in a while. I just brought my book along. And I said-- I asked if anybody would like me to read. "Oh, yeah, read this one," "Oh, yeah, read that one," "Oh, yeah..." And several of the women in there said-- one of the women said, there's a poem I wrote called Snakes, she said, "I hate Snakes. I read that poem, but I just kind of ripped through it. But when you read it, you know, I really-- it's a great-- I love the poem." It's a strange thing. And there was another woman who said something similar in that the way that I expressed the poem, when I read it, made her understand it better. So I do think it's-- there is definitely a difference. We e-- when we read a poem on the page, we e-- all put our own spin on it, which is as it should be. Because I believe that a poem-- first of all, poem needs to say more than the words say. And secondly, it needs to speak to each person individually so that each person will see something for them in the poem. And I've often read something and had somebody respond to it, and I would go, "I didn't realize that was there, but you're right." So there's some unconscious things that go into it as well.

Diesenhaus: Somewhat related, I wanted to ask you about your work with clay and pottery and if you could talk about that. Are there any parallels with poetry, the process of writing the poetry and the experience of working with figures and forms? And your writing?

Rebecca Pierre: I think there are in that I don't work on the wheel. I took classes, and I learned to work on the wheel. And I was able to do a closed form, and then I said, "Okay. I learned enough of that." Because my interest was not so much in making functional pieces, although some of the pieces I make are functional. But it's what I do is, I consider, more creative. Because I get ideas and I take them and I use my hands in the clay to turn them into reality. And so it's sort of the same thing you're doing with poetry is you're getting ideas and using the words on the paper to bring those ideas out. So in that way, I think it's very similar.

Diesenhaus: I suppose perhaps the closest connection I can think of is one of form. Form's obviously very important to clay and pottery, and it has a bit of metaphoric weight in poetry. Is there a similarity for you? How might your ideas of form and poetry relate?

Rebecca Pierre: A lot of people don't understand that free verse has a form. And some people think free verse is easier than forms as far as rhyming and sonnets and that sort of thing. And that's not necessarily the case. Because if it's not done well, it's still not-- you-- they'll just write down everything comes to enter their mind. There are things like assonance, alliteration and line link. Line link was the hardest thing for me. It's like you couldn't get a straight answer from anybody about not necessarily line link but about, you know, what's the line and when do you start another line, you know. When I was coming up and trying to do it, that was, like, the hardest thing for me. But now I understand why I couldn't get a straight answer. Because I can't tell you why I end the lines where I do. I just know when I need to. So...

Diesenhaus: Have you pursued or are you interested in other forms, besides free verse, perhaps that would instill a rhyming scheme?

Rebecca Pierre: I have done forms. And I'm not putting them down at all. I did rhyming poetry. I did sonnets. I did villanelle. I did, you know, I did those things. And they definitely helped me. But I found that, in the end, it's kind of like with the pottery. I did the wheel. I learned the wheel. But I ended up doing hand building because I find it more creative. Similar thing with the writing. I did the forms. I learned the forms. And I still could do them, but it's not something that comes to me to do. And I find free verse, for myself, more creative. So...

Diesenhaus: You made me want to ask one more question about inspiration. In addition to silence, both of your comments about walking, is there something about not only what you see when you're walking but the actual process of the walking that's inspiring or that kind of maybe starts ideas off in your head?

Rebecca Pierre: I'm sure it is. It makes me feel good. I had a total hip replacement in March. And so for a couple of years before that, I couldn't do the walking because it was painful. And for a while after that, I had to have physical therapy. And I, you know, so there's while that I couldn't walk. And I wasn't doing much writing, even though I had plenty-- I had more time here. I wasn't doing much poetry. I was doing my other things that, you know, I get paid for. (laughs) But I found, since I've gotten back to walking on the beach-- and, again, it is the beach. It is the ocean. It is the-- it is nature. But I do think it's also the walking. And I know the walking gets the endorphins going. So that's, you know, I'm sure that's helpful, too. But when you think about it, there is a rhythm to the walking. There's a rhythm to the writing. So I would think it would have something to do...

Diesenhaus: Given that you've experience the workshop setting and you talked a little bit about maybe writing, maybe thinking about pursuing a master's degree, do you think that certain parts of writing can be taught? There's kind of an argument about that.

Rebecca Pierre: My mother writes poetry, and my mother left school in the 11th grade. She writes very well, but she has this thing that, "Poetry can't be taught." But I don't agree. I mean, I think, there has to be-- it probably can't be taught to some people. There has to be something else there. But like I said, some of the first things I wrote are pretty awful. And through the years of doing the workshops and learning, for example, what others would probably learn in a creative writing course, the alliteration and all those sorts of things, this impacts all that kind of thing, those things help me and hearing other people and hearing the critiques not only of my work but other people's work. So I think it can be taught to a point, and then you've got to be able to take what you've learned and go with that. So...

Diesenhaus: Also, perhaps in particular elements, alliteration, maybe technical elements, can be taught?

Rebecca Pierre: Uh-huh. Well, you know, in one hand, it can. In the other hand, it can't. I mean, they can tell you what alliteration is, tell you what assonance is. But they can't make you use it well. So I'm kind of on the fence, it seems like. That's been my problem, but I like to see both sides. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: I think, I think that's sort of the thing. It's a complicated, it's hard both sides might have the truth in them. I guess I'm just curious. Given that you've had a lot of workshop experience and you've worked with your group, do you ever see yourself as maybe teaching or leading a workshop or leading a seminar for the people in the community or other things like that?

Rebecca Pierre: Funny you should ask that. I've recently become a member of the literary committee of the Brunswick Arts Council. They didn't have it before. We got a new president, within the last year, who has just taken off with it. And he's formed visual art committees, literary art committees, blah, blah, blah. And so he asked me to take part in the literary art committee. And I said, "Okay. This is the way it is. I won't share it. And I will be on the committee. But if I find that it's too much for me, I'll have to drop it." And I have to say that. Because if I agree to do something, I want to do it right. And I find that there's some things that I get to where I can't handle them. And, also, when the chairperson called me, I told her the same thing. She was fine with it. But I'd been mulling over this idea that I actually haven't mentioned to them yet. I'm a member of Franklin Square Gallery, which is one of the places where my clay art is. And there is a room upstairs that is used for teaching painting, those kinds of things. And I thought, you know, might be able to use that room, and maybe I could just do the very basic sort of course for the community, maybe for a certain age group, maybe for, you know, but I haven't got it all together yet. And I haven't actually, at this point, said anything to the chairperson or the president yet. But it's something I've been mulling in my head. Seem like it'd be fun to do. I have this idea of Poetry 101: Easy and Fun. Because it has got to be fun or I don't do it. (laughs) So...

Diesenhaus: I also want to ask you a little bit more about your specific process of writing. I guess maybe a good place to start is to ask where you're doing your writing. Do you have an office, or is there another location?

Rebecca Pierre: I have a room that I call my writing room that has my desktop (snaps fingers) PC in it. So that's the messiest room in my house. Paperwork overwhelms me. That's where all my work is when I can't seem to get it sorted out. And I do some writing in there. But my daughter, bless her heart, gave me a laptop. And I found what works best for me-- I usually get up-- my regular getting up time is, like, five o'clock in the morning. I have friends that say, "Well, you go to bed too early. Go to bed later." I say, "I'd just get up as early, and I'd be tired." So I'll get my cup of tea. I don't drink coffee. But I drink hot tea, get a cup of tea. And I'll prop myself up in bed with my laptop. And I'll sit there and work for a couple hours. Generally, when I'm doing that, I'm doing freelance stuff. But I'm comfortable. And that's one of the reasons this works for me, because I can do it from home. I can do it on my own time. I can do it when I feel well. When I don't feel well, I can lie down, whatever. So I often do that. The poetry I usually have to write by hand first. I very rarely can go on the computer and do poetry. The two don't seem to fit somehow. I mean, eventually, it gets put on there. And I find that I can, what do you call it when you go back over and change things...

Diesenhaus: Revise?

Rebecca Pierre: ...revise. I can revise better on the computer. I can, you know, I can see better on there when I nee-- when I-- I go, "Oh, no. That's not working," you know. But I have-- almost have to always write it out by hand first.

Diesenhaus: So I want to ask a little more, are you sort of doing a rough draft on paper and then putting it directly in the computer and then doing revisions only on the computer? Or do you sometimes to revisions--

Rebecca Pierre: Sometimes, you know, I'll do some scratching out and changing. And I might rework something ten times and then say, okay, I think it might be good enough. And stick it in the computer, but then I'd probably rework it again. So...

Diesenhaus: Given that the free verse is a space that you've enjoyed, when you're writing on the paper, are you setting up the line breaks as is or does that tend to happen more in the revision?

Rebecca Pierre: Actually, I usually do the line breaks as I'm writing it down. But sometimes they change, especially, of course, if you're taking out words or changing words. Then sometimes you need to do that.

Diesenhaus: In addition to the tea in the morning, are there other things that you kind of do before you write? You talked about there being a lot of paper. Is it okay that the paper's there? Do you sometimes need to kind of clear out the space to kind of get going?

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, it's-- it'll get to me. And I've got to clear the whole desk off. I could say, okay, I have to go through these things, I ca-- this is too like it's yelling at me (laughs), get rid of it, clear the desk. Yeah.

Diesenhaus: With either, or with both the poetry and the freelance stuff, are you trying to reach certain goals each day or how does that work for you?

Rebecca Pierre: I don't do both anymore, (chuckles) except that I have deadlines on the, you know, guide. I sort of can't. It's like if somebody asks me if I'm, you know, going to go do something, I'll say, "I'm planning on it," because I plan on it. But when the day comes, I may not be able to. Last weekend, there was a reception for I-- an art show down in Calabash. I was going. Saturday morning came, and I got up. I thought, well, maybe I'll feel better after I eat. I have to pay attention to my body. So I kind of work around how I'm feeling at any given time, even with the deadlines. I mean, I know I have to have them done. But luckily, I can, you know, have the days at home and fit them in while I can fit them in and still meet my deadlines. So...

Diesenhaus: Given that that experience can sometimes, sounds like, keep you from writing, when you're feeling up to it, do things come together so that the writing comes and your ideas and your flowing comes when you're feeling up to it? Or do they sometimes not?

Rebecca Pierre: In a way, it pretty much does. Because when I'm not feeling up to it, I can't think straight. So in that way, yeah. So...

Diesenhaus: Does the writing come easy?

Rebecca Pierre: Some. It doesn't always. But what I find is, because I'm able to be very flexible, if I'm trying to do something and it's not coming easy, I put it aside and do it when it is working.

Diesenhaus: Are there favorite and least favorite parts of the writing? Maybe that implies more of the freelance work. There's a research element. Are there parts you prefer to others?

Rebecca Pierre: Well, in writing for the guide, I ask them, "Can't you get somebody else to do the sports chapter?" I have no interest in sports whatsoever. "You're the Brunswick County writer." So, yeah, in that way, there, you know, I have to write about some things I'm not really interested in sometimes. But pretty much, though, it's pretty interesting. So...

Diesenhaus: I think I just want to ask maybe one or two more questions. One is talking about--do you experience block or challenges, other than your physical experience, in terms of the writing? Do you sometimes run up against the wall? And what do you do then?

Rebecca Pierre: I guess, in a way, I do. Because I know that, after my book was published, I didn't write anything for a long time. And I felt like I should be writing, although I try to keep that word out of my vocabulary. And somebody asked me, at some point, if I'd written some poetry. And I said, "I really haven't. I know I j-- I really haven't written anything since the book came out." She said, "Well, that's like birthing a baby. You don't want to turn right around, do it again." So that helped me feel better about it. But there was a long time, though. I'm not even sure whether it had to do with that or not. But I don't, I don't push myself. I mean, if I'm not ready, I'm not ready. And the other thing I just thought of that sometimes happens is I might be-- you asked me about this connection, and I didn't think of it at the time. But I might be playing around in the clay, and I go, well, okay, let's put this away and go write, you know. So sometimes that happens. It probably comes from the-- what do you call it? The word for touching?

Diesenhaus: Feeling of touch.

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, the tactile thing of the clay somehow brings on the creative writing ideas.

Diesenhaus: Do you ever do that purposefully? Maybe do, in one of the forms or media, you're not feeling that it's working so then you go to the other to kind of...?

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, I do that. I mean, same thing will happen to clay. I may be doing something that's not working for me. And that's another thing I had to learn with the clay, when I need to stop or, if something's not working, trying to make it work. Sometimes clay does what it wants to do. And sometimes what it wants to do is a whole lot better than what you were going to do anyway. So...

Diesenhaus: Talking about the book and its effect on your writing, are you thinking about publishing another one? Would you like to? Where are you on that?

Rebecca Pierre: I have an idea again going around in my head. I've been-- most recently, I've been writing some very short lines. I'll be walking, in the mornings, and they'll come to me. And they're very descriptive, and they're very lyrical. And they have to do with the walks in the morning. And I have an idea for a sort of art book, where I could maybe use these lines along with painting. It may never happen, but it's something I was playing with. So...

Diesenhaus: Not paintings that you've done but other work?

Rebecca Pierre: Oh, I would like it to be paintings that I'd done, but I don't think I can do them well enough. So it would have to be-- I have a lot of artist friends. And I've been kind of mulling the idea of maybe asking somebody else who might be interested in working on the project together like that. So...

Diesenhaus: And do you, I might not have heard you. Are you saying that there are works that you've seen that might've inspired you, or are you saying that they might create works?

Rebecca Pierre: No. They would need to create them.

Diesenhaus: After looking at the poetry so they'd have to be inspired?

Rebecca Pierre: Uh-huh. I have had some artist friends who say that they would like to do paintings from things that I write. I had a friend who wanted me to write lines from her paintings. Well, her paintings are very abstract. I love her work. But they're very abstract, and I haven't been able to come up with, you know, with anything. And I would think if this project were to come to fruition, the paintings would have to be not abstract, although I may be surprised. But I don't want to say realistic. But I like depressionism. So...

Diesenhaus: More of an organic connection between the two.

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, so that's what I have in my mind now. I'm surprised you asked me about that, I told you that, because I haven't told that to anyone. I've just been thinking about it. (laughs) Well...

Diesenhaus: I wondered if you had any advice for either the kind of freelance writing life or the poetry writing life for young writers, people who are developing and learning.

Rebecca Pierre: Yeah, don't do it the way I did. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: Do you mean starting later?

Rebecca Pierre: Seriously, no. I mean, because I didn't go to school, and I didn't go into college much. And I think that the credentials, in today's world, help a lot. In many ways, I was lucky. I'm glad it happened. And had I gone on to college when I was young, I might not have gone into writing. I might've done something else and hated that. But I really do think that having that background is much more helpful. And the way I did it was the hard way. I kind of did everything the hard way, my life.

Diesenhaus: Thank you very much.

Rebecca Pierre: Thank you, Doug.

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