A Cup of Coffee with Rebecca Rijsdijk
So if you haven’t been interviewed for years, you can sit and cry about it or you can reboot your old press and interview yourself. This is what Becks did, and she thought if she wrote about herself in third person, no one would actually notice. Rebecca is Sunday Mornings at the River’s boss lady. Here are some questions she asked herself for her own entertainment.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Rebecca Rijsdijk, it’s pronounced Ricedyke and it’s Dutch. I was raised in a little wooden shed in the woods, which sounds super romantic but basically just meant we had ice flowers on the windows in winter.
When did you realize you were a poet and how did that happen?
This kind of happened by accident. I remember the childhood stuff, writing little stories for our Dutch classes and creating entire worlds behind my grandmother’s typewriter, but the poetry thing happened after I published my first book. A friend of mine said: hey dude, I like your little poems. I raised my eyebrows and went like: ‘poems?’ I didn’t line break my stuff back then, but was just super frustrated that the only thing I was able to write were little sketches, like photographs I didn’t take. After that I started reading poetry and joined the Instapoet community.
Speaking of Instapoets, do you ever feel offended by the term?
No, I see the word itself as a war cry. Instapoets don’t play by the rules of the elite literary world. If they want to break a word because it looks cool, they just do that. They are fearless. They are not bothered by the gatekeepers. I find some Instapoets mega obnoxious, but I don’t have to follow them. The Instagram community brought me nothing but love, growth and support.
How do you raise awareness about your work?
I shout a lot. Mainly on Instagram. But I hooked my website up to Medium as well, to gain a little more exposure. I started this press to bring my books along to markets and meet new poets. The marketing thing is something I need to put some more effort in, but I want to do that together, so Sunday Mornings is going to have a blog section about marketing in the future, where I will share what I have learned.
Do your subjects read your poetry?
They used to. Whenever I had an argument with my ex he kind of want all bastardly on me saying ‘now you can write another book about it all.’ And I would huff and say: ‘it’s not about you man.’ Of course, it always was. But I write about people I come across on the street a lot. They don’t read my poems. They probably didn’t even realize I was looking at them. I am currently trying my hand on fluffy love poems because my partner is a peach. He puts the poems he likes up on the wall.
Publishing your work is a vulnerable process, how do you deal with that?
I don’t believe in a private life. I think we are all in this shit show together and being vulnerable by bringing my work out into the world has only brought me a lot of new friends and people saying ‘I felt this.’ I used to have a lot of trouble with the haters. When I was still a photographer and I would publish my photography, people could be very mean. That resulted in me deleting my work and crying into the night. But I am thirty-five now and I pretty much do what I like. Writing is something I have to do, I enjoy it too much to be bullied into silence nowadays.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think this was trough music. I listened to singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette and the likes a lot. I was so in awe with these texts they performed. They helped me through many dark times. I thought, if I could do that, help someone through something crappy, even if it is just one person, than my life will have mattered.
What does literary success look like to you?
Look, I would love to sell some books, but the main thing for me (and I am dead serious, this is not a marketing talk) are the messages I get in my inbox of (mainly) women telling me they were in an abusive relationship and my writing helped them feel less alone. That is literary success to me. Now go buy my books.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I still have a project about my stroke that’s not found its final version. Somehow it’s very hard for me to write about what happened to me when I was nineteen. I think I try too hard with that one. I took some pictures that represented my feelings but it’s just not finished. I want there to be poetry as well. There’s another project I did for my photography graduation project called ‘The Glass House.’ It’s about my family. That one is mainly my photography combined with the family archives. I need to write some poems for that project as well. But it’s hard. I want to get it right. These projects have been unfinished for years. I am currently working on a project about working in a care home that will come out with Sunday Mornings at the River soon.
What makes a good story in your opinion?
I think when it triggers something positive in a reader. Could be negative as well for political pieces I guess. As long as it touches on a reader’s emotion. Stories that make you feel less alone. I don’t care much about grammar or being a native English speaker. Emotions are universal. They don’t care about comma’s and apostrophes.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. Writing helps me make sense of a lot of emotions, but sometimes it exhausts me. It’s usually not the writing in itself though, but getting your work read really drains me sometimes. Like when you are really proud of something you wrote and people don’t respond to it like you hoped. And then you write a one-liner and people go nuts over it. That exhausts me for sure.
Do you Google yourself?
Yes, a couple of times a year. Mainly to see if my work goes somewhere. There’s still a lot of my old photography in circulation. Which is kind of embarrassing. Don’t google me.
Anything else you would like to spit out?
“Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” - Steve Martin.