Background, Growing up, and a little bit about yourself:
Where did you grow up? Lakewood, (Southern) California
Describe your hometown in three words: Friendly, Scenic, Growing.
Do you have siblings? What was your relationship like with your siblings growing up?
I have an older brother and a younger sister. I fit the middle child role of wanting to be the peacemaker, though not always innocent myself.
Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about them? My wife has been my faithful and constant companion and support, especially in writing, giving me opportunity and encouragement all along. Her precision and care in details yields her a sharp perspective, especially helpful in editing; but her word skills are a killer in games like Scrabble.
As a child did you enjoy school? What kind of student were you? I enjoyed school, learning, and working hard. I thought my 4th-grade teacher was wonderful as she read to us every day after lunch; the classics: Box Car Children, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web. I thought recess was the best and I played kickball every day.
What were you like in high school? In high school, my identity revolved around basketball; practice, games, work-outs, and hoping to reach the pros like any teenage star-dreamer.
When you were younger, what did you “want to be when you grew up”? My first ambition was to ride a horse on the range, be a cowboy and flee the city life. I think the solitude and natural environment seemed appealing. Later, aspiring to be either a professional basketball player, tennis player, and/or race car driver, vied for the top spot.
If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why? I’ve always loved dolphins, their freedom in swimming the seas, natural smiles, and doing flips out of the water just for fun. I’ve always loved to swim and thought buoyancy was a wonderful feeling.
What is your biggest pet peeve? As I walk my dog around the neighborhoods and parks, I see trash on the ground. It brings back memories of seeing grade school films called Keep America Beautiful – have we failed to find the trash cans which are usually nearby?
On Books and Writing:
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? None so far, but visiting Charles Shultz’s museum in Santa Rosa, CA to see his original comic strips of the Peanut gang showed short storytelling at its finest. I’m still a big fan of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
What is your favorite childhood book? The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher ignited my imagination in elementary school and showed me how authors can create their own unique worlds and draw their readers in. I’d run out of reading all the non-fiction animal books by then.
Favorite authors and books as an adult? J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis have been favorite authors of mine for many years. I have read much of Canadian Michael O’Brien’s books (love The Father’s Tale), and recently discovered the Turkish author, Elif Shafak, and her superb storytelling and brilliant writing. For poetry, William Stafford is great and his books about writing are always inspiring.
How many bookshelves are in your house? We have at least a half dozen bookshelves, stacked full with both fiction – children and adult, and non-fiction – theology, psychology for me, gardening and cooking for my wife.
What time of the day do you usually write? Mornings are probably best, but after recently adding a puppy to our family, (she’s now 8 months old), any time of the day will do.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Too much thinking about writing… just write, even if it’s only journaling, which I’ve done for many years.
What do you like to do when you are not writing? I enjoy hiking in our local foothills, traveling, reading, and getting out with our golden retriever, Piper, for a romp in the fresh snow.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author? After studying literature in college, I thought it’d be great to get something published someday. Writing has always been a great way for me to process and express things. I’ve also thought it’d be great to do a picture book as well, and waiting 24 years for a daughter to illustrate, has been worth the wait.
What suggestions would you give to aspiring writers? The same things I’ve heard all my life: write and read as much as possible. Forget perfection and just jump into the thick of it.
Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? Ask questions, leave comments, and visit us at the Jiemba and Friends Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JiembaandFriends/
Rachel Wickstrom coordinates marketing at Hidden Shelf Publishing house. She’s an avid reader, master party-planner, craft enthusiast, a mom to two young boys with wildly long hair, and is married to a hospital chaplain. As an Oregon native, Rachel’s childhood memories are scented with juniper berries and the crisp mountain air of Central Oregon. She currently lives in Boise, Idaho where her days are scented with lukewarm coffee, and spilled snacks.
Martin Luther King once stated, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
It’s true that American history has not always been true to its aspirational disposition towards equality but it is essential that we delve into these hard histories and share the stories of many who have all but been erased.
Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul tells the story of a woman who should be remembered. In the historical record Judah’s life is reduced to the date she was purchased and the date that she died. I felt that it was very important to bring her story to life and to portray the depth, humanity, and vulnerability of a beautiful soul all but erased by history.
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