1. Why did you start writing?
"Ooh, if you’re meaning in general…Well…the truth is, I don’t know. I started writing creatively as early as I can remember. It was mostly picture books, Charmed fanfiction, lyrics, and poems here and there when I was in elementary school. In middle school, I mostly wrote song lyrics. I had notebooks full and called them “albums”. Almost none of those lyrics were put to actual music—just a chaotic mess of random notes. I wrote short stories during that time as well—all in notebooks—and I remember thinking I was writing the best things ever. I wasn’t, of course. Occasionally, I’d write free verse poetry in fuchsia colored font around that time, too, but I often lost it on the computer since it crashed so frequently. Then, in high school, I switched almost completely to writing poetry. In 9th grade, I was still writing lyrics quite often, especially because I was attending an arts program after school for a music focus. When I stopped going, I wrote poetry-only and a bit of prose. In undergrad, I wrote so little. I was an English major, so of course I had creative writing courses, but I only wrote what was required of me. I lost a lot of creativity in those years, especially since I let academia decide what was and wasn’t poetry at the time. In the past year or so, I’ve been writing a lot of only poetry. So, anyway, why I started writing? I don’t know. I’ve just always wanted to create."
2. Tell me the origin story of MIXTAPES. When did you realize you had material for a book in your hands?
"MIXTAPES started as three different manuscripts: Gathering Wild, Where All Your Nightmares Converge, and How to Start a Séance. The first one, Gathering Wild, was my final for my junior year poetry class. It mostly revolved around animals/animal imagery, and only three poems made it to MIXTAPES. The second one, Where All Your Nightmares Converge, was written after my poetry class. It mostly had all the same poems in the previous manuscript, including the poems that made it to MIXTAPES, but it focused on dreams/nightmares this time around. I stopped working with that manuscript in the summer of 2018—when I was going into my senior year of undergrad. Then, it became How to Start a Séance, and themes of dead relationships began to emerge. Interestingly, that third manuscript is the closest to MIXTAPES’ final form—at least The B-Sides (second side), anyway. There was quite a bit of fluff though because I was incorporating too much from the previous two manuscripts. The poems I kept for The B-Sides dealt with themes of bad relationships and self-discovery, but they are portrayed in a realist lens. Then, I started writing the first side, You In Absentia, frantically in my notes app in the summer of 2020. What I mean by frantically is that I had this need to get it out, some kind of emotional purging. I can’t explain it. While You In Absentia mostly deals with topics from my youth, it still deals with themes of bad relationships and self-discovery at its core. Of course, all the poems in the first side are surrealist. I had to make MIXTAPES a tête-bêche because of the surrealist and realist concepts—two halves of one whole, two different perspectives of my childhood and adolescence/young adulthood. The musicality of it all was mostly an (happy) accident when I was writing its official first draft, but I think poetry chapbooks, in general, can have a similar vibe to an album with the 10-15 track listings/poem titles and all."
3. What emotions guided you in writing MIXTAPES?
"This is very much a loaded question. I wrote poems for MIXTAPES from 2017-2020. They were all quite difficult emotions to process because they are (mostly) related to trauma. I wrote about bad friendships and relationships, sexual abuse and dealing with chronic illnesses, the death of things, living on my own for the first time. There was definitely a lot of heartbreak that I was tapping into."
4. Your book has two parts. How did this come about?
"Oh, whoops! I kind of already explained it. Anyway, I realized that the poems I was writing in the notes app last summer echoed the same themes as the poems leftover from How to Start a Séance, so I just decided that they would be two parts of a whole book. One side surrealist, and one side realist of the same themes."
5. You designed covers for both MIXTAPES and swerve. How did you get involved in design?
"The first time I ever wanted to learn design was in 9th grade. I was not good at it, and I weaseled out of that class with a D. In college, I offered to create a poster for a night of one act plays—I don’t know why, I didn’t really know anything about design—and I used Canva, as suggested, to create it. Canva has taught me so much about design, and it was in a much more easily digested way than that class I had in high school. Ever since junior year of college, I’ve used Canva for various things—flyers, logos, homework, presentations, and more. MIXTAPES’ cover went through three significant edits (and versions), at least. I had two versions for swerve, but I stuck with using a photograph from Unsplash, a site with free stock photography. The font and colors for both covers were decided on mostly a whim."
6. What do you hope people take away from your writing?
"I always hope that if someone doesn’t necessarily understand the words, they will be able to see the imagery and find meaning in that. Other than that, I want to offer the freedom of interpretation. Poetry, when read, is often a mirrored reflection of the reader—and let it be so."
7. What inspires you?
"Dreams, nightmares, music, nature, and the past are my biggest inspirations."
8. What other writing project(s) do you hope to take on someday?
"I really want to write a full-length poetry book sometime soon. We’ll see how that goes. I’d also like to start writing micro-fiction and other short fiction, but my track record in writing that way…well…it’s not great. All the prose was actually poetry in disguise."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"Write every single day is really useless. It’s also reductive because there is so much more nuance to writing than simply putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). I think that advice is the best way of amplifying imposter syndrome, too."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I’m fairly open about other creative ventures I dabble in, such as photography and music composition. I’m not very refined with either, and my piano skills haven’t really improved much since middle school. This also makes me realize that I don’t talk about my love for video games enough! I’ve always played—mostly Nintendo games—ever since I can remember. I will always win at Mario Party 5 mini-games, and that’s a fact. I’ve probably played through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time so much that I can replay it in my sleep. Actually, I’m currently in a GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) campaign with my fiancé and mutual friends that follows Ocarina of Time’s storyline, while incorporating elements from other Zelda games. This campaign is going on three years already, and we still haven’t made it to the Forest Temple! There’s a lot of adventures and random roleplaying days where we don’t even make it to the main mission. It’s all a lot of fun."
Hear Rachael read her poem "Where All My Nightmares Converge" (p.46).
Rachael Crosbie (she/they) is the Editor-in-Chief & Founder of the winnow and a poetry reader for Persephone's Daughters. She has a BA in English Literature (May 2019), and an MS in Publishing at NYUSPS (May 2021). Rachael has written work forthcoming or published in Wrongdoing Magazine, The Augment Review, ALL GUTS NO GLORY, Southchild Lit, A Drunken Midsommar, and others. Rachael has two chapbooks: swerve and MIXTAPES (ELJ Editions, Ltd., 2021). You can find her on Twitter for the She-Ra and The Princesses of Power stan club and posting pictures of her cats.
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