Picture book author & aspiring young adult novelist
Rachel Rivett trained in Drama at Bretton Hall in West Yorkshire, England.
She worked as a youth worker, ran a young people's touring drama group and worked in schools with children at risk of exclusion.
She was awarded a distinction for her MA in Writing for Children at Winchester University and now happily home-educates her four children believing that the best learning happens when people are encouraged to follow their hearts.
Your fervent belief in God shows heavily in your book, I Imagine: My Special Book of Meditations. Would you say the meditations are dedicated to Him?
RR: It’s an interesting question. I never would have thought of myself in those terms! When I wrote my first two books, Little Grey and the Great Mystery and Are You Sad, Little Bear? It was because I wanted to write stories that were spiritual but non-religious; that could be read by someone of any spiritual tradition or none. I’d met many parents that had, for whatever reason, been put off conventional religion but still wanted to share and express a sense of the Sacred with their children. Nature has always seemed to me to speak a direct language that goes straight to the heart. In Little Grey, the animals talk about the Great Mystery, a term I love, and which I borrowed from the Native American tradition.
I’ve heard it said that the mystics in any spiritual tradition will have more in common with each other than with the literalists within their own tradition. I take this to mean that for many people it is the truth that we share that is important and not the things that appear to make us different.
So, I’m comfortable with many names for the Sacred: God, Goddess, Universe, Love, Higher Self, Great Spirit…. I chose to write this book in this form because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. So, to answer the question, I think my book is dedicated to the Love that radiates through nature and which so many people feel.
Although, I have not read I Imagine in its entirety, I did enjoy the meditation on pages 24/25, it was very uplifting and reads, “O Lord, if I’m worried I imagine I’m a baby bird about to fly. I feel I’m on my own with nothing underneath me, but when I spread my wings and leap you breathe the wind that catches me and carries me and lifts me up so high.” Was the goal of this book to uplift people?
RR: Oh yes, I hope so. I wanted to create a sense of being supported by a loving Universe. It so often doesn’t feel like that. Life can be so challenging and we feel lonely, worried and sad. I think it’s positive to have strategies, like the ones in these meditations, that can lift the spirits and help you connect with something strong that lives both inside and outside of you. And thank you, I’m happy you felt uplifted.
I Imagine has a nice and smooth flow. Where did the ideas for writing this book come from?
RR: I think imagination is one of the greatest gifts. It’s such a powerful tool and can help us leap from one reality to another. So I wanted to write something that expressed that, and because I’ve always sought inspiration in nature, this book seemed to write itself more than the others.
Also, my children helped me. They were very young and I remember sitting in a sunny field with them and reading out what I had written so far and them helping me with the rest. They have always been very kind and supportive of my writing. I think the sections on being full of joy and feeling sad came from them. In fact, to answer your first question again, I Imagine is actually dedicated to them, my wise and beautiful children, Ester, Nathan, Daniel and Freyja.
What can readers expect and hope to take away from I Imagine?
RR: Well, I wanted it to be like a self-help book for children. There are so many emotions that tumble through childhood. I wanted to create a kind of reference book. Where to find strength when feeling sad, when life is stormy or when you’re worried and equally to show ways of expressing joy and peace and gratitude. Naming emotions, recognizing them and expressing them physically in a good way is really helpful from childhood to adulthood. It can help you feel calm and centered when the world around you seems to go mad. I hoped the ideas in the book would last someone a lifetime.
How did people respond to the book after reading in?
RR: I think children like the earthiness of it. The way you can physically act out the meditations. It makes the point, I think, that everything can be prayer: singing, dancing, being still, falling asleep, taking risks...if you do those things from a conscious place. People have compared its philosophy to the Buddhist tradition, in that respect. Also, parents have expressed an appreciation for the simplicity of the text. One reviewer said, “Few words, much wisdom.”
How do you prepare yourself to write?
RR: I’m not sure that I do prepare! I home-educate my four children aged 5-15 and so it’s more a case of snatching a moment and diving in. I do like to write in the evening. I think being close to sleep can help your intuitive side take over and things flow more.
What’s your writing genre? Why are you most comfortable with it?
RR: I love young adult and I love mythic fantasy...the kind of contemporary story that is layered with a mythic reality so one reveals something about the other. It adds another dimension to the story. I think it can help you see the mythic dimension that exists in our own everyday lives: the heroine journey, the allies and tricksters and gateway guardians we meet. It’s a genre that, for me, is a reminder of everyday magic.
Is there a writer/author who inspired your writing style? If so, who and why.
RR: So many. Ursula Le Guin’s sharp elegance and intelligence, Margaret Mahy’s originality and insight, Kevin Crossley-Holland’s vivid, poetic prose, Diana Wynne Jones’ imagination…
In terms of mythic fantasy though, Catherine Fisher’s Corbenic made a startling impression on me. It’s a brilliant contemporary tale of a young man struggling to cope with, and free himself from, his schizophrenic mother’s loving, destructive energy and it’s interwoven with the Arthurian legend of the Grail. It’s startling the way the two stories intertwine and just makes you see everything differently.
What was the publishing process like for you? Is there anything you would do differently? Please explain.
RR: Well, I’m grateful to be published at all. It’s such a tough business. I wanted to find a traditional publisher, and Lion really embraced my stories which I appreciate. It is a Christian publisher and in some ways I sit on the fringe of what they do so I’m happy they gave me a home with them. I’ve always been fortunate to like the illustrators they find to work with the text and the text arrangement in I Imagine is playful and lovely.
If I could change anything it would be the number of times I’ve been rejected along the way! It always hurts and I’m not sure which hurts more: the bald, impersonal rejections or the ones where they’re teetering on the brink of accepting you…and then don’t. But each time I get rejected I’m forced to shift my writing up a gear, and hopefully what I’m writing now is better for the experience.
What can readers expect from you next?
RR: I’m in the process of editing a young adult mythic fantasy novel, Traitor-Girl. In it, Maya’s story of seduction and betrayal is woven with the haunting ‘river woman’ tale, La Llorona, until the stories collide in an explosive twist. I was intrigued by Maya as I was writing it. The more everyone seeks to control her thinking and mould her to their own purpose, the more she finds herself driven towards the unthinkable.
I hope to begin the long path of finding a publisher quite soon. I’m readying myself for the roller coaster ride of emotions, so I may have to turn to I Imagine myself, for help, when I forget. I love that about the creative process. You might create something, it could be anything, and when you turn back to it after time has passed…it surprises you. You wonder where it came from. That’s a kind of magic in itself.