Rebecca Redshaw is an author and playwright who moved to Washington State in 2001 to write full time. She published extensive articles and short stories in national newspapers and magazines and was awarded First Prize in the 2009 Lakeview Literary Review for her short story, “Somebody Special.” In 2016, she was awarded third prize in the Soul-Making Keats Contest for her short story, “Mrs. C.” In addition to productions of Spider on the Sill and Dear Jennifer by Olympic Theatre Arts, her plays Hennessey Street, A Conversation with Hattie McDaniel, and FOUR WOMEN have been performed in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Hazel Speaks! and Vignettes: A Good Time with Wine were commissioned and produced by the Clallam County League of Women Voters and Camaraderie Cellars respectively. Redshaw was appointed to the Washington States Arts Commission in 2016 by Governor Jay Inslee. She is currently working on her fourth novel and eighth play. For more information go to www.rebeccaredshaw.com.
WOW: First of all, congratulations on your story and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! You have such an incredible background with writing, including novels and playwriting. How do you keep up with all that you do? Do you have any particular method you use to approach your writing?
Rebecca: I’m not sure “incredible” is a word I would apply to my writing career. I write – that’s the easy part. My first work, Dear Jennifer, is an epistolary novella and a friend suggested I adapt it as a play. It was thrilling to stand in the back of a theatre and hear different reactions when actors delivered lines. Applause is something an author rarely thinks of, so it was a nice treat. Whether I write a play or a short story or a longer work is most often determined after I sit down to write. The characters take over at that point.
WOW: It must be so rewarding to hear applause over something you've written! So, how did your first draft of "The Picnic" change by the time you wrote the final draft?
Rebecca: Contemplation has served me well. I can spend days, months, years thinking through a particular story. I traveled to England and had a wonderful exchange with a Brit when she invited me for tea in her sitting room. Ten years later, I wrote a short story, The Sitting Room, that has been adapted and performed as a play. Because of the time I spend thinking through the process, I’ve been fortunate not to have to rewrite at length. Of course, there is always tweaking, but The Picnic required very few rewrites.
WOW: I'm so impressed. That contemplation truly pays off! How does playwriting help you with your fiction writing?
Rebecca: My first creative endeavor was as a struggling songwriter in Los Angeles. I took a workshop that has influenced my writing through the years. You need to grab a listeners’ attention and tell a story in three and a half minutes. Later on, I worked as a journalist for a large newspaper which required keeping readers’ attention for exactly sixteen inches. Writing at length is a joy, but those early experiences have helped me in being concise.
WOW: That's an incredible tip to use for creative writing! Grabbing the reader's attention is so key. So, what is next for you? What are you currently working on?
Rebecca: I read several books at a time and the same holds true with my writings. I have a file that I can click on with partial works or new ideas that kick start my process. I wrote a play based on an event that occurred in the early 1900s. Right now, it’s dormant because the cast consists of 18 people which is overwhelming to me, so I’ve been contemplating reworking it as a novella. The problem that keeps coming up in the process is that I hear voices demanding to be heard. One of my favorite quotes is by Horton Foote, “Keeping an unpublished manuscript in a drawer and not sharing it with an audience, even if it is a small audience of friends and acquaintances, is a mistake.” So, in addition to writing, I submit at least once a week and/or as soon as I get a rejection.
Rebecca: From what I hear we need to introduce people of all ages to the joys of reading! I’m not keen on giving advice, but by way of example I would suggest two things:
1. Give books as presents to children, but don’t stop there. Take the time to read to them! I have sent short stories to preteen and teenage nieces and nephews and asked for their input. People of every age are flattered that you value their opinion. Now my older relatives and I exchange titles and have conversations about books. Amazing.
2. Make the library or local book store a weekly occurrence. Both usually have regularly scheduled story times and browsing the shelves is an adventure.
These tips are so perfect. I recall as a child loving the library and still do to this day! Congratulations again on your story and thank you again for chatting with us today!
Interview by Nicole Pyles