We recently interviewed Rebekah Gamble, author of The Talking Stick Diaries.
Thank you Rebekah for this generous interview and for sharing your inspiring way of working.
What first motivated you to write?
Well, I’ve always loved words and writing. I was published the first time when I was fourteen, which back then was a big deal as young writers didn’t have as much opportunity. I had a teacher back then who really encouraged me and I dedicated my first book, Embody Your Power, to her and sent her a copy. She was the reason I never gave up writing.
What is your latest book about?
The project I’m currently working on, known as The Talking Stick Therapies, was inspired by my mother. You see, my mother’s a fundamentalist Christian, and she doesn’t agree with things like yoga and meditation. I got into meditation, introspective questioning and shamanic practice when my health collapsed and I was looking for pain management. Everyone had given up on me at that point, including me, and we had stopped medical treatment for my various problems. Meditation, specifically, really turned my life around, and I started having realizations the third day of my practice. I wanted to share these realizations and experiences with her, but if I mentioned anything about my practice, she wouldn’t hear me. I started adapting my language so she heard the message minus all the metaphysical packaging. As she, and later my sister, started changing how they thought because of some of the things we’d talked about and our relationships started to improve, it occurred to me that the people who needed these realizations the most might never access them. I thought ‘What does the same thing in the brain that meditation does?’
Journaling actually does a lot of the same things in the brain that meditation does. By this time, my health had improved dramatically and it put me on the path to becoming the holistic practitioner I am now, which is my primary career. I had gotten quite a bit of education, had my personal practice which I had written about for about five years, and had client files. I went through all of that material and isolated the thoughts, feelings, themes and belief systems that imbalanced different parts of the body and mapped it out. I then wrote writing prompts for each of these topics, and divided the material into seven books. Each of the books is literally a work book that helps the person working through it introspect and heal themselves through journaling.
When did you realise that readers were taking you seriously?
Well, I was actually kind of stealthy about the series at first. I deliberately kept it out of the media and didn’t do any publicity for it for the first year. I wanted to see if I really had something going there, if there was a point to continuing the project. Still, I wanted the material to be available to help those who needed it, so I sent some PDFs to a few friends to get some feedback. I thought of it as putting the material on the kitchen table, and believed that the energy that is would draw people to pick it up if it actually had any power to note. If my theories about energy worked, then it would move on it’s own.
I was still surprised when it happened. The people I sent PDFs to loved it enough that most of them bought several copies and gave them as gifts to family members, which was a huge compliment. Then it spread. One day I gave one to a client who was recovering from some severe trauma. It changed her life profoundly and she became one of my biggest supporters. Working with her eventually led to the complimentary FaceBook group, The Talking Stick Diaries, where people can support each other through their healing and growing process through discussions and support. I also made the first book a free download on there because the people that needed it most often were limited on funds. Working with this group and listening to the needs in my community eventually led to the development of The Talking Stick Therapies, which is a therapeutic drum circle we do once a month at my office based on the book series. When Embody Your Power started to be used to help women recover from domestic violence, I knew I really had something. I’m still not big on publicity and most of the books popularity comes from recommendations from friends or as gifts between people who care about each other. I’ve gotten a lot of letters from moms who have benefited from Embody Your Power and then bought copies for all the teenage girls in their families.
Cherish Your Soul is radically different. It’s the second book in the series and is mostly being used to help people who are over coming addictions and shame issues. The third book in the series won’t be released until 2016, but in my opinion it’s the best one yet, so I can be caught sitting around smiling a lot lately knowing what’s on the way for the series.
Do you write first and edit later, or do you perfect your writing as you go along?
It usually takes me between three and seven days to write a book. I basically quit everything in my life, take a trip to a hippie town or the mountains, and I focus. The first copy is done by the end of that time. I then go through and edit it to make sure it says what I want it to say, which takes about a day, sometimes two. Then I send it to my editor. Writing textbooks takes a little longer because I have a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist. It can take me up to a month to write a textbook and I don’t leave my life for those but work on them on my days off and in the evening. For the most part, my books come out of the efforts of my editor, any professionals writing reviews, a check team to make sure the print looks good, and of course me being a Capricornian overlord triple checking everything and being a bit too hard on my own work.
Have you ever had any particularly good and / or particularly bad reviews? How did you feel upon reading them? Did you learn anything?
I haven’t had any really bad reviews yet. There have been a few people who didn’t like Cherish too much, but I expected that because it’s very imaginative and very different from all my other work. I’ve had some pretty profound letters from readers though. One was from a mother who had picked up Embody as a last ditch effort after planning and deciding to commit suicide. She sent me a letter telling me she was only a third of the way through the book, but that it helped her enough that she decided to keep going and she wanted me to know her six children would still have a mother because of that book. She thanked me profusely. When I wonder why I’m pushing myself so hard to help people, I think about those six kids and that letter.
I also had some pretty touching experiences when my old teacher sent me a letter thanking me for the dedication and telling me she considered my success the pinnacle of her own career. My mother also read the first book, and it was so intense for her that she had to slow down and still hasn’t completed it. It was kind of a big deal for me that my mother read something I wrote.
All four of the books I have out right now are still lacking on reviews. It’s hard to get people to write a public review. I’m not sure why that is when people seem to enjoy reading something. I don’t think people realize how much good karma they’re sending out when they do that, but leaving a review on a book you like on a public site is the absolute best way to thank an author because it helps our rankings and it helps us reach more people.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Writing is actually a really intense process for me. I feel books inside me like pressure. After awhile, I start to get visual glimpses of them, and I can feel them move inside me. Then I get dreams, and start hearing some of the actual writing in word form in my head. I start jotting down key phrases at that point, and end up with a list of trigger words to remind me of things. This generally happens within three days of me going away and writing the book itself. Then I take off and the book’s written in a week or so. When it’s finally done and out of me, that release of pressure is an awesome feeling, though it’s not uncommon for my back and abdomen to be sensitive and sore for a few days and I feel very empty for a while. It’s that contrast between the near mania of just before writing and that complete release after the book’s written that I like most. The first couple nights after that I always sleep really well and everything seems so still and calm, which is wonderful. Usually within about one or two months, I’ll start to feel the next book happening.
I also keep a book shelf of autographed first editions from people I’ve met over the years or known personally. Every once in a while I’ll put one of my own books on that shelf and look at it, which is a neat feeling I’m not totally sure how to describe.
What advice would you give to authors who are struggling to find enough time to write?
First off, you’re not alone. I actually developed the writing system I have because when I wrote the first book I was working full time in the mental health field, going to university full time for a health degree, and taking care of family responsibilities. I only had seven days in a year off of both work and school at the same time. This is why I formed the habit of disappearing into the mountains and writing for a week- it was the only way not to spend my time working ahead on school work or spending time with my family. One that method was established, it’s worked well for me ever since. Now, it’s taking time away from clients and my husband, but there’s something powerful about being off grid for a week. No one can get to you, even if they want to and even if you want to be in touch with them. For people figuring out how to do the writing and living thing, the biggest thing I can tell you is to figure out a method. I know writers, a lot of writers, who wrote their book one or two pages at a time at midnight between jobs or over their lunch breaks. Once you find that method and get it to fit into your life though, it starts to feel unnatural not to do it that way. The other things to consider are whether the book should really be written and getting to know the book as the entity that it is. If your book wants to live, you need to respect that it will find a way with or without you. Simply recognizing that often makes me feel grateful that I’m the one that gets to write it, and that makes it easier to actually set aside the time and do the work. That makes it a blessing rather than just more work.
What are your writing goals? Have you ever thought of writing fiction?
Well, there are still five more books in The Talking Stick Diaries series. I’ve also recently gone back to teaching because I missed it so much and am writing classes. Once all of that’s done, probably in the next two years, I’m planning to take three or four months off writing and recharge. Then I have a few projects already in the works. One will read like fiction. I’m also a shamanic practitioner, and am going to be writing a compilation of some of the experiences I’ve had with my work. There’s also a book on the different sacred plant medicine groups around the world in the works, and a collection of stories based off of people’s past life experiences. I don’t know if I believe in past lives proper, but I know those therapies have really helped people and just doing my own regression work has given me a whole collection of moving stories that I’d like to compile. Besides, it’s about time I went back to writing not because I was on a mission but just because it was fun, and I think that’s what that book will be- fun.
Rebekah’s website (which has a whole page on the book series): http://rebekahgambleholisticpractitioner.com/