Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (2015 Honorable Mention Winner, San Francisco Book Festival) and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. For affordable group sessions check out Author Social Media Boot Camp, monthly sessions to help all authors! Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says...), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.
Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish.
She is also now the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life.
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
Loren Kleinman (LK): You write about love, loss and healing. Can you talk about how your most recent collection of essays, Broken Places, responds to healing?
Rachel Thompson (RT): I once attended a reading by Dani Shapiro and spoke with her briefly afterward. She is lovely, by the way, inside and out. She discussed that we all have stories inside us, waiting for us to 'mine' them. I left the reading with a nugget of an idea, that those stories of my childhood trauma deserved attention. I wasn't ready - I was still writing humor and hadn't released my first book yet - but she helped me see that the seeds were already there, waiting for me to recognize and nurture them.
Once I wrote my two humor books, I feel this almost clawing at my skin for the stories to come out, ready to break through. Some people ask me if writing about the childhood sexual abuse experience is triggering, traumatic, or cathartic? My response is that it doesn't change what happened, but if I can be a voice for others to move toward healing, who may not have been ready like I wasn't for a very long time, cool. It's definitely helped me in terms of connecting with other survivors and forming amazingly strong bonds.
LK: What inspired you to write Broken Places? Why now?
RT: After I wrote the first book, Broken Pieces, I really wasn't prepared for the amazingly positive response from both survivors and non-survivors. Floodgates opened and people started sharing their stories with me, and I felt compelled to do more than write, so I formed a Twitter chat (#SexAbuseChat every Tuesday 6pm PST/9pm EST) with survivor/certified therapist Bobbi Parish, as well as a forum for others to share their own stories of survival, The #NoMoreShame Project Anthology, currently taking submissions (Volume I released last years; Volume II has been picked up by my published Booktrope and will be released this Fall), and a private, 'secret' group on Facebook for those survivors not quite ready to discuss their stories in a public way.
Broken Places seemed a natural progression for me after doing all that, which took me away from the writing to an extent, but I needed that time because it added to my own edification, helping to reinforce that so much of what I felt (shame, anxiety, flashbacks, panic) wasn't because I was weird, but because of the childhood trauma and the aftermath. Putting together those experiences helped me write this current book.
LK: How do you define "broken"? Is there a way we can reinvent ourselves out of the brokenness?
RT: That's a tricky question, but I believe it means something different for every individual, survivor or not. Some people believe that these traumas break us and we are forever in pieces, trying to put ourselves back together. I believe that each of our pieces is beautiful, and if we can learn and study each one, we will find strength in our vulnerabilities. What happened, happened, and nothing I can do or say will change that. Broken People is the title of my next work and I delve further into this notion of brokenness. It doesn't mean victimhood to me at all...more, a way to analyze and respect each piece that creates who we are now. There can be healing and beauty in the damage.
As for reinvention, I believe there's honor in recognizing who we are and what drives us. As I've aged, I've learned much more about myself, but I'm certainly a constant work in progress. Listening to ourselves is just as important in healing as listening to others.
LK: Talk about writing to heal. Can writing really heal us? Why?
RT: Oh yes, I absolutely believe so. For me, it's been an amazing journey of connection and community that I never would have been a part of had I not shared my story. The stories people share with me are heartbreaking, often shocking, yet the survival instinct is so strong!
We are not victims, and anyone who thinks that because we share our stories means we can't get past them doesn't understand that one doesn't equal the other. As a Jewish child, I grew up listening to stories of The Holocaust, with 'never again' ringing in my ears. Storytelling is powerful and a way to give respect, whether it's the story of one, or the story of six million.
Survivors have a bond like no other - often, stronger than family. It's not something I've been able to explain yet with my writing, but I'm working on it for Broken People.
LK: Respond to this quote by Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
RT: One of my favorites, and a driving force in my writing. Cracks are beautiful - the meandering patterns and randomness are a reflection of our humanity.
Perfection is boring, anyway.
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