It gives me great pleasure to be able to introduce the first of our semi-finalists for the Cleopatra Writing Contest for Young Women. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be featuring these young ladies and I hope you’ll make them feel welcome and help encourage their craft.

Photo of Cleopatra Contest Semi-Finalist Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is a native of Cloverdale, Virginia. She grew up an only child which taught her how to entertain herself. Rebecca has been taking piano lessons since the third grade. She’s active in the local community theater, where she has acted in the youth ensemble production each year. In high school, Rebecca took part in marching band and held the title of drum major for her junior and senior years. She was a member of the drama club, the National Honor Society, and was also on the yearbook staff. On Sundays, Rebecca is an active member in the Cloverdale Church of the Brethren. Rebecca will graduate from Lord Botetourt High School in June of 2011 and plans to attend the University of Richmond, where she hopes to major in English.

Tell us a little bit about the story you submitted to the contest.
A House is Not a Home shows the strains in the relationship of a happily married couple when dark secrets arise from their past and old wounds are reopened.


What prompted you to write it?
I have never been a big fan of teenage romance stories.  I tend to write about older couples.  I find that there is more to add to the story when the individuals involved have lived long enough to have a past, complete with hardships, broken hearts, and lessons learned.  The conflict present in A House is Not a Home conveys that these two people have struggled with themselves and with each other but have overcome such hardships with forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance.  One of the main reasons I chose to write the story as a whole is because I like the thought that a couple could still be truly in love after many years of marriage.

That’s a lovely and romantic thought. One of the comments from the judges who evaluated your work was that it handled dark emotions very well. What do you draw on to make them come alive?
Emotional scars are a part of life and that they help to build conflict. In order to make emotions come alive, I usually try to picture a scene as if it were in movie.  I see the character with her features and her body language, and then I try to paint the same picture for the reader. I ask myself:  “How would I feel in this situation?”  To know that my husband has possibly been unfaithful for many years would not only carry emotional burdens, but physical pain as well.  Like many other people, I have felt betrayed and hurt in my lifetime, and I try to take from those personal feelings to create the emotions that are felt by the character and hopefully by the reader.

How are you like your characters and how are you different?
When I feel betrayed, I tend to carry a grudge and completely avoid the person at all costs, much as Jane did until she finally came to her senses and made the right choice to return home.  Jane and I also both have a strong sense of family.  While I’m only eighteen and a senior in high school, I often look forward to hopefully having a large family and then even grandchildren someday.  My father likes to say that I’m really “old at heart” when he catches me watching episodes of the Golden Girls.  While it’s meant to be a joke, there is some truth in it.  I’m not wishing my life away, but I am looking forward to the future.

What’s your favorite subject in school?
I have always enjoyed mathematics.  I also became particularly interested in U.S. History my seventh grade year because my teacher loved the subject matter and passed that love on to her students.  Similarly, my eleventh grade A.P. United States History teacher was a phenomenal woman who constantly amazed us at the vastness of her intelligence.  But if I had to pick a favorite subject, it would have to be English.  In an English class, there is rarely one single right answer because each individual is turning in a different paper with different perspectives, structure, and tone.  English gives me the opportunity to express myself through writing and, while we don’t write much creative fiction, it helps me build my writing skills for future endeavors.

Tell us about your home town.
I wouldn’t call it a small town, but it almost has a small town feel. Growing up in Cloverdale has made me who I am: it has made me appreciate the simple things in life, like a sunset in the late afternoon or a smile from someone in the hallway at school.  It has also made me appreciate the importance of human relationships and how everyone needs the compassion of another human being at one time or another.  Living in a smaller community gives me the comfort of the close community bond, where I can trust my neighbor and I recognize faces when I go into the post office.

What kind of author do you want to be?
If I had my choice, I would like to be a novelist, writing stories similar to the one I submitted for this contest.  I guess my subject matter could be considered romance, but I also like to have a strong feel of family present in many of my works.  In most cases, I am writing more for myself than for an intended audience because most of the stories I write are ones that I would like to read.  As Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  If my work should happen to published, I want my readers to feel refreshed and confident of the goodness in the world after they finish reading.

Is there a woman in your life who has helped guide you towards a better future? Is there anything you’d like to say to her or about her?
It’s hard for me to pick one woman because as the famous phrase says:  “It takes a village to raise a child.”  My mother and grandmother have instilled in me most of my beliefs, including the importance of good work ethic and the advantages of having a strong family bond. While I may not always get along with my mother, I do respect her for the way she raised me because I have learned how to be a modest, intelligent, and caring individual thanks to her. Another woman is my eleventh grade A.P. English teacher, Jessica Curulla.  I’ve had the pleasure of having her again my senior year as a yearbook advisor and I am very thankful for her because she has always been very supportive of my writing ambitions.  She has repeatedly encouraged me to continue with my writing and to pursue my goals.  While I have had many role models in my high school career, she has definitely been one of the most influential.

And now, for our lightning round. Salty snacks or sweet snacks?
Salty.  Mostly chips or pretzels.

Cats or dogs?
Cats.  They’re pretty self-sufficient

Born organized or natural procrastinator?
Definitely a procrastinator.  But I do have my moments.

History or the Future?
History.  It’s what makes us who and what we are, and we have something to learn from it.

Lilacs or Roses?
Lilacs.  I love purple and the shape of the bloom is so unique.

Does anyone else have a question or two for Rebecca?