Reader, writer, and lover of the printed word, Rebekah Choat (aka “Becka”) is dedicated to bringing people books to nourish mind, soul, and spirit. I met Becka at a writers retreat in the deep woods of Texas (coming from the Northeast, I had no idea there was such a thing as woods in Texas… live and learn) a couple years ago. My first – and lasting – impression was of a very smart reader who was seriously in love with books. What I’ve since discovered is that she has also imbibed the craft of sentence-making. Her monthly contributions to All Nine have the polish, precision, depth, and purity of priceless gems, and frequently leave me breathless.
It is my great pleasure to interview Becka for this week’s Fridays with Friends installation.
Kelly: What/Who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?
Becka: As a poet and essayist, I draw inspiration from my family and friends, nature in my own backyard, what I read, what is happening around me. I don’t typically have big ‘aha’ moments with fireworks going off and choirs singing; I’m more likely to be sitting on the deck drinking coffee and gradually become aware that something is germinating in my mind. It’s the small things that speak to me: the cry of a mourning dove, the scent of jasmine, a phrase in a book that stirs a hazy memory.
Books are a source of endless wonder to me – the sheer number of marvelous books there are in the world amazes and delights me, and I’m blessed, by the grace of God and the support of a good man, to have more time than many people have to read and explore this universe of literature. As a bookseller and reviewer, my desire is to bring people books that will meet their specific need or interest at a given time, and to introduce them to books they might not encounter in the course of their day to day busyness.
K: What artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc, etc…. of any kind) are you following/do you recommend? (i.e. Who are your faves?)
B: (1) Music: When I’m writing or reading, I need quiet instrumental music – Anne Roos and Secret Garden are a couple of my favorites. Dougie MacLean or The Wailin’ Jennys keep me company when I’m doing household tasks or bookkeeping.
(2) Poetry: Christina Rossetti was the first poet that really spoke to me, when I was maybe twelve, and she’s still very important to me. I read a pretty broad range of poetry – John Donne, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins…it’s nearly impossible to pick favorites, but if I knew I were going to be marooned on a desert island I’d pack volumes of Wendell Berry and Malcolm Guite.
(3) Fiction: Tolkien is my first love, with C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald close behind, and Madeleine L’Engle and Lois Lowry and Katharine Paterson and Patricia MacLachlan…yes, several ‘children’s’ writers; I’m old enough now to read children’s books again and find deep treasures in them.
(4) Non-fiction: Frederick Buechner and the friend who introduced me to his writings have between them saved – maybe not literally my physical life, but certainly my spirit and my sanity. Madeleine L’Engle comes in here, too, along with Parker J. Palmer and Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning.
(5) Other: An organization that I love and support wholeheartedly, and that has been instrumental in bringing me to where I am today, is the C.S. Lewis Foundation. Its stated mission is “advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression throughout the world of learning and the culture at large,” which is also a good description of what I hope to do to some small degree through Books by Becka. In addition to working toward the launch of C.S. Lewis College, a college of the Great Books and the Visual and Performing Arts, the Foundation offers a number of conferences and retreats each year which bring together kindred spirits from all walks of life and far-flung locations. I’ve come to know many of my dearest friends, including my fellow muses here at All Nine, at some of these events, as well as having been encouraged to recognize writing as my true vocation and given the confidence and opportunity to develop Books by Becka from a back-burner dream into a viable real-world entity. To find out more about the Foundation and upcoming events, visit www.cslewis.org.
K: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?