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Tuesday 19 April 2022

12 Curly Questions with author and psychologist Rachel Tomlinson

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I used to make and sell polymer clay earrings online, and I was contacted out of the blue to have a pair of my pineapple earrings featured in a Jetstar inflight magazine. I love creating in all mediums, and cannot sit still, so always find myself writing or crafting something.

2. What is your nickname?
Nothing exciting here, just a shortened Rach. I wish I had a cool nickname and some kind of great backstory as to how the name came about. I'm open to suggestions though.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Birds. Full blown ornithophobia. It has reduced a lot since having my daughter as I don’t want to pass my fears along, but it can be absolutely debilitating at times. Birds seem to sense my fear and I have many amusing stories about birds coming out of their way to menace me (amusing to others, not necessarily me). My long-suffering husband has had to guide me through many a public place with my hands over my eyes so we could pass a gang of pigeons (gang isn’t the official term for a grouping of pigeons, but I want to impress on you just how threatening and flappy these pigeons were).

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.

Accessible, therapeutic, sensitive, supportive. I hold space for my readers.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.

Inclusive, creative, reflective, open, inquisitive.

6. What book character would you be, and why?

No hesitation…Matilda. I re-read that book so many times. Luckily my family were nothing like the Wormwoods, but I loved the concept of a young girl feeling powerful and being in charge of her narrative. I would also secretly love to have a superpower: I could float my phone in from the other room so I don’t have to get off the couch. It’s the dream!

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
I'm going to be boring (maybe I’ll reframe and say philosophical) and say that I wouldn’t time travel given the chance. I am right here, right now, and all the things in history (wider community and my own) have led me to this moment.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now?

Stop hoping and wishing… you are not getting any taller than this! Author headshots can be deceptive, so you can't tell, but I am 5 foot 0 inches. It’s also hard making friends when you are 10 and have the vocabulary of an 18th century noblewoman and your head is constantly stuck in a book. I would also tell her that she will find her people, the ones who truly get her.

9. Who is your greatest influence?
Oh tricky, can I cheat and say more than one? I’d have to say my mum and my husband. My mum is probably the reason I became a psychologist. She worked in similar fields and so I think I was drawn to wanting to work with and help people. She is incredibly generous of spirit, so accepting and non-judgmental. It taught me how to hold space for people, to allow them to just 'be', which is the cornerstone for how I create space as a psychologist for my clients. And my husband because when I said I wanted to write and try to put my stories out there he never doubted me. He is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I cannot believe my luck in finding him out of the millions of people out there in the world. Having two people like this in my life who believe in me gives me the courage to put myself out there and give things a go!

10. What/who made you start writing?
I have always written. I used to get bits of scrap paper and staple them together and make my own books. But I really started to explore writing professionally when I worked in play therapy. My clients could never truly see themselves in existing literature and they often felt so alone, like no one else in the world felt the way they did, or experienced things they did. So I started creating short stories that took the challenges my clients faced, and their strengths, and wrote them tailored stories of coping and hope to take home after our sessions had wrapped up. I had a number of people asking if I had ever thought about publishing therapeutic texts so other children could see themselves in stories too… and now here we are!

11. What is your favourite word and why?
Oh dear, I’m going to cheat again and choose a whole series of words! I like onomatopoeia - words that sound like their meaning: hiss, crisp, honk, bang, buzz… the list goes on. It just adds a bit of playfulness to conversation or text (when I'm writing) and I think it makes for a more enjoyable story that can be read aloud for children. The reader can really get into the story and I find it more engaging for the person listening. I write picture books, so I always think about what it's like for that poor parent reading the same story for the 47th time that week and I think adding in a bit of verbal gymnastics can keep the same story interesting.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Rachel’s Holiday, by Marian Keyes. Not because I'm egocentric and share the name with the titular character, but because I love her writing so much. I could (and I have) re-read her stories over and over again. And I love Rachel’s Holiday because it deals with mental health (I'm drawn to these stories because I'm a psychologist and this is something that interests me). It's humorous yet raw, it's painful, it's human. I find something new every time I read it.

Rachel Tomlinson is an author and registered psychologist who has worked with adults, families and children in a variety of settings. She has presented at national conferences on mental health topics including trauma and play therapy. She writes about topics such as parenting, child development and relationships. For more information, see www.towardwellbeing.com.