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20 July 2010

Rachel Thorpe - Writer

Rachel Thorpe - Writer

Rachel Thorpe recently graduated from Cambridge with a degree in English, is spending a year working for Christian Heritage in Cambridge, where she organises courses and events and writes about the relationship between faith and popular culture. (http://rachelthorpe.weebly.com)

"In my spare time, I read a lot, write a lot, buy more books than I should, drink coffee, go to the theatre, and talk to people. I am passionate about local community, about creativity, and about encouraging Christians to approach their faith thoughtfully".

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have always wanted to write. When I was about eight years old I started to carry around a notebook to interview people, and obsessively collected newspaper cuttings of interesting stories and beautiful images - a habit that has stayed with me.

I also went through a phase of wanting to be a dancer in the musical 'Fame'. And I still harbour a secret childhood dream to have an ice-cream van one day.

How did you get involved in writing?

As a child, I was always writing stories. As a super-motivated teenager I started my own magazine for the youth at my church, and spent all of my holidays getting writing experience. I worked on a local newspaper, a national magazine and spent several months at the BBC. At university I wrote theatre reviews for the student paper and more recently I have started writing short plays and poetry. My first play, 'Table For Thirty-Eight' was twenty minutes long as was performed in March. Showing people a play that you have written is much scarier than showing them an article, it feels much more personal. But the audience laughed in all the right places, so I've taken that as a positive sign.

Tell us one of your most hilarious faux pas?

Not so much hilarious as embarrassing, but several years ago I was presenting a newspaper project to Her Majesty The Queen on behalf of my school. Prince Phillip came over and asked me what our school crest symbolised. I had absolutely no idea.

What/who inspires you in your work?

My brain works a bit like a scrapbook so I pick up all kinds of things throughout each day that then end up in my writing - song lyrics, snippets of conversations, even lines from adverts.

What I read is obviously a big contributing factor. Whilst I was studying for my degree I wrote extensively on Virginia Woolf and a number of the other female modernists. The early-twentieth century is a fascinating period in literature, and studying it gave me space to write about war, aeroplanes, photography, hotels, fashion magazines, cinema...

Since graduating lately I have mainly been reading contemporary fiction. I just finished Margaret Atwood's latest book The Year of the Flood, having heard her speak in Toronto earlier this year. Other recently discovered treasures include Anne Michael's novel Fugitive Pieces and Mark Haddon's collection of poetry entitled The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under The Sea. 'The Observer' hated it, but I found it very refreshing.

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream for society. What is yours?

A society in which each person "loves the Lord God with all their heart and soul and with strength and mind, and loves their neighbour as themselves". We can't create utopia by ourselves, but it is important to imagine what the world could look like if we followed that maxim. Relationships are very important.

What's the worst rejection you've ever had?

Earlier this year I submitted an article to an academic journal, and mentioned that I had done so to a friend, who went and did the same. Her article was accepted and mine wasn't, which was rather awkward for both of us!

What do you invest in the next generation?

Hope. Enthusiasm. A desire to seek Jesus. I think that it is especially important for young Christians to see that faith is reasonable, it is rational, and it is all about real engagement with the world that we live in. That means that as Christians we need to learn not just to comment on the cultural phenomena of last year, but to look at the films, music, TV, books, clothes and adverts that are around right now. Increasingly, we also need to encourage young people that there is such a thing as Truth, and as right and wrong, in absolute terms.

What's the one thing you couldn't live without?

Other people. Leave me on my own for too long and I start twitching.

Tell us a joke

Last week my family were rehearsing an anecdote about a day when I came home from nursery school and said: "Every day my teacher holds up a biscuit and asks us what shape it is. And every day we all say, 'It's round, Miss'. You think she'd know by now."