If you've been following HTC for awhile, you probably know by now that, aside from writing stories, I'm absolutely passionate about environmental issues and making the planet a healthier, safer place for everyone who calls it home. You might even have seen the film I co-produced with my sister Abbie via our non-profit organization, Blue Freedom.
Making the film was an absolutely wild journey, an experience I will never forget and one that impacted me in more ways than I can possibly fit into a short blog post (let me know in the comments below if you'd like to see a seperate blog post about the film sometime!) If you haven't had a chance to watch Voiceless, you can do so for free right here on YouTube.
So needless to say, when marine naturalist and award-winning memoirist Rebecca Pillsbury reached out to Abbie and I about interviewing us for a book she was working on called Guided By Whales - a stunning compilation of colorful, artfully written stories of artists, activists, authors, filmmakers, marine biologists, naturalists, nonprofit administrators, and more who have dedicated their lives to advocating for cetaceans, we were thrilled by the privilege to be a part of it.
Needless to say, I am totally stoked to now be able to welcome Rebecca to Here To Create to share not only about Guided By Whales, but also to contribute to a very important conversation sparking in the writing community: how we can use our craft to create change - in our own communities, and on a global scale.
Kate: Rebecca, when did you first begin to write? Is it something you’ve always been into, or did your environmentalism draw you into the art?
Rebecca: I began writing as soon as I learned the alphabet. I kept a journal and entered writing contests starting in elementary school. At the same age, I started becoming passionate about environmental issues. However, I didn’t combine those two interests until I wrote my most recent book, Guided by Whales.
Kate: What’s the story behind Guided By Whales - were there certain events that inspired the idea for the book?
Rebecca: I had the book brewing inside of me for a long time. After I wrote my first book, a memoir, it became clear that I’d found my calling—and that I had what it takes to complete a full manuscript. After writing my own story, I felt it was a natural progression to write about other people’s life journeys, in the context of themes that deeply inspired me. My second book was a story compilation about the healing power of blues music and dancing, but even before that book was complete, I had Guided by Whales in mind. I found it profoundly enriching to interview people from around the world while conducting research for Saved by the Blues, and knew I wanted to follow that same format for my “whale book.”
There were already so many books out there about whales in general—their migrations, what they eat, how big they are, etc. but what I felt was missing were personal stories about what whales mean to people. I knew from my own experience that seeing them in the wild could be life-changing; I wanted to try to articulate the spiritual transformation that can occur by simply seeing a whale from shore. With all of the threats facing whales—and the environment in general—I felt driven to make people fall in love with them as much as I had, because we can’t hurt the ones we love.
Kate: I’m a huge believer in using art to create change. I would love to hear, in your own words, what your thoughts are on this concept of using art to make a positive impact on the world.
Rebecca: I feel that we live within a society and political climate that aims to divide us, rather than embrace what we have in common. The human experience is universal; art makes people feel. Music, art, literature, dance—these things bring people together by inviting us out of our minds and into our hearts and spirits. When we make decisions from that space, having a positive impact on each other and the world is inevitable.
Kate: So many of us are becoming aware of the fact that we need more eyes on the issues our planet is facing - and more hands to help. What are some ways you think writing in particular can help make a global impact?
Rebecca: I feel that once people become aware of threats, to our planet or otherwise, they are inspired to help in the ways that they can—when it is a topic that hits close to “home.” Unfortunately, media and news platforms often speak of issues in terms of statistics, told through the lens of a particular political or corporate agenda. To me, creative writing—whether it be for a book or a blog—feels more thoughtful and human than what’s written or spoken about in the news and is therefore a much more powerful source of influence and opportunity to get “eyes on issues.” People feel more inspired to act when they have a personal connection with the animal, person, or place in need of help. Writing can share the story behind a statistic.
Kate: please take this question for whatever it means to you: how do you feel that whales have spoken to you, and how do you feel they have guided you on your journey with this book?
Rebecca: Whales are our planet’s wisdom keepers. They have existed on our planet far longer than humans, and therefore have the luxury of intergenerational knowledge going back millions of years before us. I feel there is so much we can learn from whales, if we simply observe how they live (many of those lessons are written about in the book). By observing them, I suppose you could say they have “spoken” to me; they have inspired me with their trust in us, even though we have so degraded their habitat and in some cases hunted them to near extinction. I also have the whales to thank for “introducing” me to so many wonderful people in the whale advocacy community—such as you, and your sister Abbie.
Kate: I think a lot of people look at these big, messy environmental issues and then at their own creative talents, but don’t really see a connection between the two. Having written a book that seems to throw a lifeline to some of the world’s largest mammals, what are some ways you think creatives can use their talents to help the planet?
Rebecca: there are limitless opportunities to use creative endeavors to help the planet! Whatever one’s preferred form of expression is—whether it be writing, painting, dancing, songwriting, photography, film, etc.—it can be channeled to spread a message. Guided by Whales talks about people having done everything from becoming a “real-life” mermaid, creating a “wall” of origami whales, painting murals, to creating documentary films. Art tells a story; what story do you want to tell?
Kate: what advice would you give to writers who are starting out, who want to use their books to make a positive impact?
It’s never too soon to start making connections! Especially if your book is written with the intention of having a positive impact on others and the world, there are people who are going to be eager to support you—don’t be afraid to reach out and, humbly, ask for their support.
Kate: where can we find you and your book?
Rebecca: Guided by Whales is available at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA, the Langley Whale Center in Langley, WA, and the Whale, Sea Life, and Shark Museum in Depoe Bay, OR, among other local bookstores. It is also available on Amazon. More about me and my other books can be found at Duende Press.
- Art makes people feel. It brings people together by inviting us out of our minds and into our hearts and spirits. When we make decisions from that space, having a positive impact on each other and the world is inevitable.
- Creative writing—whether it be for a book or a blog—feels more thoughtful and human than what’s written or spoken about in the news and is therefore a much more powerful source of influence and opportunity to get “eyes on issues.” Writing can share the story behind a statistic.
- there are limitless opportunities to use creative endeavors to help the planet! Whatever one’s preferred form of expression is—whether it be writing, painting, dancing, songwriting, photography, film, etc.—it can be channeled to spread a message.
- It’s never too soon to start making connections! Especially if your book is written with the intention of having a positive impact on others and the world, there are people who are going to be eager to support you
A massive thank you to Rebecca for sharing with me and HTC community about her stellar book. Be sure to go grab your copy!