Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot


This one is for Barney Fife and Barney Rubble,
for Ed and Trixie, for Ethel and Fred,
the straight man,  ploy, the wooden decoy bobbing,
back-up singers with their benign doo-wops,
and the boy in the back of the choir
who is asked to just please mouth the words.
For the runner-up without whom there could be no race,
the pageant princess who will never be queen,
Miss Congeniality, the bridesmaid clutching for an instant
the white bouquet, perennial benchers suited up
in virginal uniforms, the ones off whom the light bounces,
moons to the first sun, the eclipsed girl walking the beach,
the one who packs the lunches, the one whose order
the waiter keeps forgetting, and all those casino singers
from One-Hit-Hotel, spinning dizzily on the same old song,
forty five revolutions per minute for the rest of their lives.

Once I dreamed a show where no one was a star,
the cast a chorus of could-have-beens--
the envelope-opener at the Oscars, the virtuoso's
page turner, the understudy who broods each night
wingless in the wings, second-string violins, second sons,
the side of the face the camera never sees,
the big zero,  placeholder,  goose egg
hatching all the other numbers.  First drafts, shed skin,
the flayed remains of St. Bartholomew, the chaff
and fodder, papery husks the poem wriggles out of,
the scaffolding, first skeleton dismantled,
pencil sketches, gesture studies, the armature and cantilever
supporting the ubiquitous clay,  plaster molds
wasted in the service of the bronze,  the slave buried
alive with her king , the discarded placenta--
first nourisher, first to go-- first wives who train
their husbands to be husbands for second wives.
Exhausted breath trailing the departing car.

There are blue back roads we will never travel,  slender
capillaries feeding the big red vein that feeds the heart,
unvarnished undersides of desks that will never know
the tender violence of our graffiti.  Folds of skin
untouched by sun or hand,  also the undiscovered pearl,
the veiled beauty, the hidden knees of nuns
who bare themselves only on the flip side of dream
in that one brief encore, the curtain call
uncalled for until now when suddenly the silence
of one hand clapping is multiplied by thousands
of one-hands-clapping, calling all the sidekicks
back to the stage--the frame bursting its picture,
torn envelopes healing themselves, the sealing wax
once broken for the words inside, now sealing
a love letter to itself,  the echo in the valley
composing its first song,  Peter Pan's shadow peeling free,
Bartholomew's recovered body-stocking zipping itself
back together, topped by all the hats Rembrandt painted over
in his search to find himself, while below,
those hordes of idle shoes recovered from the closets
of amputees,  are kicking up their smooth black heels.

Winner of the Wood Prize from Poetry
From Deep Light: New and Selected poems

More Poems on Other Voices, Other Worlds