Rachel Wagner: Yesterday’s Coffee: A Collection of Poetic Memories

Mar 6, 2018 by

An Interview with Rachel Wagner:  Yesterday’s Coffee: A Collection of Poetic Memories

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Rachel, first of all, can you tell us about your education and experience?

My name is Rachel N. Wagner, I have been a registered nurse coming on three years this June. I graduated from New Mexico Junior College in June 2015, took my NCLEX-RN two weeks later and passed the first time. I have clinical experience in medical-surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics, and emergency room units.

However, my specialty is geriatric care. I have been the charge nurse on the TCU unit at Lea Regional Medical Center since February 2017. I achieved my Bachelor of Science in Nursing through Eastern New Mexico University one year after obtaining my Associate of Applied Science in Nursing from NMJC on December 10, 2016.

I began my Master of Science in Nursing Program through ENMU in January 2017, I also went back to NMJC and took a few courses to go towards two associate degrees and then transitioned into the new position of charge nurse on TCU the next month. It was a challenge balancing the demands of being a full-time master student, full-time charge nurse, and any kind of social life. However, now looking back, I am so grateful I did it this way. In June 2017, I graduated (again), from NMJC with my Associate of Arts in English/Creative Writing and Associate of Science in Business.

In November, I was “precept-ing” under a nursing professor at NMJC for my required educational clinic hours and was offered a job by NMJC to teach nursing full-time. I couldn’t turn it down, education has always been one of my biggest passions and it was my dream to be a nurse educator. I just didn’t know my opportunity would come so soon. In December 2017, I graduated from ENMU with my Master of Science in Nursing. In January 2018, I began working at NMJC as a full-time professor of pharmacology, I kept my job at Lea Regional Medical Center at TCU as a PRN nurse. I work 1 or 2 weekends a month. I’ve also went back to school, again, at Western New Mexico University to further study literature and writing. I am currently in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program with a focus on English/Literature and Creative Writing.

  1. What first got you interested in writing?

When I was a little girl, my parents read to me every single night. My dad always jokes that he’s responsible for my love of reading and writing because he used to read to me when my mom was pregnant with me. He likes to take responsibility for my passion for writing. My mom jokes that she’s responsible because she prayed that I would love to read like my dad, because she never liked to read as much as he did and she wanted my sister and I to have that love for reading like my dad. However, I think both of my parents are equally responsible.

I was homeschooled for kindergarten and my mom instilled the philosophy into my soul, “If you can read and write, you can do anything.” My mom used to tell me this as I was learning how to turn my 6 year old scribbles into something legible. Along with reading me a bedtime story every night and being my teacher, my mom would take me to the library once a week and we would fill up my radio flyer red wagon and I would read them all well-before we went back the next week. My mom has another philosophy she stands by to this day, “Nobody can ever take your education away from you.” This is another thing that has pushed me to want to achieve every educational goal I have ever set for myself.

So, when did I decide I wanted to start writing for myself? When I was 8 years old, I moved up from the children’s books to the “tween” books and I just happened to pick up my first every chapter book A Tree Grows in Brooklynn by Betty Smith. You know how people say, there’s one moment in your life that can change everything. That’s what this book did for me. I wept as I read this book, and I was an 8 year old little girl who didn’t know anything about the heartache the character was experiencing in the story. However, because of the talent of the writer, I connected to the words. I connected to the story. This is when I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted to write something to speak into another person’s life. Words have power and I realized this at a very young age.

So, I continued to go to the library every week with my mom and I continued to read. Because in order to be a good writer, one has to first be a good reader. When I was eleven, I wrote my first poem, which is the introductory poem in my book and that was it. It wasn’t a Shakespearean level poem by any means, however, I had accomplished it. I had rhymed my way through a complete poem and I knew I had to have the title of “author,” after my name, someday. It became a dream, an obsession, a hope, a love, a passion, and it still is to me, today.

  1. The book “Yesterday’s Coffee: A Collection of Poetic Memories”– what is it about?

Yesterday’s Coffee is a work of my heart. In ways I almost feel like it’s my baby, because it took me nine months to compile everything and get ready for publishing. It is a collection of every poem that I have written up until this point that I thought was worthy of publication. I began it when I was in the middle of an amazing creative writing class in fall 2016. This class re-awakened my dream that I had to be an author. I began pulling out all of my notebooks and scraps of paper that I had saved over the years and I realized I had a lot of material. So, I decided I was going to put it all together and see what would happen.

In 2008, when I was 13 years old, my cousin, papa, and great grandma all passed away. We had a funeral every 3 months. People kept telling us, “death comes in three’s.” Like this statement was supposed to make things better. Like this statement made that void go away. This is not only when I decided I wanted to be a nurse and care for people because I knew what it was like to be that family member searching for hope and comfort, it was also when I decided that writing was saving my life. I wrote a poem for each of them, I wrote when I didn’t understand why they were taken away from us, and I wrote to simply feel better and express things I couldn’t have in any way otherwise. I wrote to remember them. I wrote in the hopes of not forgetting one single detail. I wrote, thinking, I’ll tell this to my children someday. And as melancholic as that sounds, it has and still does provide me with such healing.

So, Yesterday’s Coffee, is about memories. It’s about my uncle, Jon. It’s about my papa, Larry. It’s about my great grandma, Betty Jean. It’s about loss. It’s about death and life. It’s about heartbreak. It’s about first things and last things. It’s about broken relationships and soul aches. It’s about my life in a very personal and vulnerable way. There is so much of me on every single page of it; my heart and soul typed in exquisite ink. It is me from 11 to 23 and it is also me, now. It is my hope that someone, somewhere, can pick it up and feel like they’re not alone because they are feeling the same way I was feeling at one point or another in Yesterday’s Coffee.

  1. Do you have a preferred genre? By that I mean, do you prefer to write poems, or short stories or plays?

I absolutely love writing poetry. However, writing the short story in Yesterday’s Coffee, provided my heart with a wonderful peace because it’s inspired by one of my friends that I lost suddenly in 2015. And the playwright I wrote provided me with hope in the current situation I was in; trying to decide which way to turn and what direction to take my life to next. I think that’s the best thing about writing, for me, it doesn’t matter what genre I’m writing; as long as I’m writing. It’s the physical act of putting my words down on paper that brings that rush into my soul of something bigger than myself. It’s the ink and paper. It’s the tangibility of it.

So, I think, I just prefer to write. And whatever creative process sprouts from that writing always excited me. Something can start out as one idea and evolve into a completely different ecosystem of things at the end. It’s quite exhilarating.

  1. What are you currently writing? Fiction? Non Fiction? Science Fiction?

Currently, I am working on a second collection of poetry that I haven’t released the title of yet and a little fiction surprise. I’m hoping for them to be released within the next 2 years; depending on how things unfold.
You can check out all of my social media platforms for news, media, and updates in poetry.

  1. What writers have inspired you?

Oh my goodness, this is such a loaded question because I have so many authors that I love. Like I said before, I’ve spent my whole life reading. So, there are many amazing authors that I am a fan of. For the purposes of this interview, I think I’ll just list the top 5.

  1. Betty Smith. Like I said, her book A Tree Grows in Brooklynn, literally changed everything in my brain when it came to actually connecting a reader to the writing.

2. Melody Carlson. Her main book that really touched me, Finding Alice, also changed my perspective on mental illness and our thoughts inside our head.

3. John Green. Wow. I can’t say enough about his books. They may seem like stereotypical young adult fiction from the outside eye. However, once you begin to read any of his books; you realize how human and real he is and it touches my heart. His book, Looking for Alaska, carried me through summer 2015, when I was questioning why I deserved existence when my friend passed away suddenly.

4. Edgar Allan Poe & Emily Dickinson’s poetry have helped me through some pretty tough times. Helped me realize that poetry and words aren’t always supposed to be happy or encouraging; sometimes, they’re just real.

5. J.K. Rowling. I can’t say enough about her imagination and creativity. I aspire to create even a smidgen of the world of characters that she has in her successful career. I’ll keep trying, Jo.

7) Is your book available online? If so, where can we find it?

Yes, my book is available on Amazon, Kindle, Kindle Unlimited (for free), Barne’s and Noble, thriftbooks, alibris, abebooks and more online websites where books are sold. It is available for Prime shipping on Amazon with the link here: https://www.amazon.com/Yesterdays-Coffee-Collection-Poetic-Memories/dp/1544220324/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1520292973&sr=8-4&keywords=yesterday%27s+coffee

8) What have I neglected to ask?

Nothing. This has been a wonderful interview. Thank you for taking the time to listen. I appreciate it very much.

Rachel N. Wagner

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