Becky Thieman, a WKU junior majoring in psychology and creative writing, has recently been published in the prestigious student journal, The Susquehanna Review.
From uncovering emotions to seeing her name in print, writing has opened doors for Thieman she never thought possible. Her nonfiction essay “Look Beneath the Floorboards for the Secrets I Have Hid” centers around family, emotions, and the psychological effects of both. “I got the e-mail in June,” Thieman said. “I had submitted before and I was definitely getting used to rejection. But when I opened the e-mail and it read, ‘Rebecca, we are pleased to inform you…’ I was shocked.”
Thieman’s essay is tremendously honest and personal. For protective purposes, she changed names of family members, anxiously anticipating their reaction. “It’s not necessarily a pretty picture of my family, but it’s real. It opened a door of conversation, with discussions we haven’t had in years,” she said. “Everyone is affected by this. It’s not just about me.”
With funding from the English department, Thieman traveled to Pennsylvania to attend the Susquehanna Review Launch Party. Thieman was able to meet the editors who worked closely with her piece. “They sent me their first copy edit in October, and that was an interesting process. They changed some things, like verb tenses and the ending. I didn’t know exactly how to handle it,” Thieman admitted. “With editing, you lose a bit of control over your writing. It’s a strange feeling.”
At the launch party, Thieman read her essay on-campus, in a banquet hall. Despite nervousness, she approached the reading with confidence. “It was really important that this piece, because it shares so much of me and my family, be read aloud by me. Still, there were very personal details about my life that made me anxious to read it aloud. The only way I know how to write is by putting all of myself into it,” she said.
For Thieman, the highlight of the weekend was meeting Lauren Slater. Slater is an American psychologist and author who held a Q & A session during the Susquehanna launch. “I prepared for this for weeks. I read her short stories, novels, nonfiction… even interviews. I wanted to go into it and ask her questions that matter, something I would learn from. I love how she explores psychology within her writing,” Thieman said. “I identify with her for that reason.”
Still, Slater’s metaphorical memoir Lying is causing controversy. Throughout the memoir Slater’s reliability is unclear, challenging readers’ acceptance of authorial honesty and questioning the difference between truth and lies. Despite the issues her memoir raises, Thieman was prepared for discussion and found Slater captivating. “We’ve talked a lot in class lately about fact and truth, and the difference between emotional truth and factual truth. There’s a lot of gray area in life and I like exploring that in nonfiction, pushing my readers to see it, too. Slater does that a lot in her writing,” Thieman said. “I love her as a writer… but I don’t know if I trust her for the same reason.”
In writing and publication, Thieman gives this advice to her peers: “With copy-editing, be flexible. Trust your editor. And keep submitting, always. I feel like I’m submitting constantly. But if you do it enough, someone’s going to notice your writing.”
In Becky’s case, someone certainly did.
If you haven’t already, you can read Becky’s published essay here.