Student Spotlight: Rebecca Oet

Meet Rebecca Oet from Solon, Ohio. Rebecca's poem, "Indian River Lake" was selected as the Category III Poetry Winner of the 2016-17 contest and will soon be published in the much anticipated 2016-2018 River of Words anthology of children's art and poetry.

In January of 2018, Rebecca participated in a student spotlight interview, in which she told us about her artistic process, the story of "Indian River Lake," and much more.

Meet Rebecca:

Rebecca OETQ: What is your current age?

A: I’m 15 but I’m turning 16 tomorrow


Q: Oh wow! Happy early birthday! –How did you begin creating and what do you enjoy about creating?

A: I started when I was younger, in school I had to do art classes and English, things like that, but it never really interested me because it wasn’t something I wanted to do,  it was something other people were telling me to do, but my older brother is a writer and he was writing a ton when I Was little, and watching him get really excited about it and talking about it all the time, and taking photos and drawing and things like that it just made me really inspired, so I started writing and it just like spiraled out of control.


Q: What does it mean for you, for your writing to have spiraled out of control? What does this look like in your writing practice?

A: It’s like, before writing, creating wasn’t really my choice , but after making a choice it became a part of me, so now it’s like part of my identity.


OET_RebeccaQ: Tell me about "Indian River Lake". What inspired you?

A: I actually wrote that over the summer when I was at my grandparents house and they have a lake in their backyard and my grandfather was like, “do you wanna go canoeing with me? “and I just remember being really, really awed by how beautiful it was, and just how it felt like a quiet, special moment that I hadn’t experienced before and I just felt so inspired as soon as I came back I sat down and wrote about it.


Q: Would you say that that’s how your writing process normally is? Would you say you are typically overcome with inspiration?

A: It depends for me, when I am really emotional about something I usually end up writing about it as like therapy to help me deal with it and get it out on the page. Sometimes though I’m just doing normal things, like I’m in class or on a bus or something and I see something and am like “huh, that’s a cool image” and I just write it down, and then later when I have time I go back and look at it again.


Q: A Watershed Explorer is someone who explores their watershed or the environment where they live. What does being a Watershed Explorer mean to you?

A: Watershed Explorer isn’t really a term I had heard before, but it makes perfect sense when I hear it—especially for creators, like people who do art and writing… curiosity is such an important part of that process, and I feel like being a Watershed Explorer is just a natural extension of that. Of not only exploring the world around you through writing, but also changing your perspective and how you see things, and physically going out and seeing it and taking it all in.


Q: How did you find out about river of words?

A: My older brother was a finalist for writing when I was younger, and I just remember thinking “oh my gosh, that’s so cool, I love nature. This seems like such an interesting thing.”  So when I had started doing some of my own work, I submitted.


Q: It seems like you and your family have been very involved in River of Words. What role would you say River of Words has played in your life?

A: Seeing what other people have written and created has made me feel enthusiastic about being a Watershed Explorer—being curious, seeing other people’s works and relating to it makes me want to go out and become better, too.


Q: What is some advice you'd give another young person who wants to write/create art?

A: I would tell them to just go for it. There’s no bad art or writing of anything of that kind, there’s just art and writing that’s in progress, so no matter where you start or what you’re doing it will inevitably get better and grow to become a part of you—so I would tell them to just go for it!


Q: What has helped you let go of your inhibitions and just go for it with art?

A: I’m not sure … I think letting it become a daily part of my process, and letting it become habit has helped, and also the knowledge that writing doesn’t have to be for other people, that it’s like for myself, helps. Like, if no one else is going to see it I have nothing to be embarrassed about.


Q: When you say writing is a habit for you, do you have a disciplined daily practice, or what does that mean for you?

A: I’m a very disorganized writer, sometimes I’ll go for several days or weeks at a time without thinking about writing completely, and then I’ll just sit down and be like “oh gosh I have the greatest idea” and just power through it, whereas other times I’ll write every day.


Q: What is your advice to other young people who want to get involved or learn more about their watershed or environment?

A: I’d advise them to do research online, watch videos, see local volunteer opportunities. If there’s a park nearby, go out into nearby woods and explore and be curious.


"Indian River Lake" by Rebecca Oet

“Let’s go canoeing, you and I”, you say,

handing me an oar.

You give yourself the big blue one and I get the one ended oar.

Where is its twin? I wonder

Is it floating out there, in the cool green beyond,

with a heavy end dipping in the water?

Or is it underneath a pile of junk, silently awaiting its discovery?

Or maybe even, my paddle was just created this way, lopsided,

knowing it’s missing something but not knowing what.

We paddle, unsteadily at first but gaining speed,

Barreling through the water,

leaving “V”s in our wake. The sky is navy dark,

tinged with orange at the bottoms.

A gaggle of geese stare at us reproachfully, geeselings tucked into their feathers.

As soon as we pass by, they flap their wings,

splashing, and their young take off behind them,

already following in their footsteps.

The older ones bark at the youngers, honking in a language I can’t understand.

We slip through a patch of lilies,

our boat hissing and purring as I grab one and pull it out of the water.

Its roots dangle at the bottom,

scrabbling furiously at the muck, almost desperately.

The white beauty opens its petals,

The orange inside shaking like jelly with

every movement, trembling.

I bring it to my nose, and the sweet,

innocent smell greets me.

Smiling, I throw it back into the water

among lily pads,

and we row off

stars dripping from our oars.  

Rebecca Oet, age 13

Solon, OH

2016-2017 Category III Winner