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Combs & Underland Down The Rabbit Hole With...

ROCK 💜

By Proud ViM ProductionsPublished 4 months ago • Updated 3 months ago • 12 min read
22
Dallee generated & Canva Cobbled

Andrea, who goes by the pseudonym of Rock on Vocal, was born in Baltimore, Maryland USA in 1963 to parents from Tennessee, USA. She lived in the Nashville vicinity until she was 16 returning to Maryland for high school. Having lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico and various towns in Vermont she eventually moved to Sweden at the age of 40. Joining Vocal in June 2022, she writes from her delightful 1700’s  farmhouse on Sweden's west coast, located outside of Gothenburg. She is 61 years old.

(The obvious pleasantaries)

Underland: You’ve lived in a fair few places! So what made you move from the US to Sweden?

Andrea: I came for the wrong person and stayed for the right one. In the states I did not and still do not feel is a healthy environment to thrive in, especially regarding all human rights, physical and mental health care, gun ownership laws and LGBTQIA+ rights. I felt it best to raise my only child here.

Underland: So, you speak Swedish?

Andrea: Yes, I speak Swedish although Swedes love to use their English! I am a Swedish citizen and depending on what happens in the upcoming US elections I plan to renounce my US citizenship for good if they do not reflect true democracy.

Underland: Really? Wow! That's so cool though, I mean speaking another language! Was it hard to learn?

Andrea: Yes, It was a big leap to juggle Swedish classes and single parenting. I am always learning; achieving fluency is not possible even in English despite what people think. Fluency is an illusion.

Underland: How does Sweden compare to the US?

Andrea: Comparison is difficult, despite there being many differences from culture to culture. In Sweden, regardless of income you get the same medical care as the King and Queen. We have free dental care from childhood through age 23 which gives all families the ability to ensure the best start to a bright and smiling future. As for guns we are not allowed weapons such as AK-47's or automatic guns, although we have in larger cities crimes related to gang wars. Schools and Universities are paving the way for gender free facilities and for example, although there is quite a waiting list, all transitioning costs are free for transgender people, mental health care includes a team of professionals that can assist a person struggling with both finances, activities and appropriate interaction. Environmental laws are very strict thus continuing to preserve both the forests, waters and air quality. It is one of the most taxed countries in the world however if one has any chronic health issue or needs surgical intervention it is worth what we pay into the system. Single and two parent homes are given extended time off from work after having or adopting a baby with pay for approximately 480 days for one child. All children are given money from birth until they are 16 to cover any expenses incurred while studying. University is free and as most people know we take in many refugees and help with resettlement. We have remained neutral regarding world governments and their policies although we are on our way to join NATO which will change our overall stance. Animal rights are enforced for both wildlife and domestic pets. What can I say, it's just better!

MC: You mentioned once before when we talked that you went to college in the US. What did you study while at college and which college, if you don't mind me asking.

Andrea: I started out studying Creative Writing at Burlington College and subsequently this led to discovering the subject known as Social Ecology; a philosophy based on the works of the Jewish-Russian philosopher born in NYC, Murray Bookchin who fundamentally based his beliefs on building community that benefited everyone in a holistic format. From there I attended a very well known alternative college in Plainfield, Vermont, Goddard College. I found the rigidness of a typical University boring and tended to learn and procure more knowledge on my own time in my own way. As a backup I went to Nursing School and worked in palliative, geriatric and primarily in home health care.

Thank goodness I moved to Sweden before I developed a painful condition which affects my spine as I would not be able to support myself in the healthcare field stateside now. I have taken two philosophy courses through EDx, a wonderful program in conjunction with Harvard's Kennedy School and The Smithsonian Institute in Washington,D.C.; currently I am enrolled in an online course on Chinese Myths and Philosophy.

MC: That's awesome, Andrea. I love that you are so well rounded!

Andrea: I have an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts as well.

Underland: Wow! Alright so writing, how and when did that start?

Andrea: I began writing stories very early, dreaming of being a writer in elementary school.

Underland: From your stories on Vocal which do you think represents you most as a writer?

Andrea: That's a good question; I feel that writing what I know and feel is most important to be a writer with any reverence. I live with a condition called Chronic Repetitive Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and when I compared Frida Kahlo's struggles as an artist, her passionate womanhood with my situation and goals, that was very special. I write from inward out and tend to avoid the respected craft per se of outlines, rules and regulations. I stay true to myself and when I stray it is reflected in my work. I love free verse and the contradictions of the heart and mind. I also soak up other people's vibes and try to reflect from wherever they seem to be coming from, for ex. Paper Girl and Waiting For Me which are about my young adult’s struggles as she is coming out as a young woman in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Underland: The first piece I read of yours was, 'Go On, I Dare You' and I fell in love with your craftsmanship right there. It was so sensitively and delicately written and I loved the alternative perspective. I remember bawling on my sofa thinking, “Damn she's so good!”

Andrea: Yes, that piece took me back to the state of poverty of both society, soul and lack of unity in the USA. People are naturally selfish and we must strive to recognise this within ourselves in order to better our world.

Underland: Sadly they are. It really got to me. So, who are you reading when you are not writing?

Andrea: I am in an English reading book group in Sweden. Currently I am finishing up Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog with Richard Erdoes and am soon starting Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I also get the New Yorker weekly and love to soak that up. I read Vocal daily as well.

MC: Who is your favorite Author?

Andrea: Oh, this is a tough one. I would say I began reading May Sarton's journals in my late teens and she showed me that being simplistic and truthful to daily life gives one credance and courage to write with the fortitude in which I strive to pursue. I also loved Pearl S. Buck, especially The Good Earth. I have a keen interest in children's books and enjoy all of Shel Silverstein's creations, biographies of various artists from all types of genres and cookbooks, although I don't cook much now I like the idea of it!

Underland: So Vocal...what are your thoughts on the platform- likes, dislikes, things you would like to see on...and get off the 'roadmap?'

Andrea: I lean toward poetry, fiction and enjoy a good challenge however I believe that I will spend more time in Chapters once The Vocal admins. move my last two pieces in Families over. I have a lot to work on and it feels good to jump from genre to genre yet I think collaborative works are quite interesting and that having a feedback team is essential. There is a massive amount of good writers going unread or missed as the platform is growing so quickly.

I think we need to highlight some more space for emerging writers for wanted critique and constructive criticism. I also feel that judging by how many subscribers one has or how many likes one has is detrimental to the sense of community. It's easy to get lost in competition and lose quality in our journey. I wrote for small newspapers stateside and for a company called CopyPanthers and know that the construct was grueling; in my writing on Vocal I want to steer away from that. I have one goal, and I'm persistently stubborn, and that is to have one poem or short story published in The New Yorker. I am also playing around literally with writing my first screenplay. I would really like to see this in The Vocal!

Irritating boss on the phone interrupts and Underland disappears further down the rabbit hole…

MC: That's an admirable goal! You've mentioned before that you live on a farm, and that you raise a few chickens and rabbits. How many animals do you have all together?

Andrea: I have three indoor domestic, spoiled bunnies, and three spoiled Hedemora chickens (indigenous to Sweden). I aim to get two pigs in the next year or two. I was an intern at a wildlife rescue center in Maryland and used my nursing skills there for two years. I have readied a seagull who fell from a high building and took up quarters in my shower, (they are easy until they make their first squawk), and most recently I had a small fledgling for two nights until a wildlife rescue ambulance came out to take her in. I have had a squirrel with epilepsy, baby bats, an opossum (Pita Pocket) and several chickens that fell off a truck on their way to a slaughter house.

MC: That's a lot of animals. ❤ I think you officially have more than me. I also don't have anything as exotic as baby bats or opossums.

Andrea: The bats fell down my chimney from their mother's nest; it was too high to get them back up. Luckily, I knew enough to keep them alive until a rescuer came from Washington, D.C’.s Bat Sanctuary to take them. My God their high pitched scream is enough to want them out and released fast. In Sweden it is illegal to keep wildlife for more than two days. My seagull and I did not know that at the time. His name was Pecky and he learned to dive for fresh lobster in a plastic pool with me. He was in the newspaper.

MC: I can imagine the bat's shrill voice. Pecky sounds so cool. I bet you miss him.

Andrea: I do, but I know he found his way. I also loved acting in community theater.

MC: Community theater productions are interesting to watch. What's your idea of the perfect evening for yourself?

Andrea: Oh, hmm. In the winter a good soak in the hot tub or a long warm bath flipping through my stacks of magazines, writing at weird hours, singing along to favorite tunes on Spotify, corresponding in the old fashioned way of letter writing and indulging in BritBox or Netflix as well. I also love to draw and paint. I love being in pajamas, near the fire by candlelight. Eating is always a good thing!

Underland bounds back into the warren, looking slightly dishevelled…

Underland: Oh, sorry just dipping back in...that's a topic I can get in on...what do you like to eat generally? Do you cook?

Andrea: I was primarily a vegetarian from 16 to my early thirties and then I began to eat more fish and poultry due to a vitamin deficiency. Now I am typically the soup maker, and love to make polenta, bean dishes and Tex-Mex food is my favorite. Due to my inability to stand or sit for long periods I mostly make special, whimsical things for holidays such as macaroons, brownies, and I love fresh salmon and spicy indian food. Like my writing, I don't follow any recipes unless it's something very new to me.

MC: Do you have anything you like to watch on TV?

Andrea: I am currently watching Oprah Winfrey's production, "Greenleaf" in which she also has a small role. The southern drama is something I keenly relate to. I also am a sucker for Eurovision which began as always last Saturday and I will follow the Swedish winner all the way to the end. I also like homey series like "Virgin River" on Netflix and Britbox crime series. I avoid all daily news as I find it leaving me hopeless.

Underland: Yeah, I'm the same. I used to want to know but nowadays, not so much.

MC: I watch the news, only for the weather, then I turn it off.

Andrea: From the beginning of the war in the Ukraine it seems to just be one step closer to WWIII, especially if the Trumpster gets re-elected!

Underland: Yeah, It's all rather gloomy 🙁

Andrea: Gloom and Doom; the old hippies like myself are outnumbered!

Underland: I was born an 'old hippie' 😁 So if you had any advice to a young writer starting on their journey, what would you say?

Andrea: Write for yourself, know your own depth and explore your fears and truths. Don't leap into writing without passion or a sincere pulling to do so. Avoid exaggeration and fancifying your words. Sometimes simplicity is better than contrite creations. Technique and creativity are very different. Read. It's very important to read and keep humble. Don't give up: if you do your story will never be told.

Underland: I love that! I think that's very solid advice for any new creator!

MC: Me too! What do you most want to be remembered for?

Andrea: My open mind and soft heart. I get burned, but it's always worth being me.

Underland: Yeah I get that but what alternative is there really? Be you and hurt or be you and hurt. Would rather be me and hurt 🥰

MC: So, Why do you go by ROCK ?

Andrea: In my blog I began to unravel my painful childhood and subsequently my trauma invoked adult triggers. Diagnosed with PTSD I created an image of the stoic and boundary setting person I have had to work on becoming. I have LittleMe who is still very invasive and MiddleMe who is adulting when LittleMe is in her corner. I had a very troubled father who I worshiped and who broke my heart; when I began to know and see the TRUTH I chose not to be a part of his life. He has created a whole other life, still based on illusions and perhaps desolation. Being excluded at first was a terrifying experience yet now I am so grateful he is not a part of my life or my beloved daughters. Moving to Sweden has proven the absolute most healing journey ever. ROCK is my protector and my balance. ROCK is solid and who I have to be to survive. I have a best friend from my late teens in Maryland. A very well known artist now. Her family was Polish/Catholic and took me in repeatedly. Her influence saved my life. I have her still to guide me. My mother was and is an excellent writer and I was very influenced bý her talents. Writing is for me a way to stay true to myself and if another human being relates to my writing then I have done my job.

Underland: That makes complete sense. I think we become who we need to be to survive what we must; certain people find their way in somehow.

Andrea: 'Tis wise

Underland: I am so glad I stumbled on your story and you joined ViM. It feels very good,as things should be- Thank you so much for chatting with us.

Andrea: Thank you! I am honored to be interviewed!

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We had a great time getting to know our fellow creator ROCK a little more and we sincerely hope that you enjoyed it too!

Join us on Facebook ViM for fun and writing frolics:

Or Queer Vocal Voices, here:

You can also catch up with Mother Combs and Celia Underland on their respective profiles on Vocal.

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Proud ViM Productions

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Comments (10)

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  • Alex H Mittelman 3 months ago

    Fantastic interview! ❤️💜♥️

  • Heather Hubler3 months ago

    Wonderful chance to get to know more about ROCK!! Loved her honesty in this :) Great interview!

  • That is a great interview. Somehow, I had not yet subscribed to Rock's (Andrea's) stories, but thanks to this, I have now.

  • This was such an in depth interview. I look forward to reading some of Andrea’s work. Fantastic job!

  • Whoaaaaa Andrea, you have sooooo many pets! I would love to meet them all!! 🥰🥰🥰 "Irritating boss on the phone interrupts and Underland disappears further down the rabbit hole" Lol, I laughed so much when I read this! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I enjoyed this interview!

  • Oneg In The Arctic4 months ago

    Such a fun interview, great to learn more about ROCK

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    Wonderful interview, once again. Thank you, all three for sharing.

  • Hannah Moore4 months ago

    Great to get to learn a bit more about you! I have known a few people from Sweden, they all agree - its just better! The taxes are worth the return!

  • Rene Peters4 months ago

    Love the interview! It was cool to get to know more about ROCK. 😊

  • Poppy 4 months ago

    Super interesting learning more about ROCK!! Great interview 💛

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