• September 19, 2020

Bad dates turned into book - Odessa American: Local News

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Bad dates turned into book

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Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2020 3:30 am

Rebekah Manley knew early in life that she wanted to be a writer.

With the release of her first published work — “Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults” from Ulysses Press — Manley combines her educational background, career ambitions, personal experiences and observations into a whimsical look at the pitfalls of the modern dating scene for a nearly-30 professional woman.

“I was in third grade when I decided I wanted to be a writer and I’ve been some way or another working on this ever since,” Manley said. “This isn’t my first picture book for adults, but it’s the first one that sold. There’ll be more good news coming soon. This is just the start of my career and I’m really excited about it.

“They say write what you know and I’ve had a lot of bad dates. It’s just fun to write about it and laugh. I can either laugh or cry and I choose to laugh. I just write down stories and ideas. I also collect friends’ stories and a lot of them are completely made up, but a lot of them have hints of truth that I’ve either experienced or heard of people experiencing.”

Manley, who lives in Austin where she runs the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, has longstanding ties to the Permian Basin, although she has only a brief stint as a resident of the area. Her father, Rev. Derrill Manley, served as a minister at Midland’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, and her brother, Joshua, was born in Midland. The family moved to Lubbock when Rev. Manley entered graduate school, during which time Manley and her twin sister, Rachel, were born, but never quite achieved the goal of returning to Midland until her mother, Cindy, did so in 2005.

“We grew up coming to Midland,” Manley said. “We had a lot of family, friends, godparents here. My dad actually baptized us in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.”

After graduating from Grand Canyon University in 2005, Manley served as a social hostess and assistant cruise director for Carnival Cruise line before pursuing a graduate degree.

“I wanted three things in my life at that point,” she said. “I wanted to be around people, walk to work and travel and get paid for it.”

Manley said her connection to the Permian Basin has left an indelible mark on her life.

“I can’t even articulate how important it is to have friends and family in West Texas,” she said. “Even random things like when I was home from the cruise ships before I started grad school. I was eating at Luigi’s with some of my mom’s friends and they asked me what were my next steps. I said I’d like to buy a lime-green Beetle and drive to Roanoke and go to grad school. Someone said their neighbor was selling a lime-green Beetle. Three days later, I bought that car.

“That’s just how Midland-Odessa works. People love to help each other out and support each other.”

Manley earned an MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, with a concentration on the picture-book format.

“I knew I’d want to write for adults, as well,” she said. “I just didn’t know I’d be combining the two eventually. That was a fun outcome. I really enjoy creative nonfiction and putting pieces of my life in my writing. I think it’s fun to show pieces of yourself in an authentic way.

“I’m having a lot of fun with it. One of the keys with children’s literature is you kind of have to market to the parents. I’m willing and able to market directly and share the book directly. I have a lot of fun pieces that are going to be coming out along with my website (www.rebekahmanley.com).”

Whether writing or dating, Manley said, a strong support base has proved helpful.

“One of the things that I joke about, but I’m very serious, is that writing and dating are not solitary sports,” she said. “They’re not done all by oneself. It takes a lot of support and teammates to cheer and be there and bounce ideas off. I have people I call after dates or people I call when I think I’m going to sell a book and then don’t.

“I think there’s this idea that people date by themselves. It’s just this thing that they do over and over. Or write by themselves at a desk in a windowless room. Really, for me and many people I know, writing and dating are not things we do all by ourselves. It takes a community.”

With that in mind, Manley recently launched an “Application to Date Me” on her blog, Brave Tutu (http://www.bravetutu.com/blog/application-to-date-me).

“It is serious, but it’s also something really funny,” Manley said. “I’m laughing about it. If nothing else, I’ll get a good story and I love those.

“The main character (Alexandra) is all about being empowered, so I’m literally taking a page from my own book.”

“Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults” is scheduled for an Oct. 13 release, but may be pre-ordered from booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Target through Manley’s website.

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