Tea, Writing & Jill Dempsey

Well it is Wednesday which means it is time for me to have a sit down chat with another warrior. The element of these interviews that I love the most is that I get to sit down and chat with a fascinating artist of words. I learn tips about the craft of writing that have been tried, tested and aced in the school of hard knocks. The other element I love is the myriad of differences and similarities between each writer I interview and myself. Some of us write full-time, some of us wish we could write full-time. Some are mothers, some are single. Today’s writer hails from the fair city of arts and culture in the land down-under: the city that is Melbourne. Join me in my living room as I sit down and chat with the energetic writer, mom, wife, and tea lover as we chat about how she blends a life of writing and creativity (helped along by a freshly brewed cup of tea) with the madness and chaos of a hospital emergency room. While we chat, I will brew us a fresh pot of tea, Jill’s muse….

Welcome Jill Dempsey

Jill: Hi Kim,
thanks for inviting me to be interviewed, I hope you enjoy the chat.

girl with a quill: Tell me a little about yourself and who you are?


Jill: I’m a people person who lives happily out of the box and tends to step further out and away  if I feel crowded. I live at the base of a mountain that is famous for bushfires but also for beautiful birds and marsupials, brave people who have lost again and again but keep re-building.
I work Saturday nights resuscitating people who live literally unbelievable lives of violence, panic, and drunkenness. Why? I still believe that under any mess there is a gem worth looking for. I enjoy the sounds of native birds, the kindness of unexpected people, trust and clarity. I’m a web-browser; I love spiders and usually know who is hiding in my garden.

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Jill: About fifty years; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read and write. I do remember it being disruptive to living and learning, but comfort was more important than conformity.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in? What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Jill: I’ve written Children’s musicals with my husband, articles on health and parenting for years. I prefer Young Adult fiction, mostly metaphorical and speculative. I love walking out of this world to find hooks and handles in another, hoping to offer relief to people who struggle with uniqueness.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your books? Are you in Pre-publication?

Jill: Yes. I have my first fiction book on its way out. Just a few more pushes and it should breathing and smiling. This one is for the 10 – 15-year-old age group; especially those girls who feel cheated by the lack of choice, the sudden changes of periods, a morphing body and capricious emotions. Most of the books I’ve written have been about pushing through essential walls of change.

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Jill:   One that I never seem to finish. I love the journey through literacy, and the isolation that comes with choosing a path that wanders. But as often as I go back to this one, I can’t finish it 😦

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Jill: it defines a child I knew too well, explores the panic of crowding, the tenderness of raising an eaglet, and the sanctity of voice.

girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Jill: Not necessarily, I try to choose universal themes. Everybody knows the same struggles, not everyone has the same choices. I don’t think geography affects the most interesting part of us. I don’t like being a tourist, because no matter how great the scenery, it’s the inner person that is more interesting, beautiful, courageous or tested.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Jill: No. Australia is a relatively young country, but her terrain and landscape can  be seen in other places. Maybe our culture is more eclectic than other parts of the planet, but if you scratch the surface there are still the same familiar issues of poverty, homelessness, kindness, gang wars, political uncertainty

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Jill: My husband. He believes in me and I trust him. I can’t say that about anybody else.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Jill: I knew that I wanted to write fiction, probably for children or emerging adults. I mostly wrote on health and parenting because I’m a critical care nurse and knew the territory well. I don’t particularly enjoy non-fiction, but I felt wanted there and it kept me working in writing for a few years. I would love to become established as  YA fiction writer, but I’m still finding my way.

girl with a quill: You are a mother with a part-time job and writer? Do you tend to have your children be your beta readers?

Jill: I work night duty in a public Hospital Emergency department, and have three High School children. My children do read my work and often pick up inconsistencies in colloquial language, or depth of conversation. However I also like to have the opinion of experienced editors/authors for technical problems with balance/style etc.

girl with a quill: In your day job you are a shift worker, do you find that it is harder to find time to write? Do you have set writing times?

Jill: I do set myself times to write/edit during the day but also love flashes of inspiration that come during sleep, at odd moments during my usual chaotic life. I don’t find that writing creatively can be worked into planned spaces, it tends to land unexpectedly. I leave notes everywhere; sentences, runaway tangents that appear away from my chosen work space.

girl with a quill: You participated in NaNoWriMo 2010 and you were a winner? What did you take away from that experience that is valuable to your writing?

Jill: I loved the excuse to have to write. I had previously considered writing an option, a loved option but not one that had enough definition. Nano pushed me to create hours in a day when I’d put on my nano shirt, buy a new teapot, sort out a ritual that became and has remained a beautiful place. I loved listening to other writer’s discuss their struggles, and vulnerabilities. Previously I hadn’t had feedback that was friendly. It was constructive but less intimate, and I believe more grows within the place of vulnerability and intimacy. Not just in writing.

girl with a quill: For NaNoWriMo the challenge is to write down the story without editing. Is this how you usually write?

Jill: Yes, I love runaway writing, or stream of consciousness. Maybe it seems less didactic and rehearsed, less forced.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Jill: I have so many possible plots waiting in a queue in that writing room in my head. I haven’t experienced writer’s block, I could write for days if real life didn’t interrupt me. I recently destroyed a manuscript I had worked on for 5 years because I’d had so much pain in the rewrites.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Jill: Definitely a panster. I don’t like confinement and my characters’ journey is happier when birthed and grown organically than under the restrictions of timelines, plots and maps. I have software for mind mapping but it seems so restrictive, it hurts. In my personal life, I don’t like clocks, maps, diaries because they preach at me. In y writing life I need the freedom to dangle a possibility ad allow it to brew. That was why I bought a new teapot for Nano; it was symbolic of brewing and tasting something in a beautiful vessel, , choosing the depth and savouring the outcome.

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Jill: I don’t think I am superstitious. I wouldn’t want my thought life to be defined by events. Life takes unexpected turns and not all of it needs understanding or reason.

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Jill: Only this on-line group. Nano helped me listen to other writers, but I’m not very good with too many people. I tried a couple of writer’s groups, but felt crowded. I love having one to appraise my words, but not several.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Jill: The character. I love people. I work in an Emergency Department because I love the variety and unexpected changes. All of  life is woven with stories but can be boring if the character is not someone you care about. People matter more to me than events. I love metaphors and allegories because they have the chance to unearth the complexity of the heart of people.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Jill: A boy who couldn’t read, had cheated and manipulated people to find a way through the system. He reminds me of so many teenage boys I know, covering frailties by unconsciously trapping people to help them find a path.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Jill: The Cat in the Hat; he loved mess and always pulled solutions and possibilities out of nowhere.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Jill: 1;Dr Seuss because he told children that life would have its pains, pleasures and paradoxes, and that the journey is beautiful.
2; AA Milne; I loved his stories, but after reading his son’s biographies, I was very distressed about Christopher Robin’s parenting. I have so many questions to ask Mr Milne Sr.
3; Simon French; I have re-read all his books so many times, he has a beautiful insight, into injustice in common society.
4;Marilynne Robinson, because she writes those moments of wit, warmth and pain that make you shiver.
5; Robert Frost. He was rejected within his own country because his metaphorical writing wasn’t understood, but he still believed in himself enough to pursue his own style. He seemed to be so sensitive, secure and persistent.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Jill: None of them. I have a house full of teenagers, and all their friends. My bravest moment was having 13 13-year-old boys for a 24 hour sleep-over. It was the noisiest, smelliest time I’ve ever had. My characters can stay on the pages.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Jill: Accept technical advice, but allow room for your teachers to have opinions that are not necessarily insightful.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Jill: No matter how many times you decide you’ve failed, the fire of a dream will not be extinguished.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Jill: To find a few sentences that melt the reader’s sobriety and sadness.

girl with a quill: Where can we find you?

I am on Facebook, twitter; @jilldempsey and have a blog that is still waking slowly.



What a fascinating chat and what a fascinating lady. Thank you for coming in today Jill. Now if I am not mistaken, you must be parched and the tea must be brewed. Shall I pour us each a cup while I excuse the readers?

Remember writers wield your quills with care for…

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier

and Ink imbrues deeper than Blood….

~ girl with a quill

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning


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KK ink

Writer | Poet | Wanderer | Insomniac Writer.In.Procaffeination ... between real deadlines and imagined deadbodies Survives on coffee. Eats Poetry for Breakfast.

25 thoughts on “Tea, Writing & Jill Dempsey

    1. Thanks for commenting Julie. Thank you for stopping by and wanting to know about the lives of the Warriors. Incredible bunch of people. 🙂

  1. I love the idea of reading interviews with other writers. Although many of my articles have been published over the years and I have loved to write since childhood. Until recently, I have been happy promoting the work of other authors and I had never seriously considered writing a book. Every day I connect with another writer on WordPress, I become more inspired. So maybe…one day…I will see my work in published book…

    Thank you for helping to open me up to the possibilities.
    Juls 🙂

  2. “I still believe that under any mess there is a gem worth looking for.”

    This is a rock-solid belief of mine; and, my personal life proves it 🙂

    “I love the journey through literacy, and the isolation that comes with choosing a path that wanders.”

    I’m a massive Introvert and completely relate to that thought…

    I truly appreciated your subtle yet powerful thoughts, Jill.

    1. thanks everyone for your feedback:)
      Denise, the trilogy was called ‘The Enchanted Places’ (by Christopher Milne and was an autobiography, not a biography. It is about the hundred aker wood and all Christopher Robin’s friends and the outside world.
      He has plenty to say about how much his parents wanted a daughter…and in the sketches you can see that his haircut and smock were not appropriate for a small boy in those times.
      Chris also married his first cousin, against his parents wishes; his daughter was born with cerebral palsy.
      Later writings seem to say that he had resolved his distress with his parents and realized that much of his confusion was due to an incredibly high IQ and uncertain social skills…maybe an aspy.

  3. Thank you Jill for giving me much food for thought with your answers. I especially love that one of your goals is to melt sobriety and sadness. Thanks Kim for starting this inspiring series.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Shelley. It has been my absolute pleasure to do this series of Warrior Wednesdays. Although at times I feel quite selfish as I have learnt so much from all these Warriors and been so inspired. Looking forward to having you on here one of these days Shelley. 🙂

  4. Another great interview, Kim and Jill. I enjoy reading about my fellow writers from all over the world. It is comforting to see the similarities in our struggles and our victories. Even though writing is a solitary and at times lonely profession, these interviews let us know we are not alone and will never be alone.

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