Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.


girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?


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

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?

Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.

girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

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

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

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

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

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

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

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

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.

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?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

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

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

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

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

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

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “”


Facebook: HYPERLINK “”





Twitter: HYPERLINK “”






Upcoming…Watch this space

The first issue of Mad. Art by Harvey Kurtzman.
Image via Wikipedia

I have decided to find the genie in the lamp. He has spent enough time parading around 1001 Arabian Nights with Aladdin and company. I need him stat, as they say in the medical dramas. I find that I need the magical ability to fit 48 hours into 24 hours and that I need this for every day for the next month. 24 Hours is just not enough anymore to get all the things done that I must get done, both writing related and day job related not to mention still fitting in normal life activities like eating and sleeping…

But I digress….enough with the wishes….

There are some exciting events happening in my writing life and my blogging life. April looks like it is going to be as Mad if not Madder than March. I have quite a few submissions due this coming month as well as quite a bit of editing to do.

As for blogging…Warrior Wednesdays is going to be interviewing some amazing authors and writers and I now have all interviews confirmed and locked in until the end of August. So I know where you will all be every Wednesday: sitting down with a cuppa and joining this girl with a quill as I interview some very talented people out there. As Warrior Wednesdays has gained a regular following I am going to start upping the ante as they say a bit…I am going to start digging even deeper into these Warrior Writers and Creative’s  Psyche to get to the real secret veins of gold at the heart of their creativity. For this, I am going to ask for audience participation. That would be you dear readers and fellow creatives / bloggers. I need you to tell me what questions you really want answered from these writers. So in order to do this, I have set up two methods of dialogue and discussion.

Warrior Wednesdays Page

This is the area I have created for Audience Participation. This is your area. You get to post a question here that you would like answered by each Warrior. Each week, starting on the first Wednesday of April I will pick a question from this page (it could be your question) to ask the Warrior.

Warrior Wednesdays Tweets

This is a twitter chat room where you can tweet your questions. You can also discuss the previous interviews. I will be asking all the Warriors that I have interviewed already whether they can do a guest host on this tweet chat and you can delve further into anything you would like to know from them. I will let you know via here when we will be doing some guest hosting with the Warriors themselves.

This will allow you to not only read the interview but get you involved in the interview process. So starting this week, you have 1 week to post your questions.

Wednesday 30/03 Warrior

For this week’s Warrior Interview I have the very gutsy and sassy Leigh K Hunt in studio. I have already received her interview answers and let me tell you that this is going to be a Wowser of an interview. So watch this space tomorrow. You definitely want to be here for this interview.

Other Exciting Developments

This coming month of April is: Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. So in honour of this worthy cause I am going to have the honour of interviewing an Australian Author who is donating the April income from her new biography to this cause. This interview will be hosted on Friday, April the 1st this week. So watch this space for that interview.


In April I am going to be reviewing a pre-print new fantasy book. I just received the book today so will be letting you know a review date once I have read it. Let me just tell you the book looks like a very intriguing read.

So yes, April is going to be a Mad month again but there are some exciting developments coming up. I hope to see you all here.

Look forward to seeing you all participate…lets have some great blog discussions.

– Kim

First Draft..Second Draft..Third Draft..

So it begins
Image by Graham Binns via Flickr

Today has been a good day for refocusing. I was on twitter chats #writecraft and #storycraft and the topics were first drafts. As most chats end up going, it went down other paths but the main topics were first drafts and first chapters.

One of the questions was: What tools do you use to get into the Zone?

Another question was: Are emotions necessary for being in the Writing Zone?

A third question was: How do you turn off the internal editor and should you turn off the internal editor in the first draft?

There were a number of great points and questions raised. The great thing about these chats are the wealth of information us writers can be for each other. Each of us has a unique spin on the craft of writing and the writing life. Each of us, whether published or unpublished, have at least got through a first chapter and many have full first drafts completed.

So today I am going to ask you these questions which were raised in today’s chats:

  1. How important is a first chapter? Do you believe a book rests on the first chapter?
  2. Do you think a first chapter must have an immediate active element or immediate conflict?
  3. Which tools do you use – Music/Software/Stationery/Surroundings/Time of Day – to get yourself into the Creative Zone?
  4. Do you feel that the key to being in the Creative Zone is emotion – whether controlled emotion or the release of emotion?
  5. How do you turn off the internal editor?
  6. Should you turn the internal editor off during first draft and if so, how do you do this?
  7. Do you outline the first draft before writing it?

So the questions are given to you? What are your secrets for first chapters and first drafts?

What other tips can you share with me and the readers of this blog?

Post any tips or queries regarding first chapters and first drafts here…and lets get a discussion going.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

A natter with Nicky Schmidt

Warrior Wednesday Interview Nicky Schmidt

I have been very excited to have this particular writer in my studio for a good ol’ natter. One of the reasons is that I have been following her interviews on her blog where she interviews writers on writing exceptionally well. So it was a real treat to put the interviewer in the hot seat so to speak. Another reason I have been excited about this interview is that Nicky has become a good online friend with the craziest and quirkiest sense of humour I know. With her photographer’s eye and a childlike imagination, she has a unique perspective on writing. She brought along her two writing friends, her beaded sheep and flying space duck, for the interview and as always packed her quirky sense of humour that never fails to have one smiling. Join us as we discuss squirrels, guinea fowl, photography and writing. Be warned your sense of humour will be tickled.

girl with a quill: Hi Nicky…Tell us a little about Nicky Schmidt and what made you into a writer. Well you answer, I will pour us a glass of lovely Merlot. I also have a slab of dark chocolate. I have heard you have a taste for these. Great minds think alike…

Nicky: Hi Kim, thanks for inviting me to be interviewed as a Wednesday Warrior on DragonFly Scrolls!

About me?  Well, I’m a mongrel of decidedly mixed European heritage and live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, near the southern tip of the African continent, in a garden full of trees, squirrels and an abundance of guinea fowl!

I think we can safely say that an over-active imagination is what drove me to being a writer – that, and a history of creativity in multiple forms in my genetic make-up!

girl with a quill: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember your first story?

Nicky: I’ve written for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first play when I was about nine (called Little Girl Lost), set it on roller skates (thus predating Starlight Express by a more than a decade…!) and charged the neighbourhood kids five cents to watch it!  I’m an only child and I spent my childhood living in my imagination with an assortment of imaginary friends. I think writing was an obvious outlet for too much imagination – though I do recall my mother complaining that I always killed my characters at the end of all the stories I wrote!  I wrote (and illustrated) my first children’s story when I was an art student, as part of a calligraphy project. I was in my mid twenties when I first realised that one day, if I ever grew up, I wanted to write for children. That’s what I do now, though I’m not sure about having grown up…

girl with a quill: Your blog is called Absolute Vanilla. What inspired that name? Is it a creative philosophy or a favourite treat?

Nicky:  Absolute Vanilla is the second blog I created and having learned some lessons from the first blog (a fictional blog written by an acerbic 5’4” alien chicken…), I wanted a name that was high up the alphabetic order so when it is listed it’s near the top of people’s blog rolls. (You can put this down to over 15 spent in marketing and communications!)  That aside, I love vanilla.  So a bit of juggling and Absolute Vanilla was born.

girl with a quill: You mention photography as another creative passion. Do you find your photography to be an inspiration for your writing and vice versa?

Nicky:  For me photography provides a different way of seeing the world.  When you look at life through the lens of a camera you see things in a purer and freer form, you see the beauty or the wonder of the thing you’re looking at in a highly focused way.  I find photography to be an incredibly healing art form.  Does it influence my writing?  Only insofar as I guess one could say I look at the blank page with the same kind of focus with which I see through the camera lens, and that photography has taught me to look at the world in a different way.

girl with a quill: On your blog, you have done quite a bit of interviewing yourself. What 3 lessons have you learnt from Writers on writing?

Nicky:  Read a lot!

Accept the voices living in your head and give them voice.

Be true to yourself and write the story you’re meant to write.

And a fourth one – accept that it’s very tough out there and you must have persistence and determination to succeed.

girl with a quill: Speaking of your blog, do you believe that blogging and having a social presence on the web is important to building a platform for your writing?

Nicky: Unquestionably!  Social media is fundamental to the times in which we live.  I would not be where I am if it weren’t for social media.  I started with yahoo groups, then blogging, and then moved onto Facebook, Ning groups and Twitter.  All these platforms have given me access to people and ideas without which I would not be where I am today – for example, being interviewed on your blog, or interviewing other authors with whom I’ve connected via Facebook and Twitter on my blog.  So, social media has helped me get where I am, it’s helped me create a global network of contacts and it’s got me “out there” – where I’m told I have a persona which is somewhat larger than life….  “But you’re so small!” a group of online friends exclaimed when they met me at a conference last year. “We thought you’d be so much taller!”  There you go, that’s part of the power of social networking!

girl with a quill: When you are not writing, which writers do you love to read? Why?

Nicky:  I read mostly Young Adult fiction because that’s what I write.  My favourite authors include Meg Rosoff, Kevin Brooks, Marcus Sedgwick and Gillian Philip – to name just a few.  They stand out for me because a) they write superbly well b) they’re unafraid to tackle tough issues c) they write with strong and honest voices.  For me a good story, well told, is deepened by a very real emotional voice with rich characterisation.  It’s authors like these – and others like Candy Gourlay and Keren David – who inspire my writing and my writing journey.

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

Nicky:  Aside from what I’ve said above, I think I was inspired to write in the first instance my grandmother who was a wonderful storyteller.  Sitting with her in her Austrian-themed dining room, with a pot of Ceylon tea and a pile of anchovy toast, she would weave the most wonderful tales of her life.  In many ways, one might say she opened up the world of storytelling to me.

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?

Nicky:  I’ve always leant towards the fantasy genres, though I find that more recently I’ve moved from pure fantasy to something which is based in urban reality but has fantasy, magical realism or supernatural/paranormal elements.  I guess it’s about weaving together the real with the mysterious – which is, I think, a reflection of life per se.

girl with a quill: Many writers use writing workshops and writing competitions to hone their craft. Have you attended any writing workshops / entered any writing competitions?

Nicky:  In a nutshell, no – but only because they’re not accessible to me.  I would need to travel to the US or the UK to attend the kind of courses I want to do – though, to that end, I do try to get the SCBWI-BI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – British Isles) annual conference whenever I can and, if I lived in the UK or US, I would unquestionably attend writing workshops and seminars. The one thing I have done (because I could do it via email) is to have a manuscript assessed by a literary consultancy.  That was an incredible (and steep) learning curve and I would heartily advocate it.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the publishing process in South Africa. Do you need an agent or can you approach the publisher directly?

Nicky: I can’t tell you a huge amount about the publishing process in South Africa as I’m not looking to be published here.  This is primarily because the South African publishing industry is small – representative of the reading population – and this is especially for children’s literature (remember the vast majority of South African children are impoverished, and books, sadly, are a luxury).  Moreover, I’ve been told by the local publishers with whom I’ve been in contact that I write for an age group and in a genre and about subjects which are of no interest to South African publishers – they prefer novels that are South African based and which contain an African theme.  I suppose this is driven by the fact that local booksellers would sooner import foreign books that already have a proven sales record and are guaranteed to sell, so publishers won’t take the risk of putting money into unknown local talent.  That said, there is a reasonable market in children’s picture books and educational literature (provided it has an African theme).
As for agents, there aren’t any here that I know of – mostly because local publishers prefer not to work with an agent – they would rather deal directly with an author.

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

Nicky: With a blank page – or a blank computer screen!  Usually I have a vague idea of what I want to write about, an idea will have come to me in some way and I will spend time letting it “compost” in my head.  When I feel I and the story and the main character are ready (which is usually when the character starts prodding my brain a little over-eagerly) – then I just sit down and write.  I often think of it as a “channelling” experience!

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

Nicky: I’m unquestionably a pantser!  I love the adventure of seeing where a story will take me.  I find plotting removes some of the “magic” of the creative process.  I will acknowledge, however, that this approach does mean that I have to do lots of rewrites and edits and I do keep telling myself that I really should have a go at plotting, sort of, anyway!

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?

Nicky:  Nope, not at all superstitious!  But then I also don’t believe in things like writer’s block – which I know several of my author friends will argue with me about!

girl with a quill: Many published authors say that writing needs to be treated like any other job where you work for a set time every day. Do you have a set routine for your writing? Do you have a favourite time of day for your writing?

Nicky: I would like to see it that way, but it doesn’t always work like that – sometimes life just gets in the way.  I find I write best in the morning and early evening. Unless I’m really on a roll with a story, I’m useless after lunch – so I use that time for doing other stuff – you know, all the admin related nonsense that so clutters our lives.  I don’t really have a set routine, I just try to go with the flow.  I believe that writing, like everything else, has rhythms and I try to respect those.  If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t.  If I need a break I take it.  If I want to write for seven hours flat out, I do that (though this may mean that my lovely husband doesn’t get fed!).  I’m not inclined to be rule bound but I do discipline myself.  I set myself deadlines and I meet them. I try to go to the gym two to three times a week, I try to meditate daily. I make a point of getting away from my writing when it becomes too intense.  It’s all about balance, being kind to and respecting yourself and the story and your characters.  If I go too long without moving on with a story, my characters can become downright invasive and bullying!

girl with a quill: Describe your writing space for us.

Nicky: I have a study which I designed myself with a built in desk and bookshelves. It’s painted orange (it’s supposed to be a colour that inspires and motivates!) though the walls not covered in books are covered in pinboards and paintings and photographs.  I’d describe it as a very vivid and friendly space.  That said, I’m about to build a new house on the side of the mountain and in that the study will be a bit of an eyrie with big windows looking out over valley, mountains and sea.

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?

Nicky:  I lead an online critique group which forms part of an initiative started by the SCBWI–BI chapter.  There are eight of us and we support, encourage and nurture each other on our writing journeys.  Take a look at my latest blog post by way of example!  HYPERLINK “”

Although I’ve been involved with critique groups for several years, I initially fought joining one for a long time, but I have to say it was one of the best things I ever did.  What I will say is that it is critical to find yourself the right group critique group – writers who are at the same level and better than you, people you can trust and for whom you have respect.  And if a critique group isn’t right for you, leave it and find another, there is no point in being in a group in which you are not comfortable or in which you are not learning. A good critique group will do two things – one, you will learn why your own story is or isn’t working and how to address problems, and two,  in critiquing the work of your peers you will develop your critical faculties, which you can then apply to your own work.  It’s very much a two-way street and what people put into a critique group is what they will get out of it.  But, and I can’t overstate this point; critique groups must be dominated by mutual trust and respect, and a good critique is kindly done and constructively critical – a critique should never demoralise or embarrass or hurt someone.

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

Nicky: Hmm, good question… I’m not really sure you can separate the two, I think both elements are critical in writing a good novel.  I like to start with a strong character, as I believe my character often drives and informs the story.  But the two work in tandem – and together with that other critical element, voice.

girl with a quill: I know that it is a bit like asking a mother who her favourite child is but, Do you have a favourite story from those you have written and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Nicky:  Every story I work on is my favourite story, I genuinely can’t say I have one that stands out from the others, though, inevitably, whatever I’m working on at the moment is the “current” favourite.

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

Nicky:  I’m afraid the same sort of answer applies as above, though I did write a novel for younger children (9 – 12 years) several years ago that I’d really like to go back to because I so enjoyed the characters.  It’s a fantasy, set largely in a fantasy world which gave scope for all sorts of weird and wonderful characters including a dragon, an owl and a Great Dane – who both spoke and had more views and attitude than your average opinion poll – and a pair of incorrigible gnomes.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any story now? Can you give us a peek into it?

Nicky:  I’ve just finished a complete rewrite of an urban supernatural/magical realism novel for Young Adults.  It’s currently out on submission so forgive me if I’m a bit cagey about it.  Meanwhile, I have a new story composting in my head – so far I know the main character and the nub of the plot – for the rest there is a lot of staring out the window going on, often accompanied by frantic note taking.  I am also doing some research – quantum physics is proving interesting…

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

Nicky: There are two: Hercule Poirot is one –  simply because Agatha Christie gave him so many characteristics and so much life that he’s vivid – although, admittedly, something of a caricature.

The other is Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax – simply put, she’s a witch after my own heart – I mean, who doesn’t want to be adept at headology and be able to borrow another creature’s mind on occasion?!

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

Nicky: I’m not sure I’d want a dinner party with 5 famous creative people; I suspect there would be way too much ego around the table!  Instead, I’d rather invite a huge group of my children’s writer pals to a soiree!

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?

Nicky: I think the guest list would very much depend on my mood at the time and the kind of party I wanted.  But to be completely frivolous, let me say, Hercule Poirot, Granny Weatherwax, Bertie Wooster (he would of course bring Jeeves), Gandalf and Vlad Dracul.  I suspect I’d then sit back and watch the mayhem unfold.  I can tell you that already multiple creative outcomes are flitting up from my imagination!

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

Nicky: Try astrophysics instead – it’s probably easier.

Accept that you’re not as good as you think you are and set to work improving.  Everyone thinks they can write (I was a copywriter and a scriptwriter in a previous life) but actually, most people can’t write and fewer people can write a really good story, especially a children’s story.

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

Nicky:  Learn, always learn – observe and grow all the time – be savvy, stay in touch with the world and stay creative.

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

Nicky: I don’t really care about creating a lasting legacy – I just want to tell a good story and tell it well.  If it touches someone’s life, that’s wonderful.  If a legacy is created from that, great – but since I probably won’t be around to know about it, it doesn’t really matter.  To my mind, the desire to create a lasting legacy is fundamentally an ego-based illusion.  The important thing in the here and now is to honour the story – and yourself – in the process of creation.

You can find me at my blog  – Absolute Vanilla  HYPERLINK “”

Or on Twitter @NickySchmidt1  HYPERLINK “!/NickySchmidt1”!/NickySchmidt1

I am on Facebook but I manage my connections there quite tightly.

And you’ll find some of my photos on Flickr at  HYPERLINK “”

And a note to your readers – please don’t confuse me with the chicklit author who uses my name as her nom de plume!  Or the Danish musician, who is male.

Thank you for a truly entertaining interview Nicky. Thank you also for coming such a long way from your lovely writing place to visit with me in mine. You are welcome to visit anytime. Now it looks like we need a top up of wine and I think I have some dessert somewhere. Vanilla Ice-Cream? In honour of your visit. Excuse us readers well we adjourn to enjoy our dessert…Mmmhh Absolute Vanilla…Absolute Nicky Schmidt…

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


Musing on writing ~ Mina Witteman

Today’s writer is an eloquent lady with a lovely turn of phrase hailing from the Netherlands. I met her through the Warriors Facebook group that I belong to and have enjoyed all her wise posts. She may not post as often on the group as I know she is busy on her latest story, but when she does post or post a link through to her blog, I always take note of what she says. She is a writer that not only knows about her craft and has succeeded at having a career in writing but also has a vast resume of writing related paths from being an intern at a top publishing house to editing to ghost-writing. If you think that you find it impossible to just find enough time to write for a hour every day, Mina adds one more item to her resume by being a teacher of creative writing at schools. She started off wanting to be an architect but in the end decided to follow the path of destiny and followed the way of the words to become a writer. They say everything happens for a reason and I am glad that destiny changed her pathway from architecture to writing. Otherwise we would have missed out on enjoying her talent and her wisdom.

Now without further ado, I will let Mina tell you and I a little more about herself as she lets us into the world of:

Mina Witteman – Writer

Welcome Mina…I know it is a long way from home but I hope you enjoy your short visit with me on Dragonfly Scrolls…Take a seat in the comfy couch. The kettle is on and the readers are waiting…

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about you.

Mina: I was born and grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. My dad was an architect and for a long time I thought I was destined to be one as well, as I inherited his math genes. But I hadn’t counted on my mom’s genes. She had a great imagination and she was a storyteller pur sang. She planted the storytelling seed in me. It took its time to grow, even after I found out that my favorite subject in school was… detention. Detention meant writing essays and I loved writing essays even more than I loved math, physics and chemistry.

I did study architecture, but never finished it. After dropping out of polytechnic, I wandered around for quite some years until I couldn’t ignore the need to get all the stories out anymore. I followed some courses creative writing and the four-year course Writing Prose For Children. I also did the editor’s minor at the University of Amsterdam and an internship at one of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands. By now I’m not only a writer, but also a seasoned freelance copy-editor. In addition to writing and editing, I write reviews for Booktunes, the site that brings your favorite books and music together and I occasionally teach creative writing to high school students.

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

Mina: After my son was born and I, again, got hold of all those exciting books I used to read when I was young, books taking you with them on adventures you couldn’t even dream of. I realized I had to do more than read. I signed up for some creative writing classes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and at one of the classes, Writing for Children, everything suddenly fitted, like finding your true vocation.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

Mina: Every day inspires me to write. Even the tiniest event can light the fire, because behind every event, every single step you take in life there is a whole world of stories. What if you didn’t take that step? What if you went into the other direction? What you see is what you get, people often say, but what if it’s not?

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

Mina: Home is where I write. I have an office on the second floor where I’m surrounded by paintings and books. From my window I look at one of Amsterdam’s main canals, lined with trees and beautiful 18th century houses. A great view if you have to sit and think, which is what writers do a lot.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

Mina: I think most of the stories are already in me. They just need to find their way out. Others come to me when I travel, like THE SUN SPIRIT. That one hit me when I was traveling through Arizona and the Navajo Nation: the thunderstorms, the flash floods, the intriguingly mysterious red monoliths. You could feel the adventure in every breath of air, in every grain of sand, in every sudden shadow that darkened the world for a moment.

Most of my stories are a mix of character- and story-driven. The story, the adventure is the main pillar on which a telling is built, but every story needs strong characters, too.

girl with a quill: Once you have your story, take us through your preparation stage. Tell us a little about your writing process.

Mina: The preparation stage is usually a long one, as the story first needs to form in my head. As soon as the basic shape is there, as soon as I’m well acquainted with my protagonist, I can start writing. First a draw a blueprint on the whiteboard next to my desk, next I start writing the manuscript. I am a linear writer, and I usually write a book from the beginning to the end in one go (don’t worry, I do go to sleep at night J). Only my debut, DEEDEE’S REVENGE, was written differently. Circumstances forced me to write some of the individual scenes first and “weld” them together in a later stage. I can still see those seams. They might be invisible for the reader, but they are there. When writing THE SUN SPIRIT I found my preferred modus operandi, so… linear it is.

When I’m done writing I put the manuscript away for a week or so to let it all sink in. Then I read it and start revising the first time. After the first revision I give it to my proofreader. She is a friend of my son’s (16 by now). She wants to be a writer herself and she is a very strict and uncompromising editor, and she’s able to single out most of the flaws. I find it invaluable to have a target reader as my proofreader. With her reader’s report at hand I revise the manuscript for the second time. After that, and only when I am truly satisfied with the end result, I hand the manuscript in.

girl with a quill: You write YA. What led you into this form of writing?

Mina: I know YA is the name, but I see my stories more as coming-of-age stories. Sometimes my protagonist is 10 or 12, sometimes he is a little older, like the one in the new book I’m working on. He’s 16. What they all have in common is that they go through an adventure that will change their lives forever.

YA is the major part of what I write, but I also write thrillers for adults and short read-aloud stories for the very young. The thrillers are a logic continuation of writing YA – or at least it feels that way. The short stories work as etudes. Writing them hones my craft and keeps me on my toes if it comes to keeping the “fanning out” in check. Short stories force you to be brief and to the point, but at the same time every sentence, every word needs to be in flow with the next sentence and the next word.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite out of your stories or your books? Can you tell us why?

Mina: That is a hard question. I love DEEDEE’S REVENGE (DE WRAAK VAN DEEDEE), not only because it was my debut, but it also because it is a bit about me. DEEDEE’S REVENGE is about Deedee and her pesky brother Matthias. One day Matthias crosses the line with one of his pranks and Deedee swears she will get back at him. It’s a bit about me getting back at my brother, at last, for one of the pranks he pulled on me when I was young. It’s also the only book I’ve written that has a female protagonist.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite character from your books?

Can you tell us who/what and why?

Mina: I think Tom, my protagonist in the Warriors Of The Sun series, is my favorite character. He’s been with me for three books now (of which two have been published so far). I love him and the way he carefully treads through life, getting bolder and more confident with every book.

girl with a quill: Do you find that all of your stories are smoothly written once started or have some of them been challenging?

Mina: So far it has been easy “writes”, if there is anything like an easy “write”. In a way every manuscript is a challenge, as you never know beforehand if it will work out, but most of the time the writing is smooth. It’s the editing and revising part that bothers me more. That part compels a lot of self-discipline as you have to be able to be ruthless in killing your darlings.

girl with a quill: Have you ever written in any other genre? If you haven’t, would you want to and what genre would you choose?

Mina: Up till now I have written short read-aloud stories for the very young, adventure (low) fantasy for MG/YA and I just finished the revision of my first thriller for adults. You might think that is different genres, but it’s not. All my stories are spine-chilling adventures, even the short stories (although those aren’t as scary as the stories for my older audience). I don’t think I will ever divert from this adventure genre. It fits me like glove.

girl with a quill: You have published your books in Dutch. Have you had your books translated into English?

Mina: Three of my books and about 30 short stories have been published in Dutch, none of them have been translated. Yet!

girl with a quill: What is your opinion on books being translated?

Do you find that it is a positive or a negative to the story?

Does anything get “lost in translation?

Mina: In the Netherlands we grow up with translated literature. Our publishers have a long tradition of bringing translated books to the public. Partly because there are a lot of good books out there that should be read, but also because of our traders’ mentality: why shouldn’t you publish a book that is successful abroad here as well and make some money in the process?

For the story it’s not always a blessing. As an editor I have copy-edited quite some translations, and yes, things can definitely get lost in translation. It takes an outstanding translator to capture not only the story, but also the voice of the author and even then it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation because of the mere fact that one language isn’t the other.

Dutch books are less often translated into other languages. I suspect that it being such a small language area and the corresponding lack of translators from Dutch might be responsible for that, as it makes the translation process a rather costly matter.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the process of publication in the Netherlands? Do you have to have an agent or do you work directly with a publisher?

Mina: The agent system is slowly gaining ground here, but only for adult literature. Writers usually deal directly with the publishers. That might also be due to the smaller market. The sales figures for midlist writers a not spectacular and if you have to split the already proceeds with an agent… But I’m very much for an agent system. Most writers are not sales people, agents are. It pays to have someone dedicated to your books deal for you. I have an agent (Paul Sebes of Sebes & Van Gelderen Literary Agency) for my thriller.

girl with a quill: Have you / Would you submit to any US publishers or UK publishers?

Mina: I have not submitted to US publishers or UK publishers. Again: yet! I have signed a contract with literary agent Erzsi Deàk of the Hen & Ink. She will handle all rights for my children’s books, not only the ones that have been published in the Netherlands, but the future ones, too. I am very, very happy with Erzsi. She gives me the opportunity to spread my wings and to become true member of our ever-globalizing world.

girl with a quill: Considering the boom of the e-book industry,

Would you consider publishing in E-book format?

Mina: I am totally addicted to my e-reader. I love the concept and the possibilities it offers to both reader and writer. Thankfully, the Netherlands is slowly but surely picking up the advantages of the e-reader.

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now?

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Mina: Yes, I am working on a new story. This time it’s a YA-thriller that keeps me glued to my desk. It’s about 16-year old Dorian who desperately wants to be independent. He has two important features that keep him from being independent: he’s 16 and he has a growing disorder, burdening him with the body of a 10-year old. While skipping school Dorian meets a group of hackers who live in a former squat house. As hacking doesn’t make you a living, they rent out a floor to a group of criminals who turned the floor into a pot growing plant. It sparks off some ideas in Dorian. Lucrative but dangerous ideas, as it turns out…

girl with a quill: You have a website, a blog and a twitter id.

Do you find social network platforms important to a writer’s platform? If so, why and how?

Mina: I have mixed feelings about social network platforms. Yes, they are important as they give you a more direct way of interacting with your audience and with your peer group. It keeps you informed. One of the earlier Warriors you interviewed aptly named Facebook ‘her water cooler’. That is exactly how I feel about it. Writing can be a very lonely business. It’s good to meet your peers and your audience at the ‘water cooler’ every now and again.

The downside, of course, is that it takes away time from your core business: writing. You have to exercise quite some discipline to keep the every now and again really every now and again and not all the time.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 5 famous creative people to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Mina: I would love to have dinner with Jennifer Donnelly, Frank Lloyd Wright, Panamarenko, Yukio Mishima and Harper Lee. Jennifer wrote this intense YA-novel REVOLUTION and I would love to talk about to her our craft and the agony it causes us sometimes and how to overcome that. Frank Lloyd Wright is on the list, because designed the most beautiful houses in the world, houses that – to me – are like stories. I wish he could tell me about the lines he sees and how he was able to put those lines down on paper and shape them into houses. Panamarenko is a Belgian artist. Every single piece of art he makes is a novel in itself. During dinner I would have him tell me everything about how math can marry art. John Irving is one of my favorite writers. I wish he would tell me all about the construction of a story. Finally Harper Lee, the writer of my all-time favorite novel. She only wrote one and I wish she could tell me why.

girl with a quill: If you could have a dinner party with 5 of your favourite fictional characters? Who would they be and why would you invite them?

Mina: Mizoguchi, the deeply troubled acolyte from Yukio Mishima’s THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Bod Pa, the old shaman in the Dutch coming-of-age novel HET BOEK VAN BOD PA (Bod Pa’s Book) by Anton Quintana, Pepto Bismo, Panamarenko’s statue of a modern day Icarus, and Begochiddy, messengers of the Navajo spirits. I would love to meet them, because they all are out of the ordinary, the stand out in loneliness, in strength, in being different. Somehow they all feel as kindred spirits (I’m not going to burn a temple, though J).

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

Mina: That would be Anton Quintana, a Dutch writer of children’s books and thrillers. His children’s books are the ones I admire most. They all have that extra in them, that thing that tells you that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite classic book? And why?

Mina: My favorite classic is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I know I’m not alone here, but the book is so intense. It reached right into my soul, it questioned my values and it left me with the rather desolate feeling that in the end we’re all alone.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite contemporary book? And why?

Mina: That is another hard question. There are so many good books coming out. For now, I’ll go with Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION. It is just as intense as Harper Lee’s book, but on a different level. Donnelly has accomplished, that if you read it, you almost literally can feel the pain of the protagonist, Andi Alpers, whose life was shattered after the death of her younger brother.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

Mina: Have faith!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

Mina: Keep honing your craft.

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

Mina: I hope people will read my books.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find on the Web?


my reviews:

Thank you Mina for that look into your life as a writer. Now it looks like you are just about ready for another cuppa. Tell me more about the adventures that Dorian gets up to in your latest thriller…Readers if you want to know more you will just have to wait for the book.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for



The Quill is swifter than the Rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than Blood…

~ girl with a quill
© All rights reserved Kim Koning



Warrior Wednesday Drum Roll

Announcing my 3rd interview in the new series: Warrior Wednesdays.

This evening I will be posting the successful interview I had with YA and Children’s author Dee White. This is one not to be missed. I met Dee through Word Warriors – the online FB group started for NaNoWriMo20101 – and Scribblerati – the writing ning I belong to. I have gotten to know Dee very well through both these groups. From a stranger who writes as well, to a colleague and finally to a friend.

She is an avid supporter of any writers both published and pre-published. Dee herself is a published author. She blogs regularly with very useful writing tips.

I will not tell you anymore about Dee but watch this space for the interview. She will tell you more about herself as we sit down and have a cyber chat.

In this interview you will learn why I admire Dee so much. You will also learn the tricks and tools of being a YA and Children’s author. You will be as charmed and disarmed by Dee’s honesty and humility as I have been. This is one talented lady and more than that: a true Warrior of Words.

Join me in a few hours for our interview.

girl with a quill…

Smiles & Shout-Outs to my Cyberspace Sisterhood

Cover of
Cover via Amazon

Well my day was a dreary one indeed. I will not bore you nor depress you with the details but suffice to say that this was a day I could have done without. On coming home my head ached and my annoyance levels were seething in me. I was not feeling creative other than imagining scenes of destruction on my unsuspecting villains of my day.

I came home and powered up my MacBook. I started scrolling through my inbox until I came across a few comments on yesterday’s post that I needed to approve. It was not long before my deadly frown and grimace of the day turned into a smoothed brow and a wide smile.

A kind word is like a Spring Day. – Russian Proverb

I started this blog as a way to build an online presence and to network with other writers. I started blogging about a few things that I would be working on and found that many writers were in the same boat as me. But this blog has done so much more for me than just build an online presence. This blog has introduced me to a network of writers that have become my good friends….and this week I have needed the encouragement from my writing pals.

So this is a Shout-out to some amazing gals and guys I have gotten to know. I cannot attempt to name every single one of you as this post would then go on for pages. But I would like to the opportunity to give a few shout-outs and send out my grateful smiles to the following lovely people.


Melissa Pearl

Rachna Chhabria

Roz Morris

Dee White

Lia Keyes

Sheryl Gwyther

Leigh K Hunt

Engrid Epel

Denise Maclennan Bruce

Judith van Praag

The Running Garlic


I hereby award each of you lovely friends and followers, motivators and encouragers, pick-me-uppers and fix-me-uppers, frowns-into-smiles the double awards of The Sisterhood Award

The Sisterhood Award


The Sunshine Award

The Sunshine Award

Thank you to every single one of you Amazing ladies who I have mentioned here. Allow me to take this moment to Shout Out to you. Paste and copy these twin awards onto your website. These are not meant to be paid forward, they are simply to show my appreciation for your constant support, encouragement, motivation and above all your friendship. Keep them and display them proudly. I am proud and honoured to count you as my friends and part of my sisterhood.

I bow in gratitude, admiration and friendship to each of you.

Thank you. I hope I can be as good a support for each of you as you have been for me this last year.

Yours in Sisterhood & Sunshine

Kim @ Dragonflyscrolls

Sisters are doing it for themselves

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

Colouring outside the lines

Image by vaXzine via Flickr

I have spent a lot of time today contemplating this post. I knew that I had to come up with some fresh creative exercises. Unfortunately due to a bad case of hayfever, I had little to no sleep last night. Tired person = tired brain. So instead I went to my online creative clusters and trolled though the websites of writers and creatives on my favourites list. It resulted in a few surprising exercises coming to the foreground. Enough to do today’s post.

Strangely enough, I then got an email from one of my subscriptions about unlocking the potential of the right brain: the creative you or me. Intrigued I clicked through to the post and then read to the end. It fascinates me that in most articles about right brain vs left brain, all the writers, bloggers and experts tell us that the world we live in tell us to make the left brain more dominant.

Left Brain







Right Brain



Risk Taker




Above are just some of the differences between the right brain and left brain. We are told as children to stop day dreaming. We are told to focus. We are told to stop playing. We are told to never fail. We are told to follow all the rules. We are told to get our head out of the clouds and get back to reality.

Was this correct teaching? Or has all this pre-determined teaching instilled in us a dominance of reality and impaired us creatively. Cases could be made for both sides. But isn’t it uncanny how a child can believe that there is a mouse or a fairy that comes to collect children’s lost teeth at night. Yet as adults every time we catch ourselves slipping into a day-dream, we mentally tell our minds off and remind ourselves “that will never happen, it’s impossible or just a fantasy”.

A lot of articles on the net are trying to explore the “unlocking” of the right brain. Why you may ask? Isn’t it better to live a life based in only what’s probable then dream the impossible and maybe set our hopes too high? You might think it is. I don’t think it is. I think it is vital to dream impossible dreams and hold them as goals before you. Unfortunately to be a creative individual means, by society’s benchmark anyway, that we fall into that latter group. The dreamers. The fantasists. The day-dreamers. The hippies. The arty-fartys. The unstable ones. The emotional ones. Any of these labels have and will be used towards you if you fall into a creative group. Are you fearful of those labels?

So you are a writer, an artist, a photographer, a painter, a sculptor, a musician, any and all of the previous labels: So then you have the right brain unlocked then just by being focused on the creative. Right? No. The answer is that though you are a creative person (let me just use the term “artist” for all creatives from now on) you live in a left brain dominated world. How do I know that? How many times have you had raised eyebrows as a response when someone has asked you what you do and you have told them? Or maybe you have not even got the courage to voice what you do or who you are. Just because you maybe do an office job for 40 hours a week and work creatively all the other time that you are not sleeping does not make you any less of an artist. So let’s get that out-of-the-way! Say it now. We will practice:

What do you do? (Picture a bland face looking at you waiting for the answer)

Now, don’t think, don’t hesisitate:

Answer: I am a ______________. (Fill in the blank with writer, artist, painter, sculptor,photographer,graphic book author,cartoonist,musician.)

Now pat yourself on the back. Was that the first time you said it aloud? Be proud of yourself, admitting it is the first step to success and authenticity.

So are there exercises or tools we can use to unlock the right brain in ourselves? Is there a way to allow ourselves to colour outside the lines of society’s “normal and accepted” which hardly ever included creativity unleashed? Well I have spent the afternoon researching this for both myself and for this post. Here is what I came up with:

LaTeral ThiNking

This is a process that allows you to see things in a different way and to express them uniquely. So for this week, the lateral thinking exercises are:

  • Spend an evening doing some riddles.
  • Go and get yourself some 3d pictures and practice 3d watching.

Here are some riddles to start out on. Think about them and if you think you have them figured out, type your answer in the comments. I will post some clues throughout the week. Next week Monday I will post the answers to these riddles.

Riddle # 1: A man lives on the seventeenth floor of an
apartment building. Every morning he takes
the lift down to the ground. In the evening he
goes into the lift and if it is raining he goes
directly back to the seventeenth floor.
Otherwise he goes to the tenth floor and
climbs up seven flights of stairs.

Riddle #2: A man walks into a bar and asks for water.
The bartender pulls out a gun and points it at
him. The man says, “Thank you,” and walks

Riddle #3: A landlord is threatening to evict a father

and his beautiful young daughter, unless she

agrees to marry him. There are a lot of

witnesses and in a false gesture of sincerity,

he offers her an opportunity to remain in the

house without marrying him. He has a silk

bag in which he says he has placed a white

and a black stone from the footpath on which

they’re standing. If she picks the white stone

from the bag, then she wins; if she picks the

black, she loses. However, the young girl saw

him place two black stones in the bag. She

can’t accuse him of cheating, because he

would say that his good question was called

into question and storm off without showing

the bag. How does the clever girl win?

Riddle #4: A man is alone on an island with no food

and no water, yet he does not fear for his life.

Riddle #5: A man managed to visit over thirty foreign

countries without his passport. He was

welcomed in each country and left each one of

his own accord. He did this in one day.

Puzzle # 1 Look at the below words for a while. Say them in your mind. Now repeat them out aloud. Did you get all the words correct?








Writing Exercise #1 What’s another word for it?

Each day of the week, pick a word  and play with it.

Monday: Begin with the word creative. Intially think of as
many words that come to mine when you focus on the
word. Then take each of those and visit a thesaurus
and see how many words you can generate or find in 15
to 30 minutes. Review the words when your time has
ended. What did you discover that was new to you?
What patterns do you find?

Tuesday: Begin with the word dull. Do the same as above.

Wednesday: Pick up a newspaper and randomly pick 6 words and do
the same thing as you did with creative and dull.

Thursday: Listen to a radio for 5 to 10 minutes and list words
you hear randomly. Then pick 6 of them and do the
same thing.

Friday: Look at billboards or other forms of environmental
communication and choose 6 and use the same process.

What did you discover over the week?
Did you control your thougths or were they directed
randomly or intuitively?

Writing Exercise #2 Cliche stretching – I have listed cliches here. The exercise is simple using only these cliches, write a piece of flash fiction or a story plot.

a bad scene
add insult to injury
agree to disagree
all things considered
all too soon
along these lines
ample opportunity
armed to the teeth
as a matter of fact
at a loss for words
at one fell swoop
avoid it like the plague
awaiting further orders

back at the ranch
back to the drawing board
bated breath
beginning of the end
before you know it
benefit of the doubt
best-laid plans
better late than never
better left unsaid
beyond the shadow of a doubt
bite the bullet
bitter end
bone of contention
bottom line
budding genius
burning question
busy as a bee
by leaps and bounds
by the same token

calm before the storm
call of the wild
casual encounter
chain reaction
charged with emotion
checkered past
cherished belief
circumstances beyond my control
clear as crystal
come full circle
contents noted
cool as a cucumber
curiously enough
cut a long story short
cut down in his prime

days are numbered
dead as a doornail
deafening crash
depths of despair
diamond in the rough
dig in your heels
do not hesitate to
drastic action
due consideration

each and every
easier said than done
eat, drink, and be merry
eminently successful
engage in conversation
epic struggle
even tenor
exception that proves the rule
existing conditions
express one’s appreciation

fall on bad times
fall on deaf ears
far and wide
far be it from me
fateful day
fate worse than death
feel free to
feel vulnerable
festive occasion
few and far between
final analysis
finishing touches
fit as a fiddle
food for thought
fools rush in
foregone conclusion
foul play
from the sublime to the ridiculous

generation gap
give the green light to
go down the drain
goes without saying
good team player
grave concern
green with envy
grim reaper
grind to a halt

hands across the sea
happy pair
hastily summoned
have the privilege
heartfelt thanks
heart of the matter
heart’s desire
heated argument
heave a sigh of relief
herculean efforts
hook, line, and sinker
hook or crook
hope for the future
hot pursuit
hunker down

ignorance is bliss
immeasurably superior
in close proximity
infinite capacity
innocent bystander
in no uncertain terms
in our midst
in reference to
in short supply
in the limelight
in the nick of time
in the same boat with
in the twinkling of an eye
in this day and age
into full swing
irony of fate
irreplaceable loss
it dawned on me

keep options open

labor of love
lashed out at
last analysis
last but not least
last-ditch effort
leaps and bounds

leave no stone unturned
leaves much to be desired
leave up in the air
lend a helping hand
let well enough alone
line of least resistance
little woman
lit up like a Christmas tree
live and let live
lock, stock, and barrel
long arm of the law
look before you leap

marked contrast
matter of life and death
mecca for travelers
method to his madness
milk of human kindness
miraculous escape
moment of truth
momentous occasion
monumental traffic jam
moot point
more than meets the eye
more the merrier
motley crew

narrow escape
nearest and dearest
needs no introduction
never a dull moment
never before in the history of
nipped in the bud
no sooner said than done

one and the same
ongoing dialogue
on more than one occasion
open secret
order out of chaos
other things being equal
outer directed
overwhelming odds
own worst enemy

pales in comparison
paralyzed with fright
paramount importance
pay the piper
peer group
pet peeve
pick and choose
pie in the sky
pinpoint the cause
pipe dream
place in the sun
play hardball
play it by ear
poor but honest
powder keg
powers that be
pros and cons
proud heritage
proud possessor
pull one’s weight

rack and ruin
ravishing beauty
red-letter day
regrettable incident
reigns supreme
reliable source
remedy the situation
right on
ripe old age
round of applause

sadder but wiser
saw the light of day
scathing sarcasm
sea of faces
seat of learning
second to none
select few
selling like hotcakes
shattering effect
shift into high gear
shot in the arm
sigh of relief
silence broken only by
silhouetted against the sky
simple life
skeleton in the closet
snug as a bug in the rug
social amenities
spectacular event
spirited debate
stick out like a sore thumb
stick to one’s guns
straight and narrow path
structure one’s day
such is life
superhuman effort
supreme sacrifice
sweat of his brow
sweeping changes
sweet sixteen

take the bull by the horns
telling effect
terror stricken
thanking you in advance
there’s the rub
this day and age
those present
throw a monkey wrench
throw a party
throw caution to the wind
tie that binds
time of one’s life
tongue in cheek
too funny for words
too numerous to mention
tough it out
tower of strength
trials and tribulations
trust implicitly

uncharted seas
unprecedented situation
untimely end
untiring efforts

vale of tears
vanish into thin air

watery grave
wax eloquent/poetic
weaker sex
wear and tear
whirlwind tour
wide open spaces
words fail to express
word to the wise
wrought havoc

So I hope your Mental Muscles are feeling stretched. This week is all about refocusing our right brain and allowing yourself to colour outside the lines and for that to be ok.

All of these exercises were found on various lateral thinking and creativity sites. I take no credit for them, only for sharing them as tools and exercises that I have found handy today.

Enjoy colouring outside the lines this week.

Online Creative Clusters

online friends
Image by ritab38315 via Flickr

In July last year I started this WordPress Blog and not long after that I signed up to Twitter. Since then I have joined 4 online writing / creative groups. I remember wondering how I would develop any sort of following either through this blog or through my tweets. But I have a following and I have learnt a lot about myself as a writer the last 6 months.

I have been reading a lot of blogs online from agents, editors, publishers and writers that developing an online presence is essential to the success of any pre-published writer. I had heard about it quite some time before deciding to build an online presence myself.

Initially I was fairly resistant to the idea. For me it seemed improbable that I would be able to build any sort of following. I also did not know anything about being a blogger let alone about being a successful blogger. Yes, I had a Facebook profile but that was for personal use. I knew that my blog would have to be at least interesting and maybe even useful. The other deterrent to starting a blog was that it felt like I was throwing a very small pebble into a very large ocean. With so many blogs out there, why would people choose to come to mine.

Eventually though I signed up to WordPress and I wrote my first post. I remember being absolutely amazed when people commented on that first post. By then I had signed up for twitter and after following a few people who returned the favour by following me, I had a small following.

Since then my following has grown. I am more confident in the direction that I want my blog posts to go. I am also more confident on Twitter. Although I must admit, it was quite addictive just sitting watching tweets from all over the world. It fascinated and amazed me, sometimes even shocked me, what people were willing to tweet about.

I mentioned the 4 online writing / creative sites I joined. They are:

I have grown to enjoy blogging and tweeting but it is these 4 groups that give me the most joy in my online presence. I have “met” friends through these sites and found mentors. I have been inspired, supported, encouraged and always felt included. Any creative pursuit can be very lonely. As much as your friends and family want to support you, sometimes they have no idea how much energy your creativity can take from you. The people in these 4 groups do know and understand because they are in exactly the same pathway in life. It is through these online friendships and mentorship that I have both grown as a person and a writer. I am still growing and learning more each day.

So yes I would say that building an online presence is vital to the success of a pre-published author. But I am not saying yes for the same reason so many other people say yes. I am saying yes it is vital because of the support, the networking, the friendships and the mentorship that you gain through an online presence. For me this was the impetus to take up the challenge of NaNoWriMo 2010 in November. I knew that I could do it because at any time of day or night somewhere in the world I would have a supportive voice who understood my frustrations, my excitements, my stresses and my wins.

NaNoWriMo also brought me into contact with another inspiring group called:

The Word Warriors

This was a group formed by the creator and developer of Scribblerati, namely an amazing dynamo of a lady called Lia Keyes. Through the drive of this group I managed to complete NaNoWriMo in the first 2 weeks of November. Many of the writers/members of this group have become firm friends and beacons of inspiration and creativity.

I am a firm follower of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. In her books she talks about the importance of forming creative clusters. In this spread out world we live in, it is sometime difficult to form creative clusters in the real-time. The wonder of this age is that it has become such a digital driven world. So I am proud to say that 2010 I took up Julia Cameron’s wise advice and now belong to 5 successful creative clusters.

I have a feeling though that 2011 is the year when I am going to really be leaning on these inspirational and creative friends. 2011 is a year that is going to be devoted to creativity and branching out into more and newer forms of creativity. For this I am going to need the support, encouragement, challenging, critiquing, mentoring and friendship of my creative clusters.

So I am taking the time to tell you – no make that to urge you to develop an online presence this year. It may take some time and effort on your part but at the end of it the reward of having the support of people who are creative too far outweighs any effort it will take you to build that online presence.

Thank you to my creative clusters and to all the members of the 5 groups I belong to: You have my appreciation and admiration. Thank you all for pushing me on and encouraging me these last 6 months whether it was for Blogging or for NaNoWriMo or any other creative ventures and goals I set myself. You have all become friends of the truest nature. I treasure and cherish my creative clusters. I look forward to many years of friendship,mentorship and support.

Make 2011 the year of the Online Creative Clusters.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

National Novel Writing Month 2010 WINNER (NaNoWriMo))

Well today, being the 25th of November here in New Zealand, I officially verified my word count for NaNoWriMo and am a Winner. This is one of the badges I have downloaded from my Winner’s Goodies.

I have taken a short hiatus from writing, hence no blogs from me this last week. Having just returned to work, I have been in the thick of getting back into the swing of life post-nano.

This experience has been one of the most valuable writing experiences for me. Through doing and completing NaNoWriMo I have found a new confidence in my ability to treat writing as my occupation and sit down for sustained periods devoted to writing. I have gained knowledge from the vast experience bank of my fellow wrimos and my Wonderful group I belong to called NaNoWriMo Warriors. I have formed writing friendships with people who have cheered me on and supported me. I have learned how to put aside my inner editor and just let the writing flow. I have learned to trust my writing. I have learned that anything is possible if I can write 50 000 words in 12 days: I finished NaNoWriMo on the 12th of November after starting at midnight on the 1st.

As a writer, it has been wonderful to be part of a global group of people who understand my motivation and drive to be a full-time writer. What is usually an individual pursuit has become a group pursuit. One of the best parts of every day of the 12 days was downloading my word count. Not only did I watch as the green bar became longer but I felt proud as my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors, friends and family cheered me on from both the writing battlefield and the sidelines.

I have also realised that I am a writer that enjoys writing to timelines. I enjoy the structure of seeing a goal post of time or word count ahead of me. In many ways Wrimos are a bit like racing greyhounds constantly chasing that rabbit that sits just a little way ahead of us.

Today I feel like a winner and more importantly I know without a doubt that I am a Writer. Nobody can take that away from me. Many people have asked me why I have entered a competition where there seems to be no “prize”. This is why I entered. I entered to prove to myself I could do this in a set time period. I entered to increase my self-confidence in my writing. I entered it to meet fellow writers who have similar dreams to me. So to those people who believe that there always has to be a monetary prize, I say that you are limiting yourself and your own potential. The “winning” in this challenge is that you take the risk to follow a dream that many think illogical or unfeasible. Some wrimos might not get to 50 000 words by 30/11. Does this mean they have lost? No. I believe anyone who has taken up this challenge has won. It takes courage to chase a dream others believe to be a mere pipe-dream. So to all those wrimos who do not think they will make it to 50k, I say this to you. Firstly it is not over. You still have some days to go before the 30th of November. Secondly, even though you may not reach 50k, you have still tried and for that you are a NaNoWriMo winner.

To my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors I say Thank You and Well Done for being the most supportive group of people I know. I am proud to be a NaNoWriMo Warrior and I am even more proud to call many of you friends now. Though oceans may separate me from my Writing Warriors, this challenge has bridged those oceans and the many time zones. Thank you for the cheering and the support. Thank you for the word wars. Thank you that someone was always there on the Facebook site to talk to in the lonely hours of the night when I am tapping away on the keyboard.

This has been a phenomenal experience for me. Will I be taking part in NaNoWriMo 2011. Definitely!

Lastly a huge and hearty Congratulations to all my fellow wrimos who are winners and have reached 50k words. To the wrimos who are still writing and still racing, Good Luck and may the Muses never stray from you in these last days.

Signing off from NaNoWriMo 2010,

Good Luck with the upcoming editing Wrimos – this will be the next challenge for us all.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

NaNoWriMo, Goal Posts, Happiness Projects, Mountain Climbing, Bucket Lists

Happiness Motivational Poster
Image by NinJA999 via Flickr

For the last 6 days I have been participating in a “small” creative event. You might have heard of it bandied about the web this last week. It is called NaNoWriMo. In it the goal is to write 50,000 words in a novel format within the 30 days of November. There are all sorts of reasons to not sign up for something like this.

  • You have no time.
  • You are overloaded already.
  • You’re on holiday, rather go away somewhere.
  • Your social life is more important.
  • You are a procrastinator
  • …you get the gist, I am sure you could fill in 100 more reasons at the least.

But I am going to tell you why I did sign up for NaNoWriMo…

  • I love a challenge, never seem to be able to resist one.
  • I love deadlines (I know, I hear you guffaw in utter disbelief, but it is true)
  • I love clearly set goal posts
  • I like being autonomous, but want the availability of some sort of community
  • I LOVE Writing
  • It was on my Bucket List
  • It was part of my Happiness Project
  • It was also a mountain peak I wanted to scale this year

Now some of those reasons are self-explanatory but I want to open up some of them for closer examination. One of the first reasons I am sure you did not believe was the : I love deadlines. Now, I know for most people deadlines are horrific things to be avoided at all costs. I mean we all have them at some point in our life. I love deadlines because you have a set date of completion. Something needs to be completed by said date or else. So to be fair I think it is not the deadlines that get the bad press but rather the “or else” part if you don’t meet deadlines. Deadlines force you to do something and put procrastinitis to bed. Deadlines are especially useful if other people know about them. For this reason, the people in my life who mean something to me have all been told that I am otherwise occupied and unavailable in November because I am writing a novel.  So I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Another reason is clearly set goal posts. Now if course there is the obvious one of reaching 50,000 words on the 30th of November. But I have made things interesting for myself and set myself some new goalposts backing up the ultimate goalpost of writing a novel in 30 days. One of the goal posts I set for myself was getting to 25,000 words by Sunday, the 7th.

I am thrilled to have pushed myself this week and say that I have attained this goal post. I have actually reached 30,323 words at day’s end on the 6th of November. I reached my goal a whole day early and exceeded it by 5,323 words.

The other important goal post requirement is the actual prize/reward. There has to be a pay off of some sort to keep you motivated. So I am rewarding myself with a day of rest from writing on Sunday. I am going to be doing lovely non-NaNoWriMo related things and take time to spend time with family and friends.

There was another important reason I signed up for NaNoWriMo and that is Mountain Climbing. Mountain Climbing? I hear you ask. Yes, Mountain Climbing. To a mountain climber, climbing Everest would be the ultimate goal. It would not mean that every mountain climber would actually do that. But it is one of those lofty dreams and aspirations that they all want to attain. While NaNoWriMo is Mt NaNoWriMo to many writers. Some writers would think it crazy to write a novel in 30 days. But there are those who always wonder, even if it is in some dark corner at the back of their minds, whether they could do this if they really put their mind to it. Well I am a writer. I am a published poet but as yet unpublished in prose. Publishing does not make me any more or any less a writer. I wanted to see whether it was possible to do this feat: write a novel in 30 days. So I pulled on my backpack filled with my Macbook, Storyist, Scrivener, Plot Arcs, Character Arcs and Imagination and started climbing this mountain. I plan on reaching that peak of completing a novel on the 30th of November.

Then onto Bucket List and Happiness Project. The Bucket List is based on a movie where two older gentlemen are in their last days. They decide to write up a Bucket List…ie A list of things they want to accomplish before they “kick the bucket”. Both men are complete opposites but they decide that a shortened life span unites them and they go off on their adventure. I truly loved this movie for the optimism it promotes. Life is never to short to begin Living in the Moment. There is so much in life that gets put off or shelved until there is more time, money or whatever other excuse you choose to use.  Writing a novel, being a published writer is on my Bucket List. It is one of those goals I plan on succeeding at. I don’t want to be a published writer for the “published” sake. I will write irregardless of whether I am published or not. But this is the plan that I have for my life. So I signed on for NaNoWriMo.

The Happiness Project is a book written by Gretchen Rubin. It is a book that I started reading last year. I read it over and over. I read it the second and third times with a pencil and sticky notes pad. It was just one of those books. You know which books I am talking about. Those books that just hit you with a STOP sign, make you look both ways and then you hit GO with a refreshed and energised mind-set. The Happiness Project definitely made me stop and think. Basically the gist of the book is that Gretchen Rubin decided to study happiness for a year and she penned everything she learned in that year in a book. You might think that studying happiness is such an inane effort. But the one thing everyone in every walk of life in every era of this world always chases: The Elusive butterfly of life called “Happiness”. In the end she came up with a happiness project for herself and found out what makes her really happy. Well writing makes me really happy. Words make me happy. They always have from when my parents read Disney stories to me until I started writing in my journal progressing to writing stories, essays and poems. So in following my Happiness Project, I signed up to NaNoWriMo. It might not be everyone’s happiness project and that is ok. But it was right up there.

So for all these reasons, what am I getting from NaNoWriMo. I am climbing my mountain. I have hit the first peak. There are a couple more ahead of me, but I am feeling fit and healthy. The climb is going well and is making me feel good.

I have one more item ticked off my Bucket List…I can say that I signed up for something challenging and creative and that I am making every effort to succeed.

The last thing that I am getting out of NaNoWriMo: Happiness. I am excited to get up in the morning and to get going on my NaNoWriMo project. I am excited to watch the pages increase and the word count get closer and closer to a win. I am excited to talk to other writers doing this wonderful challenge and hearing about their wins. Most of all I am happy because I am writing  a minimum of 5,000 words a day. The MYSKY (NZ version of TIVO) is recording any series I may watch. My friends and family are proud of me for attempting this and constantly encourage and support me. I am happy because there is nothing more exciting for me than a blank page and being able to create a story from my imagination. Not just any story but a story that I have created. A story that might be read some day by someone and inspire them to write.

So for all these reasons, surely I don’t need to tell you why I signed up for NaNoWriMo. What makes you happy? What is on your Bucket List? What are your deadlines,challenges, goal posts? What mountain peaks do you want to scale? Never let anyone take away your dreams. If you don’t dream, you don’t live. You survive. Life is not meant to be survived. It is meant to be lived. What are you waiting for? It’s your life. They are your dreams. You don’t need permission to live it or to chase those dreams.

“Do not be awestruck by other people and try to copy them.
Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can.”

— Norman Vincent Peale

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.