Inkwell Writers

Mother writer interview: Vanessa O’ Loughlin

Vanessa O’Loughlin lives near Dublin. She is the founder of writing.ie the new national Irish writing resource. Vanessa started writing fiction in 1999. In 2006 Vanessa established Inkwell Writers Workshops which provides writing workshops and critiquing services to authors. She is PRO and Newsletter editor for Irish Pen.

Vanessa has had several short stories published and won competitions with RTE TV, Poolbeg, RTE Radio and Mills and Boon. One of her short stories Every Second Counts was included in the best selling Mums the Word Anthology that featured 32 of Ireland’s top women writers. In 2010 she compiled The Big Book of Hope with Hazel Larkin and The Hope Foundation.

Vanessa is represented by Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown London, and writes crime as Sam Blake.

Tell us about your children Vanessa.

Sophie and Sam

Sophie is 10 years old, and an aspiring writer, Sam is 6 and full of beans!

When did you start writing? Had you established a writing rhythm or career before or did it happen alongside the kids?

In 1999, I had a full time job in Event Management but no children. My husband went sailing across the Atlantic for 8 weeks. So at that point I had a lot of free time and an idea burning so I started to write. I established a writing routine right at the very beginning, writing every day. In fact when the bug bit, I really couldn’t stop!

Later, founding Inkwell Writers grew out of my need to learn more and improve my own writing – and writing.ie has grown out of Inkwell. The only problem now is fitting the writing in!

What impact has having children had on your writing career?

The children are brilliant, they definitely don’t get as much attention as they deserve because I’m juggling everything, but they’ve grown up with it, so it’s the norm for them (that’s me trying to persuade myself). At this second, the 6 year old is shouting in one ear that he wants to go to the park, and the 10yo is in the other ear looking for a stapler. It’s Easter and even on a Sunday morning I’m trying to get everything done, so we can all go out in the afternoon!

How do you organise your writing time and space, how do you work your day, do you have a routine or is it more ad hoc?

It’s all about scheduling and getting the most out of my time. I work when they are in school, and in the evenings (and at weekends). If my husband can do the school run in the morning I gain an hour a day which is always fabulous! I don’t have time to read the paper or watch much TV (usually have my laptop on my knee), but I do LOVE twitter.

My current goal is to write for 30 mins every morning BEFORE I do anything. If I open my email or twitter first I’m lost.

My most used phrase, is ‘I’ll be right there, give me two minutes’

Is it possible to maintain a balance on a daily basis or do you find yourself readjusting focus from work to family over a longer time-span depending on your projects?

I find I have to react with the circumstances, a lot of what I do is online and I try to keep my mornings clear to work or write but recently with the development of writing.ie. I’ve been having a lot of meetings that eat into my non-child time and mean I have to make that time up somewhere else. Every day is different!

How do the children react to your writing or the time you spend on it?

The 6 year old does get very fed up when I’m on the computer and can be very disruptive. He also yells when I’m on the phone! I can only really write when they aren’t around as I get constantly interrupted.

What do you find most challenging in juggling your role as a mother, your writing and other work?

I don’t get any me time, or nearly enough writing time at the moment, but that should settle down when I get some routines in place with writing.ie.

You’ve made a full-time career out of your own writing and also out of helping others move towards publication. How did you do it?

I believe that you create your own opportunities by being open to ideas and thinking laterally. I am someone who will always push an opportunity as far as I can go with it rather than accept defeat early on. I’m a positive thinker and don’t give up easily! I think you have to create your own momentum, and open as many options as possible.

Do you think women face particular challenges in career/family life balance or is it something that both men and women face in equal measure?

I think women have a much greater challenge because generally the child rearing bit falls to them – even if they are getting loads of help from their partners they are still the Managing Director of that end of the operation. If they have a career and are writing too, they have to do a lot of juggling. Fortunately God gave us the ability to multi task and manage our time well, although I’m not sure multi tasking is the ideal scenario (my burnt sausages are testimony to that). Mentally women have a huge amount on their plate running a household and a family as well as other activities.

Something has to give when wearing many hats, what is it for you?

Sleep!

What suggestions do you have for mothers or indeed parents who want to write or further a writing career?

Go for it! Writing is one of the most wonderful things in the world, it releases you mentally from the here and now and uses a whole area of your brain that doesn’t deal with housework or schoolruns, an area that’s available for exercise and needs it! The key is that you have to write because you love writing, not because you want to make money from it (which you probably won’t).

Having said that, today with changes in the publishing industry as a whole, writers have chances of publication that they never had before – through ePublishing, print on demand and the many online publications seeking work. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

Thanks to Vanessa for filling us in on her busy and diverse writing career. Her positive attitude is inspirational!

More on Vanessa and her projects:

Writing.ie is a new, comprehensive national writing resource with advice, interviews, competitions and forums for writers.

Inkwell provide critiquing, editing and manuscript assessment services and a free newsletter. They also run one day intensive fiction writers workshops facilitated by best selling authors and have directly assisted over 50 authors to get published.

Vanessa has just brought out a brilliant e-book of writing tips from her workshops called Writing to Get Published: Bringing the Dream Alive

Available through Smashwords

Kindle.com ebook

Kindle.co.uk ebook

Or as an iPhone/iPad app published by Collca (their first non history app)
Blood Red Ink is Vanessa’s crime writing blog under the pen name Sam Blake.
If you enjoyed reading this there are more mother writer interviews here

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Writing.ie

Writing.ie has launched. It’s the project of Vanessa O’ Loughlin author and founder of Inkwell Writers (inkwellwriters.ie) who gives a wonderful video welcome on the site.  Writing.ie is an ambitious undertaking that has so much to offer writers at every level. The site is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate but there are many areas of interest to choose from.

The Writer’s Toolbox is really excellent, it covers everything from writing better fiction to getting published, new perspectives on the digital publishing arena. It also highlights a range of services, competitions and resources.

Elsewhere on the site, there are interviews with established writers in a wide range of genres and disciplines including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. There are regular bloggers, Catherine Ryan Howard with her ebook success story, Kristi Thompson with funny interviews from writers and people related to the industry, Kate Dempsey who helps us explore and access poetry and poetry writing. I will also be blogging on head space and the challenges of finding creativity in our busy lives. There are details of courses and writing events and an online forum will soon be up and running.

There are a whole lot of resources for readers too: book reviews, book club news and giveaways among them.

Go check out writing.ie. It will be constantly updated and you can sign up for the newsletter. Well done to Vanessa and all involved!

All the options: One Stop Self-Publishing Conference

I attended the One Stop Self Publishing Conference on Sat Oct 17th at the Fitzpatrick Killiney hotel Dublin. It was organised and facilitated by Vanessa O’ Loughlin of Inkwell and Eoin Purcell of Green Lamp Media. As a fiction writer I was interested in interested in exploring the self-publishing option as one of the many possible avenues in the currently transforming publishing industry. The conference was well attended by people with both a fiction and non-fiction writing background as well as general industry interest.

What was particularly evident in this jam-packed but well sequenced and executed conference, was the calibre of the speakers. The information delivered was relevant, concrete, practical and well presented.

Informative and engaging were John Manning’s overview of Gill and McMillan’s distribution service and David Jones on his books to print business. Freelance designer Claire McVeigh’s talk on cover design and typesetting was eye-opening and useful as was Adrian White on what book sellers want. Benjii Bennett, a self-publisher of children’s picture books was inspiring with regard to motivation. Sarah Franklin and Patricia O’ Reilly gave important insights into the process of editing and self-publishing.

There were several highlights for me. AJ Healy‘s not-to-be-missed talk on how he brought his children’s book Tommy Storm to publication was remarkable and practically comprehensive, from the initial decision to diverge from his agent to self-publish his story out to the business like manner in which he approached publicity and distribution. Sarah Franklin’s excellent case study of a marketing and publicity campaign she undertook with one of her authors on his Joyce inspired novel emphasized how self publishing writers need to plan and time their media engagements and have a clear idea of their own story as well as their book’s key message. Catherine Ryan Howard’s presentation on Social Media and Online Marketing was well delivered and revelationary for much of the audience. Ryan Howard self-published her non-fiction book Mousetrapped using the online service CreateSpace. She has successfully used online media and strategies such as contests and Amazon Associates to generate sales and revenue. Her e-book version has been highly successful. Of particular interest to me and great practical value was Eoin Purcell’s presentation on Digital self-publishing. He discussed digital formats, digital publishing options like Amazon’s Digital Text Publishing and Smashwords and useful digital publishing tools such as Storyist.

As a writer looking to inform herself of the various publishing options available this excellent conference far exceeded my expectations. For those with a particular self-publishing project in mind it was invaluable. If you are serious about writing and publishing, put next year’s conference in your diary now.

Carved out satisfaction versus cut throat success

There’s a ‘wealth’ of information out there and particularly on-line about how to become a successful writer, how to write, pitch, blog, market yourself, build up a following, get a publisher, be known. Much of it is excellent advice. However what grates on me is the kind of ‘stop at nothing’ advice where you are meant to steam roller your way to the top by being relentlessly competitive with your contempories. Some will think I am naiive. You simply have to stand out to be noticed, you need to blog more, network more, tour more, promote more.

Absolutely. You need dedication. You need to lose the excuses not to write. You need to be aware of what’s going on in the market. You need to know who’s in the know and what they know! But what I object to is ambition in a vaccum, the one tracked mind to success that doesn’t consider other priorities like the people around you, your home and family life, your relationship with others and with the world.

Christina Katz, writer, woman, mother, powerhouse has asked people this week to blog about happiness. To me happiness can be joy, exquistic moments of enjoyment of the process of writing, of the gorgeous reality of my children and their funny moments, a perfect moment of spring blossom and sun. But that kind of happiness is not always available moment to moment. What is available is an overall satisfaction with your life and its choices, an understanding that you may not always get exactly what you want, when you want (like all the time you want to write) but that you are doing your absolute best to fulfill your ambition while maintaining equilibrium with other parts of your life. As a woman and mother, this reciprocity and balancing of your own needs with the needs of your children, family, extended family and the community as a whole is integral. I am not going to blog everyday if it means that I don’t do a jigsaw with my two year old or colour with my daughter, if I can’t listen to my friend who is going through a hard time, if I never have time for giving rather than just getting. On Benjamin Kanarek blog Isa Maisa said recently As our society today considers fame and fortune to be the Holy Grail of our sense of purpose, living a life in an attitude of a happy medium is hushed as insufficient and discusses Doris Lessing, Michael Jackson and Alexander McQueen’s relationship with success.

There are many people in the writing world I admire who are successful by building up a reciprocal and mutually satsifying relationship with their readers and with other writers.  They bring others up with them, provide others with opportunities for exposure and development. In particular I would like to mention Vanessa O’ Loughlin of Inkwell Writers. She writes, provides great quality writing classes and has created a network of writers who regularly receive her extremely useful newsletter. She uses the newsletter to promote other writers and has provided opportunities for other writers to be noticed. Christina Katz is an expert at platform building, becoming known in the publishing world, making the most of opportunities but she also promotes the careers of fellow writers and provides opportunities for them. The Year Zero collective is a group of writers who want to engage with and give back to readers. They develop a reciprocal relationship with readers by posting work regularly and getting feedback, by doing readings in intimate venues and by often giving away their work for free.

These are only a few examples. In terms of social media, there is, for the most part, a wonderful atmosphere on Twitter of reciprocal help, promotion and respect. Only occasionally do you find those whose own agenda of self-promotion comes ahead of their respect for others.

I want to be a writer first, I want to be a successful but also satisfied writer. But what that means to me is to develop a relationship with my readers and other writers first and foremost, to maintain a courteous, considerate and caring relationship with people in my personal and professional life. And after that, only after, will I count book sales and stats as a measure of happiness. What do you think?