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?
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
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