I am a Dutch-Australian writer. Through memoir and fiction, I hope to influence the way people think and feel about topics including troubled youth, pregnancy and birth choices, the hardship of war, and growing up in an immigrant family. In 2008, I completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland. As part of that degree, I wrote ‘Yahtzee and the Art of Happiness’ – a true story of modern motherhood that brings to light some of the darker secrets of contemporary women’s business and explores issues of power and control around women’s reproductive rights.
Since 2008, my work has attracted numerous awards, most notably two Australian Society of Authors’ Mentorships, five residencies at Varuna Writers’ House (including a Varuna HarperCollins Award), three residencies at Bundanon, and a residency at Booranga Writers’ Centre. Over a dozen of my essays and short stories have been published in Australian literary journals including Griffith REVIEW, Westerly, Island and Hecate, and my first book, Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love was published by University of Queensland Press in July 2015. Brian Cook from The Authors’ Agent represents my work.
Wild Boys explores the challenge of disaffected youth from a mother’s perspective and offers an intimate insight into reconnecting teenagers with their families and communities. The book was launched by Professor Annabelle Duncan, Vice Chancellor of the University of New England (UNE), and attracted widespread media attention. Wild Boys developed as a parallel project while I was completing my PhD in Creative Research Practice at the University of New England where my thesis explored research and writing options available through the genre of creative nonfiction.
Alongside my prose writing, I am also a songwriter, lyricist and performer. Since 2013, I have written and composed over twenty of my own songs, and I have performed these songs at venues around the New England area (pictured at Black Gully Music Festival with Christopher Purcell). Writing for performance is an enjoyable extension of my skills as a prose writer as it combines my love of music with my passion for words. I draw upon my own experiences and those of others to create emotionally engaging songs that incorporate elements of traditional European and American folk music.
In 2014, I recorded a demo CD – ‘Three Songs’ – which led to an opportunity to work with Christopher Purcell, a musician and composer with over twenty years’ experience of writing scores for opera and musical theatre The result of our first collaboration is ‘Lullaby & Lament – A Song Cycle’. For this project, I completed the lyrics for the 16 songs that make up the cycle, and Chris set these lyrics to music. ‘Lullaby & Lament’ explores and tells stories of the human cycle of life from the cradle to the grave, real stories both joyous and tragic.
In May 2016, Chris and I staged a concert of the song cycle in Armidale, where mezzo soprano Ruth Strutt from Opera Australia (pictured with Chris) performed the songs and Chris accompanied her on guitar. We are currently planning a second concert of the song cycle, and we have begun the process of engaging the services of musicians needed to make a recording.
Chris and I are keen to continue our collaboration and build a career as an Australian songwriting partnership, working with recording artists in Australia and overseas.
I also have extensive experience as an educator, and I’ve worked with groups ranging from Bosnian refugees to university-level creative writing students. I am currently teaching creative and academic writing skills to students at The Armidale School (a member of the prestigious Round Square organisation of schools), and from 2011 to 2016, I taught Script Writing, Creative Writing and Academic Writing to students at the University of New England. I love to help people develop their writing skills, and I receive a lot of positive feedback and success stories from students and participants.
In September 2017, Edwina Shaw and I co-hosted the inaugural ‘Relax & Write – a Weekend Yoga and Writing Retreat for Women’ at Evans Head, where I gave workshops on memoir writing and self-editing. Our next ‘Relax & Write’ retreat is in March 2018.