Here’s a woman who was not happy being a stay at home “sailing widow”, so wait until you read what she decided to do. One of the busiest, most well connected people I’ve met, she’s electric to be around. I feel like I’ve been plugged in and recharged after getting together with Vanessa O’Loughlin. I mean, seriously, my hair is standing on end and my fingers are twitching for the computer, ready to start typing all the hot new ideas that were bandied about in our conversation!
Kristi: Welcome, Vanessa O’Loughlin. I’m thrilled to have you on How Did You Get There. Please tell our readers what you do.
Kristi: Any particular order?
Vanessa: I started writing pre-children, in 1999 when my husband went sailing cross the Atlantic. I had eight weeks of long evenings to fill, and an idea for a story.
Kristi: I thought “sailing widows” would be out with the girls. You’ve turned it into a career.
Kristi: Most writers have a hard enough time squeezing in their own writing, but you went a step further and started a series of workshops?
Vanessa: I started Inkwell Writers Workshops in 2006, after attending a weekend writer’s workshop in Dingle. I really enjoyed it, and wanted to attend more, but the only workshops I could find were either full weekends or evening classes, which for a mother of two was not feasible. To attend my first workshop I’d flown my parents in from the UK, filled the freezer, and left about 20 instruction lists. I couldn’t face that again! My husband is a member of An Garda Siochana and his hours are very unpredictable, so getting out to an evening class is impossible without huge babysitting bills.
Kristi: Sounds like your husband isn’t the only one who runs a tight ship.
Vanessa: There was only one answer –
Kristi: Sail to the Bahamas?
Vanessa: To organise my own workshops and run them on Saturdays.
Kristi: In your spare time?
Vanessa: I think the busier you are the more you get done. And I was lucky, I knew several best selling writers like Sarah Webb who enjoy facilitating workshops, so I got good feedback on the Inkwell idea very quickly. The writers I knew happened to be the very people I myself wanted to learn from–they’re best sellers for a reason!
Kristi: How do you structure your workshops?
Vanessa: I’ve designed a wide variety of one day seminars on topics ranging from Start Writing for the beginner, to a range of commercial fiction, Web Wise, and even a day devoted to Getting Published where professional publishers and agents share their side. We meet in a comfortable venue, with tea breaks and a very nice seated lunch which gives the participants an opportunity to chat with the day’s two speakers, and the other participants. Each workshop comes with its own handout pack of writing ‘tips’, and a free writing magazine. Writing is a solitary occupation. It’s important to connect with others, and learn from the pros.
Kristi: So you’ve covered the gluttony aspect of writing, as well?
Vanessa: Chocolate biscuits are a very under rated tool.
Kristi: What is your favourite aspect to your work?
Vanessa: I love meeting people. As a writer you draw on all your experiences to develop character and plot. Characters are the life blood of good fiction. Every time I run a workshop I notice something, hear an exchange or a phrase that is intriguing.
Kristi: So you’re like Agatha Christie? Assembling your characters in one room, to see what they’ll do. Any dastardly deeds at these Inkwell Workshops? Any poison pen mysteries? Bodies in the armoire?
Vanessa: What are you implying?
Kristi: You can tell us… any foul play… in the library with the candlestick??
Vanessa: Only on the page.
Vanessa: The workshops help people network, and my monthly newsletter helps inform them of outside opportunities, such as competitions, or publishers and agents looking for submissions.
Kristi: It sounds like you stay involved with your participants.
Vanessa: I try to – it was easier when I started Inkwell, but it’s tricky now as it grows in popularity. I’m keen to stay as involved as possible, to help people with their projects.
Kristi: Did you develop this multi-leveled effort for Inkwell or gain it from previous experiences?
Vanessa: I think I’m just the sort of person who likes organising. I’ve worked as an event manager with some high profile clients, so I learned about event planning. I’ve always loved selling so the marketing side of the business comes naturally.
Kristi: What were some of your previous jobs?
Vanessa: After graduation I worked in marketing for a major property management company. After I came to Ireland in 1992 I worked as a tour guide in Glendalough, I worked for a jeweller, I joined Avoca Handweavers where I did everything from buying to display to managing the Powerscourt shop when it first opened.
Kristi: I imagine your wide variety of experiences have made all sorts of characters come alive in your writing.
Vanessa: Everything I’ve done has dovetailed into what I’m doing now.
Kristi: What are you currently working on?
Vanessa: A new crime fiction book In Too Deep.I also enjoy writing romance in the Summer so I’m working on one I wrote last year to turn it into a bonkbuster!! I’m also working on a short story for an Anthology I’m helping the Hope Foundation compile. The anthology is called The Big Book of Hope, available in autumn 2010. It will be a compilation of short stories, fact, fiction, memoir, and commentary from 30 of Ireland’s key writers, business professionals and sports people.
Kristi: Do you see a thread connecting your many endeavours?
Vanessa: Always the people, their different lives. I met a girl who’d lived in Hong Kong and had her eyebrows tattooed on. I’ve met a stunning Sikh girl who was trying to juggle her modern life with tradition and her parents’ expectations. I love meeting people. I’ll talk about anything.
Kristi: I wish we could talk longer. All the best success in your many endeavours, and as always thanks for playing along!