Today, I welcome Western Australian poet and fiction writer, Kelly van Nelson, to the attic for a Q&A.
Kelly’s powerful poetry collection, Graffiti Lane, celebrates freedom of speech and the underdog rising against all odds. Her poetry and short stories have featured in publications for Serenity Press, Short Story Society, United Press, Between These Shores Books, Fiction War Magazine, KSP Writefree Women’s Writing Group.
In 2018, she was awarded a First Edition Fellowship through Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre and is represented by Clive Newman at The Newman Agency. She is also Managing Director of a multinational organisation, a mum, and an all-round juggler.
I won’t dither any longer, but get straight into the questions:
From Blank Canvas to Colourful Dreams
- When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England and lived in an inner-city council estate. I didn’t have a great relationship with my mother and my father passed away in his forties. I also was bullied at school, nothing physical, but relentless verbal taunting. My outlet was reading.
I read endlessly under the duvet with a torch until the early hours, generally Enid Blyton, who helped me escape up faraway trees and into enchanted forests. My love of books was intense from a young age and my high school friends still remind me about how I wanted to be a writer as a teenager.
2. What inspired you to write Graffiti Lane?
The idea for my poetry collection, Graffiti Lane, started with writing poems about big bullies in the playground and corporate world. I had a blank canvas in front of me, allowing me to speak for anyone out there who has been pushed to the point of breaking. The concept expanded to include poems about diversity, gender pay, domestic violence, and feeling kicked down in the world, then evolved into rising above the setbacks to achieve dreams.
I’ve spent so much time in Melbourne recently that the laneways attracted my attention, too. The colourful graffiti is incredible, representing freedom of speech for talented street artists, many expressing underlying messages on social issues. Several poems were inspired by murals I’ve seen on my travels and I’m developing a unique fan base of top-class graffiti artists.
3. What is your typical writing style?
I tend to write about gritty, urban life in a blunt manner that addresses topics that are confronting to deal with. I want to challenge people’s thinking, even my own. My sense of humour is somewhat off-keel, so I pepper heavy content with light satire so my readers don’t jump off the edge of a cliff before reaching the end. I want them to survive as it gives me greater odds of receiving a five-star review.
4. Where are you at your most productive as a writer
An avalanche could be crashing down around me and I could still hunker down and write. As a result of having teenage kids in the house, one who plays the electric guitar, the other who likes to watch re-runs of Friends with Dolby surround sound on full whack, I’ve developed a knack for being able to tune out unwanted noise. I never sit at a desk to write. The laptop goes wherever I go and opens whenever I get a window of opportunity to smash out some words. My favourite place for getting work done is on an airplane. There is something about turbulent air that gets my creative juices flowing.
5. Do you have a day job or family around which you fit writing?
I have both. I’m Managing Director of the world’s largest provider of staffing solutions, working full-time. I’m also mum of two and wife of one (lucky for him). When people ask me what I do, I tend to say I am a juggler.
6. Have there been any milestones in your career as an author that have been meaningful for you?
Securing my agent, Clive Newman, at The Newman Agency, was a turning point in my career. He gave me the reassurance I needed to keep going. Until then, it had been a dark, winding road that I was mainly travelling alone.
Last year, I had a breakthrough when several short stories and poems featured in multiple publications around the world. My first novel is in the submission phase and I’m working on my second novel, which takes endless energy, so these wins give some respite along the way.
Graffiti Lane hit a massive milestone recently too, shooting up to #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases and #2 Amazon Poetry Bestsellers. I needed to be peeled off the ceiling when I heard about the ratings.
7. What downsides have you experienced as a writer?
My hands often ache from typing fast and furious for several hours every day, a blend of the day job and writing. To give my poor fingers some relief, I’ve been trying out voice software that converts verbal conversation to text. Turns out my northern accent is too strong for any computer to decipher. So far, I can only get about 40% of my conversation to be correctly translated, rendering it useless for writing manuscripts. I live in hope that someone adds Geordie to the standard languages on these programs. Siri would sound good invented in Geordie too. Wait a minute, I’m on to something …