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All the best from,
Carol says: “From losing his partner to ovarian cancer to his passion for saving marine life, Ben’s life experiences inspired him to intertwine them into his short stories and his novel. His passion for life and love are evident in his stories. His compassion is evident in his interview.”
Do you live a fear-based or love-based life?
Listen to his interview to get the answer:
In this interview, Ben also talks about the challenges our oceans face today, life lessons learned from boxing, a guardian angel named Edington, and a short story from his collection, Something in the Air, available on Amazon…
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ODE TO A WREN
A graveyard squats beyond a wall
Where they bury dreams with rocks.
As child, as adult, those dreams once called
And on those caskets knocked.
Each year a thinning wail would stray
From walls bulged thicker, taller.
Each day my prayers, more distant, play
In silence to the caller.
Until that sleety autumn noon
When quiet cloaked my pleadings,
As thorns and claws and hooks of Moon,
Tore love from spirit’s bleedings.
Now death puffs its heartless chest
On bones through broken soil,
A waxen, tuxedoed dinner guest
Slurps grinning at the spoil.
Time tried but failed to fix
My endless melancholy,
A constant acid reflux mix
A three-legged border collie.
Okay, so the dog makes zero sense,
I bet you can’t do better,
Onward then with the suspense,
As I struggle with every letter.
One day the calendar did turn,
And a wren, of fluffy breast,
Who’d dined on creepy-crawly things, and a worm
Flew by to build a nest.
The graveyard scared the birdy so,
It jettisoned its eating.
A deluge white as driven snow
Spattered barren soil in greeting.
And in that spattering, a seed was sown
It germinated quickly.
Then roots and trunk and branch were grown.
The plant grew tall, and thickly.
It burst the walls, it let in light,
The voice of hope returned.
The dreams with their attendant might,
Bore fruit in all I’d yearned.
Now love has settled where all was lost,
I’m no longer a complainer,
Remember—whatever the cost—
Keep hold of hope. That’s a no-brainer.
Welcome, Alice and thanks for joining us here. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? At what age did you decide you wanted to be a writer and how did you get started?
Thank you very much for hosting me! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I started to take it more seriously when I was about twenty. I wrote several books, none of which were published, before I wrote Life on the Refrigerator Door, which was published in 30 countries. It was published as both a YA and an adult novel, but I felt that YA suited me well.
What attracted you to the YA genre?
I love writing about that age when everything is possible and anything can happen. I’ve published three other YA novels and two picture books since then, and I have a new YA novel and a chapter book series coming out in the next year or so. My books continue to sell in lots of countries, and I’m lucky to be able to write for lots of different age groups.
Could you describe your writing process? Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m lucky to be able to work full time as a writer, although the only commitment I make to myself as a writer is to read every day. I have four children, so, while writing every single day isn’t possible, I can always find time to read–even if it’s the middle of the night.
I love the rush of getting a first draft done and normally I plan to write a thousand words a day when I’m in that phase. Then I have a lot of reworking to do afterwards. My inspiration comes from all sorts of places–books I’ve read, the newspaper, my kids, that quiet inner voice that asks the question ‘what if, what if, what if…’
Michael Crichton once said: “Books are not written–they’re rewritten.” How many times do you re-write before passing your work on to an editor?
Oh, I’m always rewriting. I spend much more time editing than writing and the number of drafts I have to do is a ridiculous. I think I wrote my first picture book–all 674 words of it–over three hundred times. It takes me ages to get things right. And then I send my writing to an editor and the process begins all over again–the editor has their own voice and ideas and that part of the process is crucial to making any book the best it can be.
I feel like there is only one opportunity for a reader to read a first draft of a book, so I want to make that first experience of my books as good as I can.
You have written, lectured, taught in class and online, and co-authored an app. How did you find your way to developing a video writing course for authors? What made you think of this format in particular?
The video course seemed like a natural progression from all the other teaching I do. I’ve been teaching online at University of Toronto for a few years now and I love the online format–it means that I can be working with students when my children are sleeping.
The way this course works is the content is all there ready for you as soon as you want to start–so many people want to ignite their creativity and now with this course I hope they can.
What key things did you consider while developing QuickStart Your Writing?
I wanted to make to process of writing accessible to all the people who ask me how to become a writer themselves. Everyone has a story to tell and I know how hard it is to find the confidence and time to make that happen.
The course is designed to be done at the pace of the person using it and hopefully it’s filled with ideas as to how anyone can get their words on the page.
What was the most difficult part of producing this course? The easiest?
It’s always difficult to find a quiet moment in the house I live in to make the video content. I’m making another course now and it’s a rare time that all the children are out and I’m not going to be interrupted.
The easiest part was also the most fun part–talking about writing. I could talk about writing and how to get started writing all day long.
What should writers think about before deciding if this product is right for them? Is it more useful for fiction or non-fiction?
Anyone can go onto the site and have a look at the sample lectures before deciding to come on board. I would think that it’s more useful for people who write fiction as that’s my passion, but the ideas about how to make time, how to make a space, and how to find ideas, would apply to any aspiring writer, whatever type of writing they do.
What are you working on today? What new projects do you have planned for the future?
I’m editing. Again. And I’m working on a new course with an organization called Children’s Book Insider. That course will come out in the fall. I have ideas for two new books and I also need to write the second book in my chapter book series, which will be a pleasure to do once I’ve finished the edits of the new YA novel.
I’m enjoying my new Instagram feed where I upload an image writing prompt every day or so. And I love making my newsletter with writing tips and book recommendations for anyone who loves books as much as I do.
The publishing world is changing fast – where do you think it will be in five years…and where will you fit it then?
If I’m lucky, I hope I’m still publishing as many books as I am now, but even if I’m not, I’ll still be writing them. Writing is something that brings me a lot of joy. Having readers is an honour and a thrill, but, just as I was writing long before I was published, I’ll still be writing as the years go by.
Who are your favourite authors? What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Every month I send out a newsletter where I talk about the books I’m reading and share book recommendations from other writers too.
Right now, I’m reading The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson, and I just finished The Long Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I’ve been loving Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, which I’ve been reading with my four year old daughter, and I really enjoyed We Are All Made of Molecules, a YA novel by Susin Nielsen. I sit around and drink cups of tea, thinking big, writerly thoughts. Actually, that’s a joke!
What do you do when you are not writing?
I have four children and the oldest is six, so I basically try and keep my head above water, and make sure they are fed, watered, loved, entertained, not causing havoc, etc… When I’ve finished this, I have to take my daughter to a birthday party, then play with my youngest two and somehow edit a novel in there too…
One thing I love to do is to cook. Last night I made cinnamon buns for the first time after a weekend with the kids by a lake here in Canada. If only the baby hadn’t kept me up until one in the morning last ‘night’, I’d actually be refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle the work ahead of me.
Thank you so much for asking such great questions. I hope to see some of you on the course. You can find me here at alicekuipers.com, at my newsletter or writing prompt feed, at my writing course QuickStart Your Writing, or on Twitter @alicekuipers and Facebook.
Alice Kuipers has recently authored and produced an online writing course that covers ideas, inspiration, discipline, planning and commitment for writers. It includes top tips from a top author for writers of every genre.
Alice was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published three further award winning YA novels internationally, most recently, The Death of Us. Her fifth YA novel comes out in 2017.
Kuipers has four small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book was selected as an Amazon best pick for December 2014. Her second, Violet and Victor Write The Most Fabulous Fairy Tale, is on the Winter 2015 Kids’ Indie Next List.
Sophia Tallon has published 5 Big Distractions From Writing and How to Beat Them, by Ben Starling at her site.
“How do to defeat distractions and stay on top of targets? Some times I don’t. But I’ve found a few plans for conquering my distractions that work well for me most of the time. Perhaps they will work for you too…”
Read the whole article here.
Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his work. He boxed competitively until recently and continues to coach. He graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy. www.ben-starling.com
Ben recently released Something in the Water, available now at Amazon.