Five Minutes with Donna van Loenen #LoveAusAuthors
Donna van Loenen says she writes only when she is inspired do so. She has more unfinished stories than finished ones, but finds writing groups bring out the best in her, due to the deadlines, and the inspiration to flesh out an idea for a storyline to share in group. In her non-fiction writing, which is her usual genre, she is most authentic when she is inspired by something that has moved her emotionally.
‘I used to write features for a magazine called, Spiritual Links, which was produced in my hometown of Geelong Victoria. I loved being part of the production team and the subjects interested me, so it was a good match. Unfortunately the couple producing the magazine scaled back their endeavours and it came to a close for me.’
Dabbling in an array of genres, Donna also writes themed non-fiction. When she has developed enough knowledge or experience on a specific topic, she writes a full non-fiction piece, such as her published piece on Domestic Violence.
‘I usually need a strong motivator, such as a specific message, or a lesson learned that I want to pass on, to dedicate the time needed for these projects.’
In addition to her fiction and non-fiction, Donna writes eulogies by request.
‘I seem to have a talent for writing sentimental and beautiful words that move people and would like to explore this opportunity further in the future.’
And finally, poetry is something Donna always comes back to, when the chance arises. She enjoys the word play and challenge of rhymed verse and has had some pieces published in the past.
Five Things About Donna’s History
- I have lived in the Pilbara region of WA for almost 14 years. It’s a spectacular landscape, but can also be harsh and unforgiving for the underprepared.
- I’m married to my best friend of 30 years and we have 4 children (plus 3 grandchildren) who are now all grown and independent.
- At age 20 I married a man who beat me at least once a week, usually more. He broke my nose and arm, and I suffered many other indignities, but after 2.5 years I left with 2 babies in tow and I’ve never looked back . It hasn’t been an easy ride, but it’s definitely been rewarding and interesting.
- I have worked in some awesome jobs including – as a librarian, driving semi-trailer trucks, mine site accomodation management, fuel depot management, sales and marketing, landscape construction, scheduling, reception and office management, Election and Census management, Vocational Trainer and Teacher, Interior Designer and District Court Officer.
- I love, love, love, to make art, and now that I have time, I am more an artist than anything else. I enjoy trying new techniques and challenge myself to upcycle, reuse or renew a thrifted or found object every week. The challenge is not to buy anything new and I have to use what I find to complete the project. I then gift it or sell it if it doesn’t suit my current decor.
Five Things About Donna’s Work
- My most commercial project was a work of non-fiction I wrote in response to a job I had, that allowed insight into the first responders and support services for victims of Domestic Violence. I could see a pattern of repeated “rescue” rather than re-education for these (mostly) young women and I offered a different perspective. Unfortunately I had to publish under a pseudonym, due to the possibly liable content and this made it too difficult to market and to reach its target audience. I still don’t have a solution to this problem.
- I am currently teaching myself an animation program that will allow me to animate short non-fiction works.
- I have a long held idea to self-publish older people’s life stories. I have written three so far and I love to see their eyes light up when remembering their past and absorbing their life lessons from the hard times. I believe these could become treasured family mementos once they pass. Once we retire to the east coast I plan to dedicate more time to this idea.
- A fictional work of mine was awarded and published in an Amnesty International Compilation the year after the Port Arthur massacre. One of the Judges called to ask if I had actually been there during the event, as my piece was so moving and convincing. It was actually one of those “inspired” works and to best describe what I mean by that – it’s as if a full story comes to me and all I have to do is interpret it and get it out on paper. It’s complete when it pops into my awareness and it’s almost like automatic writing to get it out of the thought bubble. This is my favourite type of project and seems to have a realness that reaches people on a deeper level.
- I have two novels sitting in limbo that only need ending chapters, but I don’t know how to finish them yet. I think the answers will come when I keep retirement hours. I enjoy the way a story guides you. I think it feels contrived if forced and tends to wither. I don’t write seriously unless I feel a connection or inspiration to do so. When I read it’s like I’m hearing a musical score, the words flow like music, and because of that I’ve always been good at editing because awkward text sticks out to me like misplayed notes at the symphony.
Five Things That Help Donna Keep Writing
- Becoming self-actualised and authentic. I thoroughly enjoy my own inner world and as a creative, it helps immensely in bringing forth projects into the outer world, without needing to copy trends. It took many years for me to appreciate this and to value my own unique and quiet inner voice. Although I trained as an interior designer in my 20s, I never worked as one and made most of my money in that industry teaching others how to design to industry standards. I found that I didn’t want to be an interior designer, as much as I loved to design unique things, and this made the industry unpalatable to me.
- Being a Keen Observer. The key to good writing, in my opinion, is to be an interested observer. I am curious about everything and everyone and how the world works because we are here. To process the glut of information, you need a mind that is orderly enough to make connections between action or situation and the resulting outcome. Why did this happen? What were the contributing factors? What outcome could have been achieved had circumstances been different? How did I (they) play a part in this outcome? When you ask these questions the who, what, where and how make up the story and it becomes simply a matter of putting it all together.
- Recognising patterns. Further to the above, observing and interpreting patterns in the world in things like behaviour, outcomes, economies, human nature and nature itself, helps to make writing relatable and interesting. It gives the audience something to latch onto and identify with, and it challenges their own beliefs and opinions. I think it would be impossible to write without this skill and would leave your work flat and automated.
- Meditation for inspiration. In order to write from an inspired place, I find meditation to minimise the outer world is essential, so that I can hear that quiet inner voice. Writing is a solitary pursuit and for me, requires introspection and a high level of deep thinking that is rich in context and detail and animation during creation. To the casual observer this probably looks like daydreaming or aimlessly clicking keys on a laptop. Meanwhile, inside my evolving story, there may be pitched battles and life affirming dramas and earth shattering human relations. That is the beauty of creating your own world through words – you get to be a character in another world in which you have some directorial influence.
- Sitting on an idea until it’s ready to be birthed. In recognition of my need to write from an inspired position only, I have numerous notepads of writing projects that have not yet reached optimal gestation. Projects that have merit, but not yet the right ingredients to make the best brew; the ones that need further exploration and fleshing out. It’s recognising the moments when those ingredients come together in a pleasing and complete way, that is integral for me. In my early writings there were many half baked projects that were scrapped when they wouldn’t go further than a short story. I wish I had kept them now, knowing that ideas evolve and mature. Good ideas have a weight to them, a solidity that can be worked with, like clay as opposed to mud. I value ideas when they come to me and I honour them by writing them as far as they will go at the time. I tend to keep multiple blank exercise books just for that occurrence and at times (usually when I move house) I get them out and see if they are ready to be born into the world yet or need more gestation time.
In the future, Donna is looking forward to retirement planing. She says at this stage of life, she and her husband have been busy designing the ‘best time of their lives.’
‘We have a very specific dream of farm life in Tasmania, becoming self sufficient and lightening our ecological footprint. We have seen the worst and we now want only the best practises for our remaining years. We spend most of our time and energy researching and planing for this long awaited stage of our life. How joyous it will be.’
Donna would also like to see higher knowledge, insight and wisdom for the masses and that we become smart enough to avoid a dismal future. She believes that in order to deliver relevant and valuable creative projects into the future, we have to do so in a contemporary and meaningful way to younger generations.
‘We need to speak their language in order to deliver meaningful content and I hope to always be open to learning new things that translate what I have to share.’
Donna’s published book about Domestic Violence is available on Amazon The path to Surrender by Marie de Berenger.
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