Tag Archives: travelling companion

Wandering off piste but I’ve still got time for coffee or schnapps or both!

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Hi all
I’m wandering off piste so to speak because Paulien isn’t a writer – she’s a very talented illustrator (among other things). You may recall in June Perkins’ interview I introduced you to some of Paulien’s work. She is illustrating one of June’s books – the black and white illustration above. Paulien and June are dear friends and I first met Paulien at a Book Creators Circle meeting (www.bookcreatorscircle.com.au), where she talked about her work. We were very fortunate to meet her as she lives in the Netherlands and was on holiday in Cairns at the time.

Paulien was very keen to join me in a virtual coffee interview so here we are.

She had this to say, “I like my coffee black, hot and sweet, espresso or long black, never with milk!”

I’m sure she’ll have it with Schnapps though. It’s been stinking hot in Europe so I scoured the internet to discover the best place to ski and we’re actually in Queenstown, New Zealand – where else? Paulien can cool down. I’m not anticipating a great deal of skiing will occur as it’s very hard to talk, drink coffee, schnapps and hold onto those pole things. Then there’s the business of staying upright on skis and wearing all those clothes.

Sooooo to cut a long story short we are pretending to ski and have found our way into a wonderful little coffee shop to do the après ski thing and I am very confident about my ability to see it through. Paulien nods her approval – she can’t speak at the moment because the schnapps has gone up her nose and her eyes are watering.

Paulien eventually signals her ability to speak and I ask about her latest project.

“I am working on a very ad hoc basis, since Multiple Sclerosis sometimes gets in the way of my daily routine. I had been working in advertising since the early 1990’s – which was little young me in a macho world of mad men with an overdose of testosterone, inferiority complexes muddled into superiority complexes. It was then and there that I vowed I would never let myself be pushed into being scared of anyone and anything. Never! But the MS made that impossible, too many deadlines and too much stress, so I am on a disability pension now.”

We’ve moved onto the coffee and apple strudel now Paulien continues.

“I was having MS relapses four or five times a year, with periods of being into hospital. This was wreaking havoc on my body. So it was considered best that I stop working. Maybe it was good for the old body, but not so for the mind. I was getting bored silly, doing nothing, sitting around…”

Paulien hasn’t let the problems of managing chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis get in the way she just looked at how should could make her life different, less stressful and still be productive, creative and feel good about herself.

“It was then I decided I would go to the art shop, buy myself some paints, brushes and really nice paper.” She smiles and says, “Never be cheap on your materials! I started with watercolour, which was a great choice. I think I have grown rather well into it, and will be a learning experience for a lifetime. Watercolour will always surprise the artist, which is one of the attractions of the medium. I don’t have the patience to do oils but I’d love to be the next Van Gogh.”

 Paulien’s face lights up as she smiles.

“I can forget about the world when I do watercolours. Time flies and for me, it’s true ‘Zen Meditation’ – I can get lost for hours or days even. I also like to sketch. I am so fortunate that I can draw what I see; perspective and dimensions came naturally to me, without being educated. Art school of course did the polishing of the raw edges, but I think I am blessed to have such a talent. But watercolour and all the mystifying qualities are mesmerizing and I keep coming back to them.”

 The coffee schnapps and apple strudel all went down so easily we decide to move onto round two. This après ski stuff is much more fun than skiing! Paulien is one feisty woman. I ask her about recent successes.

“Ever since I was declared ‘disabled’ – I still hate the word – I have been trying to find things to keep me busy. However I was thankful to meet people who were disgusted with the easy manner in which society deals with those of us who are who are ‘blemished’ in some way. The upshot of one meeting was to be invited to illustrate a book for publication. I ended up making the whole thing, page layout and all, and it was my personal victory that it worked well. Years of experience as a graphic designer in the advertising world made me an expert in the work and it was a very nice book that came out at the end.”

Check out the illustrations and book ‘Tien’ on Paulien’s website www.colourproof.nl

 We’re both very relaxed now.

“So, now that I was being more confident I started doing the odd design jobs for friends and various people who cared for me, to do their design work. It was totally enjoyable, and every one knew my situation, and understood that I might need a little extra time because I wasn’t always up to working when my energy levels dropped or when I had to go to hospital. I don’t ignore the fact that I have MS, but I tend not to let it rule my daily life, I like to do whatever I still am capable of and make the very most of it … after all, life is worth living, and quite nice most of the time! Celebrate every day like it could be your last and it will never make for regrets…”

You’ll have realised by now Paulien does not let her illness get in the way of her plans and ambitions. She goes on to tell me of a wonderful serendipity.

“In 2011 I bumped into an old friend who had moved abroad to get into business with a marketing tycoon. She came back to the Netherlands, very successful but cheated out of the business scheme and had to start all over again. I told her she could make use of my design skills when needed; I’d be helping her to get back to her feet in the marketing business. It was the best thing – we turned out to be a golden duo! And together we have been making some really successful communication and design plans. We have some plans for the future, but we need to wait for the economy to make a kick start in Europe!”

Watch this space!

“Of course I had been doing some illustrating work with my college childhood friend June, from the time I had been living in Australia, which was lovely – it was such a nice constant in my life.”

 I ask Paulien about her best moments as an artist?

“I think I have had many great moments in my life as a designer/illustrator/artist… There have been many highlights, but I cannot really pick one. In the Netherlands there is no such thing as an award culture; actually, it is rather frowned upon. It seems like the Dutch think it is not wise to say that you might be better than someone else.  Which I think is sad, because having been part of the Australian culture for a while I think it fine to have people excel in things and praise them for it.”

I’ll digress for a moment. A point to ponder. Why would anyone want to ski when you can sit in a cosy cafe with an inspirational woman like Paulien, drinking coffee and schnapps, and eating apple strudel ’til it comes out of your ears!  Just a thought.

“By the way,” sighs Paulien, “I miss Australia to bits, but I am also a very European girl, and the simple fact that I know I can get into my car and be in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, by nightfall is just so very appealing… all the culture and history around me is so very stimulating! I have become a strange mixture of Australia and Europe and really miss one or the other when I am visiting any place, either in Europe or Australia … I am both and yet I am neither.”

Now for the biggy – what have been your worst moments?

“I don’t think I have had so many worst moments as an artist/illustrator. I always find things to do, I am such a creative soul, and unfortunately my days are often too short to do all the things I want to do in them.”

I think that is something we all feel.

“I had to give up clay modelling and sculpting because that is physically too hard but I can still draw and paint and even make some jewellery if I feel the urge. Once I thought my worst moment was when I was declared disabled, and I couldn’t work any more, but then I discovered a whole new world out there and I have been starting some fantastic projects, with June Perkins, and Matilda Elliott, Eleanor Bennet and Wendy MacKenzie and Dianne Baines through Book Creators Circle. I am proud of some book covers – Ever Essence from David Hollands Curran, and Temptress reclined at rest for Letizia De Rosa and the newest: Pursuit, by Jim Murdoch.”

“I probably don’t need to ask but why do you do what you do?”

“I need to create; it is in my blood…. I feel the urge to do so, even if there is no one to make it for; I make it because it is in my head and needs to come out, it can be triggered by a word or a smell or something I see around me in town, or in my house, or on the TV. It has to come out, it has to grow, it has to be born. I often ‘make’, create something in my head, and then it sits there until I find the time to come out. It feels like some kind of pressure that builds up and might explode, and I carry a notebook to make notes and sketches as to release the pressure. I need to create to be…. to breathe, to feel alive.”

Not so different from a writer – it’s simply the urge to get something down on paper. The first step in turning an idea into a piece of artwork whether it’s a book, a painting, a sculpture, a film – the process is the same.

Paulien has some final details she wishes to share.

“Here’s my website and some other online destinations which might interest you.”

 Website www.colourproof.nl

Pursuit: https://www.createspace.com/4129884?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

Ever essence: http://everessenceworld.com/

 And, if you contact me on Facebook, there are some albums I can share: ‘practicing’, ‘thoughts on ms’ (illustrations), and ‘illustrations 2009’ (exhibit of photo collages).

 Maybe you’d like to take your magic carpet to the city of Groningen; here’s the wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen

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Paris in Sprintime … well that was the plan!

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Hi everyone,

Refreshed from a wonderful sojourn in Perth and Freemantle I’m still feeling romantic so today I’m interviewing Elizabeth Martin – a writer of RomCom – romantic comedy for the uninitiated. Knowing how busy Elizabeth is as a writer, wife, mother of three boys and a GP; I decided on a whirlwind tour, all expenses paid, to Paris. After all it is the capital city of romance and I thought it might prove inspirational.

We’ve taken in the sites and sounds; the wine, the coffee, the croissant, hot chocolate, more wine, a crêpe Suzette, some champagne, crusty French bread and some more wine. Now it’s time for a cruise on the River Seine. My French isn’t what it used to be and now we have a very nice young gendarme asking us to follow him. We giggle – no problem – he’s gorgeous!

            He’s brought us to the police station, “For your own safety,” (spoken in a very sexy French accent).

            So … I shall conduct the interview whilst the very nice gendarme, whose name is Claude, plies us with hot strong coffee in the vain hope it will restore a level of sobriety. Hic! Excuse me it must be something I ate. Elizabeth collapses into giggles and just to let you know – the floor is moving.

            I take a deep breath as Elizabeth takes a large gulp of coffee and we begin. I ask Elizabeth what she’s currently working on.

           “I’ve just finished my second novel The Teahouse in the Lime trees which is the sequel to my debut romantic comedy The Coffeeholic and the Café. It’s being edited then I’ll send it out there, with fingers crossed.” Elizabeth scrabbles in her bag and pulls out a note book, “This is the blurb I’m working on, which is almost harder to write than the actual novel.”

             I totally agree!

            “Coffeeholic Claire, blissfully in love, answers an ad for her dream job – as a travelling companion to Italy the home of  food, culture, art, fashion and of course coffee. Things seem perfect when Tom announces he too has a job in the home of coffee. But her plans unravel quickly, Claire finds herself in Dimbulah, Far North Queensland, the home of nothing. Without Tom it’s like she’s lost her taste for everything, even her taste for coffee. That is until Paul arrives on his glittering Ducati. Heir to the Dimbulah farm, Paul’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. He ignites in Claire a passion for the beauty of the area, the food of the tropics and the ‘other’ drink, tea. Will Claire be seduced by this suave charmer and his tea drinking ways? Will Claire remain loyal to her first love? Will she ever get to Italy? And can a Coffeeholic really drink tea?

            In this joyous sequel to the best selling novel the Coffeeholic and the Café we follow Claire on a journey further than she ever imagined.”

I don’t know about you but I’m hooked. Elizabeth goes on to read some of the comments from her readers,

“Twice as many antioxidants as The Coffeeholic and the Café and a third of the caffeine – Dr Toogood.”

It must be good. Two more before we move onto Elizabeth’s recent successes.

“A type of gothic lemon delicious – Matt, Cairns Post food critic.

I laughed, I cried, I had to make myself another cup of tea – Rosie.”

Hook, line and sinkered. Onto recent successes. Elizabeth says, “Last September I was one of the winners of the Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette and Reef Writer’s short story and poetry competition with my poem Silent Slices. More recently my publisher Boolarong Press designed a new cover for The Coffeeholic and the Café and will re-release it under the title All you need is love, and coffee.

Elizabeth goes on to tell me that her best moment so far as a writer was when she attended the Tropics of the Imagination conference shortly after completing her first novel. “I met my publisher whilst drinking coffee in the break. She asked if I was a writer and I gave my first ever pitch to a publisher. She liked my story, gave me her card and we rejoined the lecture. I don’t think anything else sank in for the rest of the conference I was so excited.” Elizabeth pauses and goes on to say, “I remember thinking if this is all that comes of it, it was all worth it. Ever since The Coffeeholic was published I’ve had many great moments speaking about books and writing to other readers and writers. I feel very privileged to be part of the Cairns writing community; to be able to talk with people who take writing seriously. I’ve heard and read some amazing pieces from some very talented writers.”

Claude returns – he thinks we are safe enough to be allowed back onto the streets of Paris – we decline his offer of more police station coffee and head for the nearest coffee shop. The sun is shining, amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris we stumble upon Kooka Boora (yes there are Aussies involved); ordering two very sturdy espressos. Feeling a great deal more sober we move onto worst moments. “I used to keep a diary as a teenager; something every aspiring writer should do. I guess now it’s called blogging. I used to show my diary to my girlfriends (that’s now called Facebook) and I’m not sure that was a good idea. My diary was also read by my mum and even the local police.” Elizabeth explains, “I was minding my friend’s mother’s house and the cats got out and I left the backdoor open for the night so they could get back in and then I went out. A neighbour noticed the open door, hadn’t seen my friend’s mother for a few days, so called the police. The police thinking they had a possible missing woman case read my diary which was beside the bed. They smirked when they told me. After that I stopped writing everything in my diary and hid it.”

 Elizabeth looks a little pensive as she admits the other worst moments as a writer are the ongoing self doubts caused by listening to the harsh critic-within. “A great victory for me was overcoming that inner voice and just getting things down on paper. I’m thicker skinned now but not much.”

                 Elizabeth’s advice to an aspiring writer is fairly simple and straightforward, “Write a diary. Or blog. Keep notes, but don’t worry about where you keep them just write them down so you get in the habit and the thoughts don’t clog up your creative flow. Call yourself a writer if you write or have an urge to write, not just if you are published. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

                 I too am in the habit of writing thoughts down in random places. The joy is unexpectedly finding them – it’s like a gift to yourself.

 Finally, replete of all things French Elizabeth says she writes because like every writer she is compelled. “I feel better if I do.”