I love Capri, was the first Belinda Jones novel I read. Relaxing on a Mallorcan sunlounger, the way one is supposed to read a romantic comedy. Not even in my wildest dreams did I expect to be this close to having my own short story published together with hers.
‘Wendy, you are aware of the fact that I only know cauliflower English right?’, my test reader asked me, after I shared my plan to enter the Sunlounger Short Story Competition with her.
It is a typical Dutch saying, the cauliflower thing, meaning only being able to count to ten in a foreign language. Ok, so I would have to wash this pig on my own. Yep, another Dutch expression. ‘Washing the pig’ equals ‘make them smell a fart’, once again a Dutch expression. Let me tell you something you do understand: I was on my own in this one. And although it scared the bejesus outta me (now, this is actually a bilingual expression) I decided to give it a go.
Even before I started walking, I was writing. My mum told me once, being a baby I made these funny movements with my fingers. ‘Like you were writing in the sky.’ I’m sure I was. As I grew up writing wasn’t my passion though. I wanted to sing, act and dance … Theatre was my dream. After a year of struggling I was told to pack my bags at the very last audition to enter the Amsterdam School of Arts. Since they were packed already, I decided to take those bags and move to Spain. It was there that I finally got to live my dream. As a holiday entertainer for the Iberostar hotels I sang, danced and acted my butt off and had the Dirty Dancing-ish Time of my life. My Johnny did put me in a corner though and years later, I decided to put that love story on paper. The book was published and my hunger for wiggling words, playing with sentences and the juggling of letters was awakened.
When writing in Dutch I use my so called diarrhea technique; Throw it all out, let the words flow. Only after the last drip is down, one starts molding and polishing. I noticed very quickly that this was not gonna do it for me in English. The usual diarrhea was more like a sever case of gastroenteritis, impossible to mold … Soon the initial thought ‘I just want to make it to the shortlist’, became ‘If only I could make it to the shortlist’. But I decided to make it work (don’t you just love Tim Gunn?) and started a different kind of writing. Using the Dutch techniques I learned, and the English ones I picked up from reading loads and loads of English books, I wrote whilst constantly being on alert. Carefully, I started playing a bit with English words, trying some jokes on native English friends from Amsterdam (lucky me for living in a metropolis) and it worked!
Oh la la Lanzarote was born, polished and off to judging. Very pleased with the result, but realistic enough to understand that it would be difficult to stand out between native writers, I was not expecting to reach the shortlist. I entered a bazillion competitions by now and never made it to any shortlist, so why would now be any different? BUT I DID! I screamed the lungs out of my body (yep, another Dutch saying) after reading my name on the shortlist and didn’t stop getting teary-eyed since. For me this IS winning. I’ve won and it’s enough.
‘If only I could make it to the shortlist’ has become ‘I have freaking made it to the shortlist!’ And in the very back of my head I can hear a little whisper telling me ‘I could just as well be the winner of the Sunlounger Short Story Competition …’