The Eleventh Month authors Q&A: Ingrid van den Berg
On a weekend in November 2016, a number of writers gathered at Temenos, in the village of McGregor in the Western Cape. In addition to the writers at Temenos, others were tethered to the proceedings via email and the internet. We gathered the stories that were the result of the weekend in an anthology, The Eleventh Month.
We asked the authors who jointly contributed to The Eleventh Month a number of questions about their writing. Here are Ingrid van den Berg’s responses:
Did you ever think you could write a short story in a weekend?
No. Not even in a week. But what this weekend taught me is that – with the right amount of encouragement, guidance and gentle pushing – I am able to kick aside my normal procrastinating self and actually produce something rather respectable. A deliciously satisfying feeling.
Did you create a character with a bit of you, or did you have fun with someone completely unlike you?
I think a sprinkle of me comes out in all of my characters – female and male. I was always an avid diary-keeper and so, I suppose, writing about myself and my experiences is second nature. My challenge remains to push myself out of this relative comfort zone and throw myself into the pants of someone I have nothing in common with. I can only hope the pants won’t split with the effort!
Is your short story fact or fiction – or a mix of the two?
Fiction, with one of my characters loosely based on someone I knew at ‘varsity
What was the inspiration behind your story?
The moral dilemma is something we all have to face at some point in life, just hopefully not too often. I’ve always been the diplomat, trying to see both sides of an argument and seeking to make the peace, so my story – in a sense – was just another such occasion/dilemma.
Did you plot it out before writing or did the story evolve as you went along?
I had a rough idea of my storyline, but the details only really came to me as my story evolved.
Did you have an idea before Friday afternoon?
Yes. I had taken advantage of the list of “idea prompts” All About Writing had provided prior to the weekend.
Did you end up writing the story you planned, or did you surprise yourself?
Yes. I’ve never been one for too much spontaneity … I like things relatively ordered in my life. “Booooooring!” I can hear some of you groan … I know, I won’t be the one you call up on a Sunday morning to go skydiving, but if ever you want a fabulously organised holiday in Italy, I’m your go-to-girl!
Have you written other short stories? Is this your genre?
Nothing official, just lots of short pieces for the various All About Writing programmes and courses I have participated in over the past two years. In fact, I am amazed at what All About Writing has helped me achieve in a mere 24 months in terms of my writing skills and output. Honestly, you were a milestone find in my life.
Have you published anything?
Nothing yet, but I’m currently participating in the Mentoring programme which I am hoping will at least see me publish a book for my family’s bookcases.
How does reading influence your writing?
More so now than in the past. As I’ve learnt more about the art of writing, so I’ve become a more critical reader and more aware of styles and scenes that can improve my own writing.
What are you currently reading?
Helen Zille’s Not Without A Fight
What tips do you have for other writers – either from your own experience – or a tip imparted to you that you think has made a difference to your writing?
It’s better to write one paragraph and feel good about it, than to stress about not being able to write a full page, yet alone a chapter.
The Eleventh Month is available in both hard copy and PDF formats. The cost of the hard copy is R120 plus postage. Email us if you’d like us to post you a copy.
All profits will go to Short Story Day Africa.