Meet the Author: Kelly Van Nelson

Kelly’s top tip for writers: Dig deep and leverage willpower. It’s the ultimate superpower to ensure you never give up.

Kelly Van Nelson is a fiction author who lived in the UK and South Africa before immigrating to Australia. She has had multiple poetry and short stories featured in publications in the UK, USA, and Australia (Serenity Press, Short Story Society, United Press, Between These Shores Books, Fiction War Magazine, Wolvesburrow Productions, KSP Writefree Women’s Writing Group). She is represented by Clive Newman at The Newman Agency.

Graffiti Lane is her powerful debut poetry collection. As well as success as a poet, Kelly has also received multiple accolades for her manuscript, The Pinstripe Prisoner, which placed third in the Yeovil Literary Prize, shortlisted in the Wales PENfro first chapter competition, and longlisted in the Exeter Novel Prize. In December 2018 she was awarded a First Edition Fellowship through Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre. The fellowship is part of an emerging writer pilot program, funded by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries and Lotterywest.

Kelly is also the mum of two children, wife of her soulmate of more than two decades and the Managing Director on the executive board of a global staffing organisation. In short, she is a juggler.

For more information about Kelly visit her website:


Why do you write? I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England (I’m a Geordie) and lived in a council estate in an inner-city concrete jungle. I didn’t have a great relationship with my mother and my father passed away in his forties. It was pretty bleak. My outlet was reading. I read endlessly under the duvet with a torch until the early hours. Enid Blyton and everything else I could get my hands on. At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer – I loved books and the escape that they brought from reality.

Now, in my adult years, I find writing the ultimate stress buster. I mostly write late at night, just before I go to bed. It helps me unwind from whatever crazy day I’ve had.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Hmm, I have a full-time day job already; one that I love. I’m the Managing Director for a global organisation, helping people find employment every day and shaping the future of work. If I didn’t write, I would still be working full-time, but I’d probably be going to bed a bit earlier!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were so many stumbles along the way. Not having a good writers’ support network early in the journey would be one of the biggest setbacks. I used to overwrite a lot, had no formal writing training, and didn’t have a great grasp of the intense editing process that is required to rewrite, prune, polish … then do it all again. It was only when I moved to Australia that I found an amazing writing community who helped me develop into a writer strong enough in my craft to make it into print.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Ahhhh, the cover. I had an enormous amount of input on that particular aspect of the book. I had a vision in my mind of what the cover would look like, then embarked on a photo shoot in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane to get the perfect shot. Almost a thousand photographs of street art were taken to get the frame that is now the cover of Graffiti Lane. The shot was chosen by my incredibly talented cover designer @thomaspaulartistry. Tom layered the photo with incredible graphics and captured the essence of my gritty author brand and the context of the book beautifully. It looks nothing like what I originally envisaged. It’s way better!

The rest of the book development, manuscript content aside, was managed by my amazing publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, although she gave me wonderful creative liberty with many decisions along the way.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Touching readers emotionally with something I created is an amazing feeling. If just one reader gets something positive out of words I have written, magic has been realised.

—the worst? My hands regularly ache. I use the laptop all day long for work and continue into the wee hours typing at fast speed. It’s bliss rubbing hand cream into them to try and ease the joints.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Join a writers’ group immediately. I found mine at Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre (KSP) in Perth only a year ago and it changed my world. Hanging out with like-minded writers is the best for learning all kinds of new tricks of the trade.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Your time will come, but only when you are ready. Every rejection in between is a stepping stone to learn and refine your skills.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t ever submit your work without editing it end-to-end at least six times. I never break this rule now, even for a tiny Haiku poem, and my submission success rate has shot through the roof as a result.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is a huge part of my writing world. I use four platforms; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, for varied content and to reach different audiences. I met many fellow authors, publishers, and other industry contacts through social networking and the time I spend online pays off ten-fold. Graffiti Lane shot to #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases and #2 Poetry Bestsellers on pre-sales alone, simply from reaching out to contacts online about my book launch. I’m also fairly disciplined about how long I spend reviewing content of friends and posting rather than just idly browsing random content.

There is a downside though. My social media platform has evolved into almost 100,000 connections and I dread just one person slamming me – I need to develop a much thicker skin so anything like this doesn’t bother me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. If I sit down to write, I write. It’s often not what I intended to write during the session, but something always pops out. It’s common for me to sit down to work on a novel and churn out a couple of poems or a short story instead. I cut myself a break. As long as I’m getting words out of my head and down on a page, I figure it’s okay. The pressure is not so intense on myself as a result.

How do you deal with rejection? I used to get hung up on it, reading the piece again, unpicking the rejection note, then wallowing in self-doubt. Now I keep a spreadsheet of all submissions, track long lists, short lists, successes and failures. The percentage of accepted pieces has been rising month on month so this trend line fights off any negative thinking. When it’s a particularly disappointing rejection (I recently had my novel at final stages with the director of a major publishing house and it fell over), I give myself 24 hours’ reprieve before getting back on the horse and galloping to work again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Gritty, urban, confronting.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Wow. This is the toughest question. There are so many authors I idolise, but one in particular made an impact on my life way back. Years ago, I sat next to Dame Stella Rimington, author and former director of MI5, at dinner. At the time I was struggling with working full time and raising two young children, and was planning a move from Scotland to South Africa. She spoke of how she managed to juggle her career and family life, even talking about an incident where she was trying to get an informer out of Britain while her daughter was sick in hospital. It put my whole world into perspective. I have a signed copy of her book, Open Secrets, with the coolest Bond quote inside. In that one dinner, I learned that a strong woman can succeed through hard work and determination, and mums can have amazing careers too. I would love another hour with her.


Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.

With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and free-form poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.

Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.

Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.

The book is available from the publisher here.

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Meet the Author: Ouyang Yu

OUYANG’S TOP WRITING TIP: If you really love writing, persist in it. Do it differently, always differently. If you like going against the grain, ignore this.

Ouyang Yu, now based in Melbourne, came to Australia in mid-April 1991 and, by late February 2017 has published 85 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, literary translation and literary criticism in English and Chinese. He also edits Australia’s only Chinese literary journal, Otherland.

Ouyang’s poetry has been included in the Best Australian poetry collections for 11 times from 2004 to 2016, including his poetry translations from the Chinese in 2012 and 2013, and has been included in such major Australian collections as The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry (2009), The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2010), The turnrow Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry (2014) and Contemporary Australian Poetry (2016).

He has to date published five English novels, The Eastern Slope Chronicle (2002), The English Class (2010), Loose: A Wild History (2011), Diary of a Naked Official (2014) and Billy Sing (2017), and three Chinese novels, The Angry Wu Zili (1999 and 2016), Land of Gold-diggers (2014) and A Lonely Night Boat (2016 in Taiwan).

He was nominated one of the Top 100 Most Influential Melbournians for 2011 as well as the Top 10 most influential writers of Chinese origin in the Chinese diaspora.

He is now the ‘Siyuan Scholar’ and professor of English at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, China (since 2012).

In 2016, he won an Australia Council grant for writing a book of bilingual poetry and a special award from the Australia-China Council for ‘his contributions to Australian Studies in China through major translations and original works of scholarship’.


Why do you write? I never ask such questions. When I first started, some 30 years ago, at about 25, I just wanted to be a writer and I expressed my doubts about the possibility in my writing. Now if you ask me, I guess I’ll simply say that writing is part of my life, just like eating, shitting and breathing. How can you imagine not doing any of those for a single day?

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Then I’d be a non-writer, meaning a reader. But that’s half-writer already.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I have a personal motto: Write till it’s unpublishable. Why? Because I want to explore all sorts of ways of writing, not just simply telling a story that sells. As I come from a migrant and Asian, meaning mainland Chinese, background, I defy the assumption that people like me can only write memoirs, autobiographies or things about their families. In China, I’m known as a xianfeng shiren (avant-garde poet) or xianfeng zuojia (avant-garde writer), and I’m valued for that. In Australia, however, I’m not recognised for that and I’m rejected for that because my writings are deemed unmarketable. Perhaps I have to write a memoir telling of my miserable stories living under Communism in order to get published. Perhaps they’ll have to wait till I die.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I don’t know what you mean by ‘the best aspect’. Writing is an act of dying. That’s all.

—the worst? I’ve got more stuff that’s not accepted for publication than what’s already published, 85 titles in both English and Chinese languages, in total. The Australian rejection and the Chinese rejection are matched in their intensity and in their fears.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? This question is grammatically incorrect. I gather you mean ‘Would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer?’ I can’t imagine that, so I can’t answer this question.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I had been told that market was the real goal you should aim at. But, then, as a poet, I’d certainly go against it; as a poet, I go against the grain, grain of any sorts. You give me any advice, I’d ignore it. I’ll find my own ways. Let me fail, please.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? If you think success is the only thing you want, well, what can I say? Writing is failure, in the end.


Billy Sing

A novel by Ouyang Yu

Transit Lounge Publishing

William ‘Billy’ Sing was born in 1886 to an English mother and Chinese father. He and his two sisters were brought up in Clermont and Proserpine, in rural Queensland. He was one of the first to enlist in 1914 and at Gallipoli became famous for his shooting prowess.

In his new novel, Billy Sing, Ouyang Yu embodies Sing’s voice  in a magically descriptive prose that captures both the Australian landscape and vernacular. In writing about Sing’s triumphant yet conflicted life, and the horrors of war, Yu captures with  imaginative power what it might mean to be both an outsider and a hero in one’s own country. The telling  is poetic and realist, the author’s understanding of  being a Chinese-Australian sensitively informs the narrative.

The book is available here.



Meet the Poet & Speaker: Matt Jackson

Matt’s top tip for authors? Protect the time you set aside for writing with your life. It is so easy to prioritise perceived obligations and the tasks you believe you should be doing ahead of writing because there are times when writing feels like a frivolous activity. Especially when you aren’t happy with what you are writing and when it isn’t being read. However, if I am not writing I don’t feel like I am living the way I want to. I lose my verve. And a life without verve isn’t worth living. So do whatever you need to in order to protect that time you set aside for writing. Let the people close to you know why it is important and put the time in your diary to write before you put anything else in there.

Matt presenting 1Sydney-based Matt Jackson is the founder of Affectors, a TEDx speaker, poet, and sought-after business coach who works with national and global clients. Matt graduated from Melbourne University with BAs in Arts and Commerce and has worked diversely, including in advertising where he translated creative concepts for business people and business concepts for creative people. Now as a poet and speaker he performs to international business, scientific, medical and artistic audiences. Find out more about Matt on Twitter:


Why do you write? My childhood was full of disruption so writing started as a kind of self medication to protect myself from environmental factors that were outside of my control. I write to reflect on events and create an illusion of order that calms me. I remind myself every day of what Jerry Juhl had posted above his desk whilst writing for the Muppet Show: “Not writing is worse.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Making music or performing theatre. Like writing they use language to stimulate the mind and stir the emotions. They delight in sound, pattern and meaning. Through their own language they mimic natural patterns and then violate the audience’s expectation to make a memorable experience. Perhaps this is why I enjoy performing my poetry so much.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Convincing myself that not being published wouldn’t stop me from writing. That took ten years. Originally I wrote because of the way writing affected me. Once I graduated from university I wrote with the goal of being published in mind and I lost the joy. I didn’t write for ten years. When I started again it was because I wanted to feel that joy again. I eventually achieved my goal by no longer pursuing it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The unexpected moments when my subconscious takes over and it no longer requires effort. The question I get asked most often is, “how long does it take to write a poem”. The answer is very unsatisfying for the person. If I write every day then it will take a very short time and very little effort for me to write something I am proud of. If I don’t write every day then I won’t be able to write something I am proud of no matter how much time and effort I put into it. So the answer, from my experience, is that it takes writing every day in order for me to write a poem in less than an hour that I am proud to perform.

—the worst? That my subconscious never asks for my permission to write about me and often the results are terrifying. The writing that I find most fulfilling and inspiring comes from my subconscious. The process of writing is transformed into an exhilarating experience which is similar to running through a maze in the black of night and knowing that there’s a Minotaur in there with me. The result of the process is that I come face to face with an aspect of myself that I was hiding from for a very long time.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Believe in myself more and accept that rejection from close-minded people is a fortunate occurrence. It is hard to believe in yourself when you are pursuing something different to your school friends, family and peers. You feel unsatisfied when you are trying to fit in and you feel alone when you are doing your own thing. Eventually you realise that the more you do of what you love the more likely you are to end up in the same room with people who believe in you. That takes time to realise.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Playing it safe is a self-imposed death sentence to living the creative life you want to. There were times in my life when I allowed myself to believe in the illusion of security. I wanted to feel safe so I desperately wanted to believe that some jobs offered security in the form of a salary. I studied for those jobs and I worked in those jobs for years until I watched people get walked out of the building as soon as the business was in trouble. Today I find security in the activities that bring me joy and open my mind to new perspectives. There is no activity that offers me these things all the time, but reading and writing do so more than any other activity.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I do my thing and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.

-Fritz Perls


The Age of Affect sml

In The Age of Affect, Matt Jackson, whose clients include Adobe, QBE, CBA and The University of Sydney, explores how business affects people, drawing on decades of experience as a practising artist and owner of two businesses, as well as the experiences of 15 of his peers. Uniquely dispersing 53 poems and stories that bridge the gap between art and commerce, the book covers:

The importance of creating a Culture of Courage
Leading with Authenticity
Discovering Passion and Purpose
The Relationship between Art and Commerce
Understanding Decision Making and Drive
Goal setting & building a Community
Filled with examples and relatable stories, The Age of Affect integrates what we can learn about the art of business and what the business of art can teach us.

The book is available here.