Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Author has lots to write about


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For as long as Vania Patrick-Drakes can remember, reading and creative writing have been a significant part of her life. Vania grew up in Golden Mile, St Peter and her literary journey began from primary and secondary school days when she won awards and received recognition for her witty and engaging short stories.
“I wanted to be a teacher, like my mother. She is a very important person in my life. Now that I’m older, I do enjoy teaching after all; I taught for three terms at a private secondary school and I tutor math and science privately.”
In sixth form she was one of the first staff writers of The New Kolijean, Harrison College’s student newsletter. However, it was during her four years of tertiary education that she truly began to hone her hobby, balancing her Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and cognitive science with her passion for creative writing.
“I chose that combination to study because I was very fascinated by how the human mind works. I had intentions of becoming a neurosurgeon or psychiatrist. After I finished my Bachelor’s, though, I realized that I was even more interested in the psychology of the mind as opposed to the physical wiring.
“So I am pursuing my Master’s degree in counselling psychology at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, with intentions of being a practising psychologist. I may even return to my plans for medical school someday in the future.
“I’ve always been a science girl, to be honest,” she admitted, “but writing is when I feel the most at ease. Creating new worlds and personalities on paper out of nothing – it’s amazing. And humbling.”
“The 25-year-old violin and piano player was also a staff writer for over two years at The Underground, one of the University of Toronto’s student magazines where she did her bachelor degree.
“I enjoyed living overseas. I have Canadian citizenship and visited frequently growing up, so the main adjustment wasn’t so much living in a different climate as it was living away from my mother! I had to learn to be more disciplined and independent and I had to learn very quickly.”
She has had a number of her short stories and poems published in North America . . . “two short stories were based loosely on my own experiences, but aside from those, all of my stories are fictional”.
The titles are important too: “Titles are usually quotes pulled from one of the characters that summarize the theme. If you scrutinize most of my short stories, you’d probably find the title somewhere inside the body. My ideas come from reading a lot. I also listen a whole lot more than I speak. My imagination is always running wild. I am beyond fascinated with how humans in general interact with each other – people of different classes, races, people with different goals, and different backgrounds.
“The majority of my ideas are centered around these interactions, as well as around moral issues. I like my readers to question and verify their own value system after reading my stories.”
“I find the classism theme to be extremely fascinating; no matter how many pieces I write, I like to feature at least one with that theme,” she said excitedly.
And that can be seen in her first published young adult novel, The Natural Kind (TNK).
Born out of a short story that was reviewed and critiqued by Canadian poet and author Daniel Tysdal as well as ex-MTV writer and Canadian writing coach Jenna Kalinsky, The Natural Kind is a riveting story of an entitled Barbadian girl whose eyes are opened to a different way of life.
“TNK got so many positive reviews as a short story, my mind started wandering to how far I could push it as a novel, especially written within a Barbadian setting and including elements of our unique dialect. I find we don’t pay enough attention to Caribbean books or talented Caribbean writers.”
Vania started expanding the short story in November 2011 while pregnant with her now-two year old daughter. “For the book, I was online and came across NaNoWriMo – National November Writing Month, where writers are challenged to bang out 50 000 words during November. With the base of the short story in mind, I rewrote it as a novel during November and was able to find an outlet for a lot of pent-up feelings through my writing.”
She wrote approximately two thousand words each day, and by January 2012 the book was finished. “Editing actually took up the rest of the two years,” she said bluntly.
The book is strewn with humour, life lessons, and thought-provoking scenarios.
“I was balancing parenting and my Master’s degree and found editing much more difficult than the writing process itself. I have at least five drafts on my computer right now, saved as “TNK – not this one”, “TNK take two – beginning too boring”, and so on.
“It took me a very long time to finally come up with a version that I was satisfied with. And if I think too hard about it, I’ll even find things about this final draft that I would want to rewrite. I am unable to read the published version or hear it being read without my face heating up and me trying to escape from the room.”
Now that her book is finished and available on Amazon, the author is reading V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In the Attic.
“I read the synopsis and I’m quite curious! I hope to finish the series by the end of this semester. I am also reading (and re-reading and re-reading) Sidney Sheldon’s novels. He is my biggest influence, and I am yet to find a writer whose work I admire and respect more than his.”


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