Monday, May 19, 2014

S is for Story Pot

Interview with Damaria Senne - author of amongst many things the Story Pot Blog. 

Essentially Damaria, who is a long term friend of mine, is my inspiration and mentor when it comes to blogging. D's the writer I wanna be. And it's my pleasure and honour to interview her here today. And so S is for Story Pot. 

Damaria Senne Biography

I am/ have been many things: a sister, friend, mother, partner, aunt, daughter, an activist, journalist, writer, communications specialist, blogger, publisher, care-giver, homemaker and gardener.
My career objective is to write about the big adventure that we call life; my stories and other people’s stories; fiction and non-fiction. The medium and genre may vary depending on publishing requirement. All I want is that the stories are shared.

The Interview

From the blog: Launched in January 2006, STORYPOT started as a place for Damaria to showcase her children's stories and talk about her writing life. She loved the way the blog helped her make new friends, learn from them and share with them . But, at the back of her mind, there was always that niggling thought that a blog called Storypot should be about more than just one writer, cooking up a wide variety of stories and plots. Then opportunity came knocking and Pam joined her....

I've always been quite intrigued by the name StoryPot. I like it and think it totally works, but why Story Pot as opposed to Story Site or Story Page?

As you know I love food: growing it, tending to it, cooking it and sharing it with my friends and family. So when I named Storypot, I was saying, this blog is where I cook up all the stories that I publish. They can be fiction or non-fiction, for children or adults, for print, radio, TV or online, it doesn’t matter. All my stories are cooked in this pot.

The ingredients for these stories are all the elements that affect my writing – my job, friends, family, acquaintances, people I meet online and offline, my house, garden, the books I read, the movies I watch, the music I listen to.

So my blog visitors get the behind-the scenes look of the stories as they evolve (cook), even when I don’t know the story is cooking. Does that make sense?

Do you still collaborate with Pamela Moeng? Chat to us about that collaboration. 

Pam and I are old friends; sisters really. We met more than 20 years ago when we both lived in Mmabatho and we became good friends then.

So we’ve supported each other through career moves, writing projects, family crises, life really. We chat every day; by email. We share about what we’re working on, the people we meet, what we read, stuff that bug us… whatever.
So it made sense that if I was going to share my blog with anyone, it would be her.

For the past 18 months or so we’ve been co-writing a course for a client (with other people). We’ve also tackled some small projects together too.  It worked well enough.

But we didn’t work as closely as I had hoped (we worked more in tandem rather than together). Part of the reason is that I was busy with Mma’s health issues and Pam has a day job and we both had other projects too.

2014 brings us an opportunity to work on more projects together, and we plan to both make the time for joint projects that allow us to work more closely together.

Story Pot started as a blog for your own children's books, but you've got a number of business related and other books for sale on there. Where do you see the direction of Story Pot going in the future?

That’s the question that I have been asking myself lately. Luckily, you asked after I did have some answers for myself and my readersJ

The short answer is that Storypot is a lifestyle blog, with specific focus on a writer’s life. You are right that Storypot started out focusing on my children’s stories, but it turned out that I had more than just children’s stories inside me. So as I said, readers get the front row seats to watch as the stories I write develop; they see various elements of the life affecting my writing. Some of it is clear from the beginning that it’s going to end in a story, some of it only shows up later.

My typical audience, I think is made up of mothers/ writers/ bloggers/ gardeners/ homesteaders/people who share a common interest or cause with me.

As to my desired audience, I want to attract people who can use what I publish. For example, I would like to attract mothers looking for children’s stories to read for their kids at bedtime, or bloggers who want to promote their work more in the media, or small business owners who recognise that being a writer/ blogger is a business and want to share their learning with me and may teach me a thing or two.

I do hope that virtual assistants in this blog tour find “How to get quoted in the media”to be a very useful tool for their businesses. The one thing to note is that the ebook focuses on getting positive media coverage without having to spend money. When you pay, it’s advertising, and not media coverage and not the subject of the book.

Secondly, I’m dropping the price of the ebook  for the duration of the blog challenge (28 weeks).

Do you have a favourite book that you've written, or something special about each of them that you'd like to mention?

Waking Up Grandma is special to me because I was thinking of my mother as I wrote it. And it’s contemporary and funny…. 

The message in The Doll That Grew stood the test of time. That story was first published eons ago, and its message is still relevant today. And that’s not just me saying that because I’m attached to it: last year the primary school my nephew attends did an end –of- year skit, and guess which story was adapted for the stage? Yup! The Doll That Grew!

How toget quoted in the media is special to me because I did it with a good friend. Christelle and I worked very closely together – and fought a lot about the details – but that’s what made it so rewarding. In the end, we brought out the best in each other. Though there were moments when I would have happily wrung her neck (because she wouldn’t let me get my way) and she felt the same too!

Tselane and the Giant, which I’m releasing through Damaria Senne Media on Amazon in the first quarter of 2014 is special to me because it brings back warm childhood memories. 

We even grew up calling my younger brother Boitshoko, yes, he who was named for the main character in the newly literate adult reader Boitshoko (published by Heinemann SA in 1996), Dingwe, which means Giant, because he loved the story so much, especially the parts where the Dingwe character talked.

What projects are you currently busy with?

Phew! I have lots going on. Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a gnatJ So I have the following tasks in my projects queue:

Publish on stories Amazon – a children’s story (Tselane and the Giant) and a novel (both have been through edits. The cover of the children’s story is already done; both also need to be proofread)

Finish writing an anthology of children’s stories with a co-author - We have some good stories done already, so it’s a matter to adding more and starting edits. This collection will also be published through Amazon.

Update and promote my blogs more aggressively. Without the aggressive marketing, the books won’t sell.

The blogs that will receive the most attention are:
Free African Tales (http://freeafricantales.blogspot.com ) – Where I moved my children’s stories in 2006 when Storypot changed

Write and submit stories under a pen name. This is a critical move in my business, as I want to have less client-based income and more book publishing based income.

You have another blog, called Growing Our Food. I love the concept of everyone being self-sustainable. Tell us about that. 

My mother has diabetes and high blood pressure, and that means that she has to eat a low-fat, low-salt diet that’s pretty heavy on veggies and fruit.

Additionally, I’ve always felt overweight and have ulcer. So I had to find a way to feed us really well and make sure that we have variety enough we don’t get bored with the healthy meals. This meant either spending a fortune on fresh food or growing it ourselves. And being the writer and blogger that I am, I had to document it J.

So the blog reflects my gardening life –  resources I’m reading/watching, what I’m doing in my own garden and the lessons I’m learning as I go along.

Is Growing Our Food a way to try to help the community and educate people?

It struck me very early in the gardening game that many people find it very intimidating. It looks like complicated, hard work for very little return. And why bother when you could get fresh, much prettier-looking veggies and herbs from the Food Lover’s Market?

Me? I decided I didn’t mind being a serial killer: if I plant it, then kill it, it’s  fine. I’ll just plant again, kill it again.. until I figure out what I’m doing wrong and fix it. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy what I couldn’t kill.

Turned out that there were a lot of vegetables and herbs I couldn’t kill. And I wanted to share that knowledge with people, show them that it was not as hard as they feared. And it’s very good exercise. Very relaxing.

My hope it that my blog posts will inspire other people to garden, or try one more time if their crops fail, and to teach them what they need to do through my experiences.

It’s also a sustainable way to use the resources we have for food.

Who is Damaria Senne and what's in the future?

I am/ have been many things – a sister, friend, adoptive mother, partner, aunt, friend, daughter, an activist, journalist, writer, communications specialist, blogger, publisher, care-giver, homemaker and gardener.
I’m a mass of contradictions. I operate best when I’m solitary, but love people. I’m somewhat shy but laugh loudly and heartily.
I’m very practical, looking at all sides of an issue before taking most actions, yet I’m prone to impulsive actions that change lives (mine and other people’s).
I’m a science geek (Chemistry major with minors in Physics and Maths) who decided that a life of creative writing suited her best.
So what’s in my future?  Books. Lotsa books.

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