Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Writers secrets: Jessica Lipowski about becoming an author

I virtually met Jessica Lipowski during the interactions of the big travel chat community of travelers on 'The Road Less Traveled' (#TRLT) on Twitter and was further introduced to each other and invited to be part of the Beta Reader group for her first book 'Flavors of Life'. And I instantly feel in love with the book: stories of life ad resilience of restaurant owners in Amsterdam. I definitely wanted to know more about the history of this book and challenges of being a writer, and the result of my curiosity is the following interview. As for the book, I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the food culture but also looking for inspiration and motivation to make its dream come true.

How did you decide to write your book?
The idea for Flavors of Life can be traced to one sunny afternoon in August, 2012. While exploring Amsterdam, my partner, Matthijs, and I discovered a Caribbean restaurant. It got us thinking, surfacing several unanswered questions. What makes a Caribbean restaurant, a Caribbean restaurant? What kind of food do they serve? Who is the owner? Is the owner from a country in the Caribbean or just a fan? Why did they open this restaurant in Amsterdam, of all places?
These thoughts led us to another realization, reflecting on just how international Amsterdam really is. We heard the statistics outlining how many nationalities call Amsterdam home (180), however, it wasn’t until we looked closer that we saw how diversity has impacted the restaurant scene. Furthermore, I knew why I moved to Amsterdam, but it made me curious why everyone else chose this small, yet beautiful and open-minded city. For a while, I had been tinkering with a few different book ideas, but for one reason or another they just weren’t feasible at the time. When we stumbled upon this Caribbean restaurant, it resonated with me that many others experienced similar dreams.
Additionally, we often read reviews, newspaper articles, and Blog posts about the restaurants, specifically detailing quality of the food, friendliness and promptness of the service, and cleanliness of the establishment, yet what is often forgotten is the person who created the experience: the owner. From a young age, I have been captivated by good stories. I love meeting people and hearing about their life. Combined with my journalistic background and passion for writing human-interest pieces, not to mention my love for fabulous food, I decided to interview international restaurant owners, digging into their history – from childhood to present day – to discover exactly how they got involved in the restaurant industry, as well as how they ended up in Amsterdam.

The book party
The fear of the black page

What is the most difficult part of being a writer?
Facing a blank page. When I started writing, I had a ton of information to sort through, but I had absolutely no idea where to begin and how to organize it. What is important to this person’s life? What is important to the reader? How should I, and can I, best tell this story? I also had to convey emotion from a third-person perspective, which can be challenging. On top of all this, I had to do this for 42 different chapters!

How do you fight writers' block?
I sometimes look at a blank page for hours, not knowing where to begin. When this 
pens I do one of three things. 1. I write down anything, literally. Sometimes all I need is to get that first word on paper. 2. Go through the interview transcription and start outlining facts. That helps get my thoughts in order. 3. Do something else, like Pilates, watch a television show, read a book, or cook dinner. That often helps get the creative juices flowing.

Jessica introducing her book
What are your recommendations for your beginner writer?
Start writing! Like anything else, you’ll get better with practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, too. Ask others to critique your work. Constructive criticism will help you grow. Most importantly, don’t stop writing! You don’t have to necessarily start with a book; begin a blog or take up some freelance work, and even if you decide to write a book and your work takes 5, 10, or 20 years to complete, you can do it! Trust your gut, and don’t give up on your dreams. The blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it.

'Writing will continue to be a part of my life'

What are your next writing plans?

What comes next? That’s a good question. Depending on how everything pans out, I am potentially interested in publishing another book. I have a few ideas in mind, but would like to develop them further before publicly commenting on the concepts. Regardless of where life leads me, writing will continue to be a part of my life.

Photos by Robert Hart, courtesy of Jessica Lipowski

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