'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Announcing: New KBR Team Member: Leigh van der Veen

Our loving KBR family is forever swelling and ebbing, like a winter's tide. 

Today we take much pleasure in welcoming another member into our illustrious reviewing team, Leigh van der Veen. Leigh is an avid lover of Kids' Lit - an absolute pre requisite in our eyes! 

She is also part superhuman, juggling a large family, burgeoning writing career and baking cakes. Welcome, Leigh! Let's get to know you better with your first 12 Curly Questions...

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My gorgeous husband and I sang at the Opera House in the same combined schools choir in the same section when we were in Year 6. I lived in the Southern Highlands and he lived in the Blue Mountains. We didn’t actually meet until years later when we were teaching at the same primary school. I’d love to see photos of the choir and see if we happened to be standing next to each other.

P.S. I can twist my tongue and roll it too. I used to be able to do blackflips into the pool. I wonder if I still can?!

2. What is your nickname?
My family nickname is Possum or ‘Possie/Pos’ for short.

3. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that I won’t be ‘present’ enough in my life. Being a writer and illustrator help with this though, as I can use all my senses to really notice things.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Layered, meaningful, funny, deep, short and sweet, rhythmic, sound-oriented, vivid

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Messy, creative, determined, thoughtful, curious

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Bastian from the Neverending Story. Imagine reading a book and becoming a part of the story? So cool!

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?

Back to 1965 so I could meet my Dutch grandparents before they died. I miss them so much, although I never knew them.

My grandparents inspired me to research my Dutch family history. This research was the basis of my honours thesis and beyond. I finally reconnected with my Dutch family in 2018 in the Netherlands!

8. What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
‘Come on write that story. You know it’s a good one. Remember when we were ten, we lived above that restaurant built by the convicts and it was haunted by a ghost! Trust yourself. You can do it.

P.S. You could still do a backflip into the pool. You’ve done it like a hundred times.’

9. Who is your greatest influence?
My curious, passionate, giggle-your-head-off children. I have four them. Whoa. Plus my angel baby. She makes five all up.

10. What/who made you start writing?
My Year 5 and 6 teachers got me writing. They are part of the reason I become a primary teacher.

We had creative writing on Mondays at school. It was beautiful, free writing in response to different stimulus e.g. a photo or a newspaper article. When we were finished, we sat in a circle and each person took a turn to read their work. After each person read, others could give feedback.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
My word for this year is ‘connection’. I have connected with so many wonderful creatives and publishers through my reviews for ‘In a Nutshell Book Reviews.

I also love words that make my ears fizz like, ‘bonkers’, ‘wooshka’, ‘clunky’. I always try to slip a few interesting words into my stories.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. It’s such a beautiful story about the love between a parent and child. ‘A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY.’ (Roald Dahl)

Leigh van der Veen, a primary teacher, creates stories and art in the Blue Mountains. Her writing has featured in Australian and international educational publications for fifteen years. Leigh’s writing has also placed in competitions run by CKT and KBR. Leigh is the founder of In a Nutshell Book Reviews.

Connect with Leigh via her website and Instagram channel @leighvanderveen. Stay tuned for Leigh's first KBR review in a couple of days.