Waffles With Writers: Vanessa-Jane Chapman


Welcome to the fourth installment of my interview show, Waffles with Writers, where I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.

Today’s guest is the lovely Vanessa-Jane Chapman. She loosely calls herself a writer and actress, although she is currently devoting virtually every spare moment of her life on earning a master’s degree in education while working at a university on a project to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Her first brush with writing fame was at nine years old when her poem about autumn was selected for publication in her school magazine. Since then she has been a runner-up in short story, screenwriting, and poetry contests, and has had several magazine articles published. She does a little bit of singing, a little bit of baking, and a little bit of stand-up comedy. She has also set the world on fire with her advice about fudge

Vanessa Pizza
She also likes pizza.

Vanessa! Welcome! You are my very first international brunch guest! You must be exhausted with the jet lag and all. Sit. Eat. What toppings would you like on your waffles?

Ooh, gosh, I don’t know, I’m terrible with food decisions. I always wish I’d picked what the person next to me picked. So you pick what you want, and I’ll have the same. No wait, I’ll have strawberries and whipped cream.

It seems only right that I begin our chat with an international-ish question. What is the most quintessentially English thing about you?

Probably the difficulty I have with complaining in restaurants. These blueberry and ice-cream topped waffles are delicious by the way, just what I asked for.

Good. ‘Cause you’re gonna eat it and like it. Let’s talk writing. You’re a regular contributor to The Canterbury Index and other magazines. What are you working on these days?

Well I was a regular magazine contributor, but other things have overtaken me of late and I haven’t sent them anything for ages. The only things I’m writing at the moment, aside from blog posts, are essays. Oh, there is a poetry competition coming up soon though that I have previously been shortlisted in, so I plan to write and submit something for that, you know, for old times’ sake.

Ah. Well, since this is Waffles With Writers, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. No that’s unfair. Let me finish my coffee; then I’ll show you the door. Tell me a bit about your day job.

I’m part of the central team for a partnership of universities and schools, which works with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m a communications manager, so I deal with how we communicate across the partnership and beyond (yes, rather like Buzz Lightyear). So that includes maintaining our website and Twitter, writing a fortnightly newsletter, keeping abreast of relevant education news and disseminating appropriately, you know, stuff like that.

That’s fantastic! I also like how your use the word “fortnight.” How Britishy. Tell me a bit about the first time you tried stand-up. What prompted you to give it a try?

I had wanted to try it for a long time, so when my acting agent, who also manages stand-up comedians, offered some of us general actors the opportunity to each have a little five-minute stand-up slot at a comedy evening in a pub, I took it! I did this twice. It was very scary, but really great when everyone laughed a lot. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t really have any desire to do more of it.

On your blog you have spoken out on behalf of vermin such as head lice and seagulls. Have you ever considered expanding on this theme?

All the time, I can think of little else. In fact I’m going to do a post about cilantro.

Cilantro is vermin?

It’s vermin to me I’m afraid. I know that’s controversial, but I don’t mind being controversial in the herb department.

You are also a gifted actress. What was the worst part your have ever had to play?

Well I’ve never really had any horrible parts. However, I spent a few years living in Las Vegas in my late 20s/early 30s, and I was in a few murder mystery dinner theatre shows in casinos. It should have been fun, and doing the performance part was fun, but while the people were eating we had to mingle and interact with them in character, and being the introvert that I am I really struggled with that; having to interrupt people while they’re eating and chat to them. I was very uncomfortable with that. I’m not a good mingler at any time.

Can we expect another film role where you show off your uvula?

If the price is right, sure.

I have to ask this. Once upon a time you took a picture of a softball-sized spider egg sack hanging in your garden shed. It alarmed me to my very core. Did you burn the building down?

No I didn’t, but one day I went in there and the whole web had fallen to the ground, and there was nothing in it. The alien spider creature had vanished. Where it went, nobody knows.

It’s probably in your house, so I’m going to politely decline your invitation to visit. Well, thanks so much for stopping by, Vanessa! Now that you’re in New Jersey, is there any place you would like to visit before you begin your journey home?

Ah yes, could you take me to a few of those well-known New Jersey places that I know all about already without having to quickly search on Google… Hang on a second, OK? I just have to go and do something… OK, I’m back. I would like to visit Cape May please. Also, can we have lunch one of the many diners your state has to offer, I knew already that New Jersey is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world (who doesn’t know that right?). Also the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari with its numerous rides, fun-packed events, and other entertainment options, the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari stands out as one of the best family-friendly attractions in New Jersey (I knew that already).

Thanks Mike this has been a fun trip! NOW can I have one of your doodles?

No. But you can have another waffle. And the rest of these blueberries. I think they’ve gone bad.  

94 Replies to “Waffles With Writers: Vanessa-Jane Chapman”

  1. You sure like teasing us British folk – and who serves such a distinguished guest, not to mention majorly multi-talented, blueberries that are going bad?! Shame on you! Oh, and for the record, I’d find doing stand up FAR more scary that a softball sized spider egg sack. SO did I get first comment THIS time?! H xxx

    1. Ooh a fellow Brit, and you were the first to comment! Yay! Yes, stand-up IS more scary that huge spider egg sacks, although with stand-up there is a nice payoff, you don’t get that with spider egg sacks.

      Honestly though Mike, these rotten mouldy old blueberries are perfectly lovely…

  2. Vanessa and Mike, Fun interview! Hope you enjoy your visit to the states. Oh! You’ll have to learn the proper pronunciation of New Jersey, New Joyzee, before you head back. 🙂

  3. Is it bad that I kept focusing on the waffles and pizza? I’m on a “cleanse” and darn they look good. Thanks for introducing me to Vanessa, Mike. I like her style. So this is me going over to check out her blog.

  4. I’m disappointed you didn’t want to come visit me in Colorado, Vanessa, while you were in Joysey! But I forgive you – it’s a long trip! Actually, Vanessa is one of my favorite people that I’ve met since beginning the self-publishing/social media stand! And she seems to like my books, too – at least the ones she’s had time to read! Enjoyed the interview! I’m an Anglophile!

    1. Hi Lorinda! I was knocking on your door for ages, didn’t you hear me? Never mind, I’ll come and visit again soon! When I’ve finished my course, I’ll get back to some fiction reading, and yours are right up there in my list!

    1. I mentioned not liking it on a recent blog post, and there was outrage! It’s not uncommon to hate it though, there is apparently a genetic reason why some people have a strong aversion to it; how weird is that! Nice to see you by the way MW!

  5. Vanessa! Wonderful little interview lady! You should come visit me in Canada and we’ll have some poutine together. But we really must talk about your hate of cilantro. Maybe what you had was some old and moldy stuff. 😉

    1. Ooh yes, I’ve never been to Canada! Well not properly, I had a flight changeover at an airport many years ago, I think it was Toronto, but I don’t think that really counts as going to Canada because I didn’t leave the airport! I wasn’t too sure what poutine was, so I just had to look it up – it seems to be a bit of combination of two different things we have in the uk – Cheesy Chips (fries with grated cheddar on top) or Chips and gravy (fries with gravy – although that was probably obvious!). Sounds good, thankfully it doesn’t appear to have any cilantro in it.

      1. Yes poutine is a heart attack waiting to happen but it’s so darn good! I only have it about once a year. But it is such a Canadian dish. No cilantro either, you lucky lass. 🙂

  6. Vanessa, loved this, as I do everything you write. (Oooh, what do I win for saying that?!) I think there MUST have been some one you know who filmed your stand up routines. And surely those would be blog worthy. I would be sure not to be eating or drinking anything as I watched, lest it be spewed forth onto my computer screen. Unless it’s cilantro, because I guess that deserves being spewed.

    1. Thank you, you win a big smile! Like this 🙂 Mike’s a fun interviewer, and he makes an awesome plate of waffles, despite his rather modest protestations that the blueberries were bad. The only thing I had a was a recording of me practising the stand-up before the first one and I’m afraid I’m not prepared to put that on my blog! It’s kind of flat without the audience reaction you know? Cilantro spewing, hurrah!

  7. Lovely interview, Mike and Vanessa. I felt like a was fly on the wall—or in the rotting blueberries. Vanessa, you are far more brave than I will ever be. The idea of performing stand up comedy leaves me shaking in my shoes. And that spider sac—well, let’s just say I recall an episode from Night Gallery where a spider gets washed down a sink drain several times and keeps returning, growing larger and larger until this enormous creature rushes toward the camera (its victim).

    I, OTOH, would love to eat cilantro every day. I chopped an entire bunch last night as part of a cabbage-taco salad. And the night before, I ate sprigs of cilantro while dining at a Persian restaurant. The night before, I’d eaten a lovely cilantro chutney (hari chutney) as an Indian restaurant. And the night before that, I chopped cilantro and green onions to garnish my carnitas. And the night before that….

    1. The thought of doing stand-up did leave me shaking in my shoes too, but sometimes it’s good to push yourself forward with these things isn’t it! It was the same thing when I went skydiving, it was something I had always wanted to do, so when the opportunity came up I took it, even though I was petrified prior, and during, and swore I would never do it again, I was still glad I did it! If it’s something that you’ve always fancied having a go at, then I think it’s good to rather than always wondering what it would have been like!

      I actually do wish I enjoyed cilantro because I hear so many positive comments about it, it’s clearly something to be enjoyed! I might try that thing of seeing if I can gradually get myself to tolerate it by making myself eat a little bit each day or something, and maybe after that, toleration can lead to pleasure!

      1. You are quite right about taking risks when it’s something you’ve always wanted to do. And since you’re an actress, stand up comedy seems like a natural extension. I get very nervous when reading my work in front of people, but I do it because I know I need to do it. And afterward, I’m always glad I did.

        Good luck with the cilantro “desensitization.” I hope it works!

      2. Although stand-up is very different to acting – with acting you can hide behind a character somewhat, whereas with stand-up you’re very exposed; you’ve written in, you’re performing it as yourself (usually) – there’s nowhere to hide!

        I’m seriously considering the cilantro thing, as an interesting experiment!

  8. Great interview, you two – highly entertaining – and who doesn’t like waffles? Vanessa, you are a very busy lady and I commend you for doing stand-up comedy. I have a hard time putting comedy into my fiction, let alone, standing in front of an audience and performing it. That takes guts! I always enjoyed your segments of ‘Write A Story With Me’ on Jennifer’s blog, so I hope you keep on with your fiction writing. 🙂

    PS. Reading about that giant spider sack thing gives me the heebie-jeebies! Hope it doesn’t reappear somewhere.

    1. Thank you, Mike is a good host (even despite the blueberry incident). I dabble in fiction writing now and again, but I’ve never done enough of it to get really good! It’s definitely something I’d like to do more of though, when I have some time. I find writing about real things comes more easily to me.

      I haven’t checked back in that corner for a while, maybe the spider sack thing HAS come back. I’d better check…

  9. Vanessa, I think it’s awesome you tried out for the comedy act, not an easy task…but what really impressed me is that you went back a second time. Which is kind of ironic that you could throw yourself out there and do stand up yet fall over your tongue when mingling…I have a similar disease, except mine is an acute condition which seems to go away when I have gotten to know them a bit.

    Mike, I am absolutely with you…that egg sack is th grossest thing I have ever seen. I ABHOR spiders, except really giant ones that don’t move…for some odd reason, they fascinate me. But Vanessa’s spider sack in the same neighborhood as mine would have been instant cause to post a For Sale sign. And, I would move out of state until the deed was done. Finding it dropped on the floor later only makes matters worse…nightmares of baby spiders invading my sacred domicile…I hope I don’t dream of spiders tonight!

    1. Yes, I think with mingling, it’s the whole having to invite yourself into a group who are already talking thing that I don’t like.

      I’m really sorry Mrs P if I’ve freaked you out with the spider egg sack, although in fairness, Mike was the one who chose to pick up on that to speak about here, so if you do have spider nightmares, you might want to have a word with him 🙂

  10. *NOM NOM NOM* Yummy waffles. I’m a writer, so I can have some. No need to thank me for serving myself. 😉

    Great interview! Except the bad blueberries – yuck! I think I’d like the murder mystery walking around thingy – as long as there are no cats (unless the cat was killed). 😉

    1. Oh…er…sure, yes, do take those waffles off my plate, I was finished, yes, even that bit that was on a fork on its way to my mouth. It’s fine.

      There were no cats in the murder mystery thingy, but wait with that comment, I LOVE cats!

      1. National Public Radio. Radio–the auditory Internet. It’s like PBS for the ears. Although they now are found at npr.org. It’s a spiders and yucky blueberry free station👍

      2. NPR is the one thing that makes my daily commute tolerable. It presents news in a responsible, insightful, reasoned, and un-inflammatory way. I just wish more news outlets would follow its lead.

  11. Great interview. So entertaining and enlightening–especially about the spider sac. You should have burned the place down! Haven’t you watched Arachnophobia?

    1. I have watched Arachnophobia, but I think we’re ok, this one in my outhouse was quite a while ago now, and I’m pretty sure those guys would have attacked by now if they were going to…hang on a minute….what’s tha…AAAGGGHHH!!!!!

    1. After a long tenure writing for the theatre, I can assert that many actors are introverts. A lot of introverts can perform in front of crowds but find those smaller meet ‘n’ greets painful.

  12. Finally, Vanessa has made her way to this side of the pond. Good grief, takes the girl long enough! Hopefully, though, she didn’t inadvertently bring the spider in her suitcase. Uh-oh, what’s that crawling up the chair???

  13. I got some wonderful insights about Vanessa in this interview, which means, Mike, you did a good job! I think the one that hit me the most is that you, Vanessa, are shy (or at least an introvert, you say). From reading your blog over time, your comments back and forth with Mike on his blog, and your resume of acting and education and doing stand-up routine, I would have guessed that you were kidding. But being a bit of a shymeister myself (I made up that word and I don’t know why, but it somehow fits here), I understand it. I give talks about writing and my books to book clubs, etc., and I teach creative writing classes and do not get scared or shaky in the least; yet, put me anywhere else with a group of people (small or large) and I want to hide in my own corner with a good book. Huh. Anyway, cheers to you. I grew up in New Joisey and yet never went to Six Flags; what you want to go see is the NJ beaches – they are the BEST.

    1. Yes I think a lot of people misunderstand what it means to be an introvert, we can be quite outgoing in certain arenas, but then perhaps a bit socially awkward. Also, it’s more about the fact that we need time on our own to re-energise, whereas extroverts tend to need time with other people to re-energise! It doesn’t mean we don’t like being with people, just that we need a certain amount of alone time to stay sane! The beaches you say? Sure, I love the beach! We have some pretty nice beaches around where I live, but I’d love to experience the NJ beaches 🙂

  14. Nice interview, Mike – and, I could see some of Vanessa’s humor trickling in, too. 🙂
    I was familiar with a lot of the stories…but I did not know about the bit helping disadvantaged students. It’s one of those areas where my institution is working to do good, too, especially with our internationals. Notre Dame also has a truly extensive educational partnership with schools in Haiti and (I think) Niger – the stories a friend of mine tells of his insights and adventures put my fiction to shame!
    Thanks for the fun dialogue, folks! It’s always nice to learn something new about a familiar face. 🙂

    1. Yes, a lot of universities are reaching out more to non-traditional entrants – in the UK they HAVE to if they charge a certain level of fees (which most of them do). We don’t do any international work, well, the uni I’m at does, but not the specific area I work in, we are all about supporting the students in local schools.

      I always find it fun to be involved in interview posts, whether as the interviewer or interviewee (between you and me, Mike was pretty tough to work with, but we got there in the end 😉 )

  15. Vanessa, I couldn’t begin to keep up with you! But I must confess to being worried about that missing alien web-builder. My husband and I will be traveling to your side of the pond later this year, and I really don’t want to encounter the former occupant!

  16. Great interview Mike!! And Vanessa does seem like a very lovely person. But moldy blueberries?? Really Mike! That is just unhospitalityee (I know it’s not really a word) of you!! She flew all the way over here to have waffles and you feed her bad blueberries??? 😦
    Don’t judge the rest of us by his lack of manners Vanessa! It was delightful getting to know you! 🙂

  17. Warning: Due to a previous battle of wits with Mike that I technically lost, the following comment contains gross sentimentality and stuff like that. While it’s arguably not fair to unleash such a maelstrom on Ms. Chapman, who was not involved in the aforementioned skirmish, as she is A) gorgeous and B) apparently able to scarf both pizza and waffles and not gain weight, then I’m going to anyway.

    Dear Mike and Vanessa,

    The undertone of true friendship beneath the humorous exchanges contained in this post, brought me to happy tears. It’s so beautiful when writers get together and show their talent and spelling skills over waffles and blueberries, which are the most gorgeous of the berry family. After reading this exchange that had meaning on so many levels and blueberries between so many layers of waffles, I was moved to sink back into the tangerine-toned sofa pillows and weep without running my makeup. I applaud you both!

    And seriously, you two are hilarious!

    1. Dear Laurel

      Indeed I know not of your previous battle of wits with Mike, but as the outcome appears to be the need to write comments in a fairly formal manner, I shall comply.

      Thank you for your kind comments. I have previously interviewed Mike over at my place, and it was such fun he invited me over here to do the same.

      I’m loving the sound of your tangerine-toned sofa pillows, I think they would brighten up my dark brown sofas no end, so if you ever come to visit, and would like to bring a gift…

      With best regards

    2. Actually, Vanessa, the duel between Laurel and me is about who can post the most florid and sappy comment on each other’s blogs. Ahem:

      My dearest Laurel,

      I am delighted and heartened to hear that my genuine trans-continetal affection for Vanessa was appreciated. But what provides me with far more delight and heartened-ness is your reaction.

      As you know, my dear friend, I craft each of my blog posts with you — and only you — in mind. “Will Laurel approve?” I ask myself. “Will this post allow Laurel to experience joy? Will it affirm her bedrock system of core beliefs?” “Will it provide her with the gift of a good soul-cleansing cry?” After reading your thoughtful comment, I can’t help but become a little emotional myself. You approve. I did it. I really did it!

      Thank you for sharing your heartfelt praise — for your words allow me to enjoy a good, happy, soul-cleansing cry of my own.

      Gratefully and sniffle-y yours,


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