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! 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.
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.