Are you familiar with Mary Grace van der Kroef?
Hello Mary Grace! Please introduce yourself and share 5 fun facts!
Thank you so much, Kirsten! Well, my name of course is Mary Grace van der Kroef. I am a wife, mother, poet, writer and artist, from Northwestern Ontario, currently living in the Niagara Region.
- My favorite food is sushi.
- Sushi pairs with nothing better than a Dr. Pepper. Yes, I am that weird.
- I am a huge Anime fan. The classics like Hunter x Hunter are my favorite.
- One of my favorite singers of all time is Kevin Max. Some people might recognize his name from the band DC Talk.
- I have had my hair just about every color of the rainbow, except pink. Pink is not my favourite.
What inspired you to begin your writing journey?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a very avid reader. Back then, my favourite books were about Pippi Longstocking. I loved that a little girl like me could adventure and do ridiculous things. Stories give us freedom to dream like that. I used to make up my own stories about her.
As I aged, I found that writing gave me release from the confusing emotions that come with growing up. It felt so natural to me to use a pencil to dream and pour out my pain and fear and doubts.
I have only been aspiring to write for others the last few years. It’s only because of the encouragement I received from other writers and authors in my life that has given me the courage to ‘write out loud’.
What are your favourite genres and themes to write about?
I write a lot of poetry. It’s a wonderful way to process emotions and understand them. I enfold questions and truths about my own mental health, and faith into these poems. I love story telling. Poems are great ways to tell stories in vivid imagery. The short story in its many forms is also important to me. The ability to compress all I want to say into just a few words is something I am continuing to learn. I like to use short stories to explore how different perspectives can lead to a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves.
What are the challenges you face in writing?
Finding time would be one of the biggest challenges. I have been homeschooling two of my three children over the past year. Much of my life has revolved around childcare, so the moments I steal in the middle of the business to write are often interrupted. I also have a mild form of dyslexia. I have improved over my years of writing but rely on grammar software to see mistakes that my eyes and brain miss.
Tell us about the poetry collection you’re working on!
It will be a grouping of twenty-five of my best faith-based poems. These poems revolve around my prayers, my questions, even my battles with mental health and faith. My working title is ‘The Branch That I Am’. I hope to make this collection available between August and the end of November, of this year 2021. This is my first experience working with a professional editor, and I am enjoying the learning happening in my creative space.
What are the best parts of bringing topics of mental health and faith into your writing?
What a great question. Overall, I think it’s the chance I have to share Hope. When we are in the middle of darkness, it is so easy to lose sight of the hope that we have. I believe in a God that will sit with me in the middle of my pain and confusion. He isn’t far away, he is present. He is that hope.
The two are so intertwined in my life that I cannot separate them. If I didn’t have that hope, I wouldn’t still be alive. SO the best part of sharing my hope with the world as writing, is that maybe someone else will come to hold hope as well.
How do you balance your writing schedule with the other aspects of your life?
Not always very well. My kids always come first, but the crumbs on my carpet don’t get vacuumed up enough. I do try to take all my tasks for the day in bits and pieces spread out. Everything I write starts as a note on my phone. I write whole rough drafts there.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your writing journey?
It’s okay to write crap. Honestly, it’s so freeing to know that the first draft doesn’t have to be this glorious thing. It’s almost always really horrible. THAT IS OKAY.
What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to creativity?
It is individual. As humans, we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other. But our creativity is as distinct as our fingerprints. My writing or painting may have similar styles to someone else, but they are my own. My skills and message will grow at their own pace.
What’s the best advice you can give to fellow writers?
Never give up. When I was fourteen, I knew I was a going to be a writer. But I didn’t know I would be a poet, no idea it would take until I was in my 30’s to bloom and be ready to show the world my words. Don’t give up. If you put words on paper, or screen, you ARE a writer.
What do you do when you’re struggling to come up with ideas?
I really love short forms of writing. I use six word stories as an exercise when I feel blank inside. It starts as just looking at someone else’s art, a picture or painting, and trying to see the story hidden behind the obvious. I try to express it in just six words. If I can focus and pull those six words from my heart and mind, it usually jump starts something for me.
Can you share your favourite snippets from articles and poems on your website? What makes them special to you?
“I asked the Lord to keep me brave.
Hold my chin above the wave.
Lend me strength to tread the line.
Close my mouth to deadly brine.
Whether rescue comes for me,
or in death, I am set free.
I asked the Lord to keep me brave,
as I swim above the grave.”
These lines from my poem ‘He Keep’s Me,’ might seem dark to others. But to me, it’s a reminder that I am never alone. He always keeps me brave.
‘When Creativity Hurts’, is one of the first articles I wrote on creativity.
“I also ask myself, is it worth this hurt? I always came back to the answer, yes. Creativity is worth every tear. Why? Because it can help me heal, if I let it.
Will I let it? Will you let it? Or will we all let creativity work its cauterizing powers on our emotional and spiritual wounds?”
These are just a few lines from the article, but they show the heart of it. Creativity is such a gift from God. There have been years I lost hold of my creative spark in the middle of my battle with depression. I pray God gives me the strength to never let it go again.
What are your goals for the future in your writing career?
After this first chapbook, I have plans for several more centered around different themes. Family, Love, Nature, and Thoughts about life in general. I would like to see one published per year for the next four or five years. Whether I accomplish this will depend on that family work time balance.
Further down the line, I have hopes for writing full-length novels and collections of short stories.
Any last thoughts to share about Mary Grace or your writing experiences?
I just feel so blessed in being given the opportunity to share my story. I’m humbled by the thought of my words reaching out in to the future and touching those I will never meet.
I am praying for readers and fellow writers to come alongside me and help me learn, grow, and reach my goals. If anything, we have talked about resonates with a reader, I encourage them to reach out to me. Join my monthly newsletter and let’s do this thing called creativity together.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Mary Grace van der Kroef!
Thank you for reading about Mary Grace!
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