Expat Writer in the Netherlands: Tammie Nolte
"Good writers need to be paid," says Tammie Nolte, who moved to the Netherlands to avoid the thought "What might have happened if I moved to Holland when I was 27?"
Name: Tammie Nolte
Nationality: American and Dutch
Country of residence: The Netherlands
Reason for moving to new country of residence
In 1995, chatting online had just started. I met a Dutch guy in a chat room. Little did I know at the time, but most people chatting in 1995 were computer geeks or in computer class like me. I decided to move to Holland because I did not want to be 80 years old and wonder "What might have happened if I moved to Holland when I was 27?" Now I know.
What have you published?
I write mostly for corporate websites. For LOI, I have edited two online Business English books for Dutch learners. I am still trying to figure out how my book starts, where it ends and if my mom will be proud or embarrassed to show her face in the local hairdresser after my not-yet-written book sells millions.
Why did you start writing?
I started pursuing writing as a paid gig and career after I met Candace Bushnell at a book signing in Amsterdam in 2003. Candace was at the height of fame because her book Sex and the City was a popular series and she was signing her newest book Trading Up. I stood in line twice because I wasn't brave enough to ask her any questions the first time. I asked her "How did you know you wanted to write and that you were a writer?"
Candace answered, "You just know. Don't you? It is much easier not to write and not to be a writer. It is much more difficult to do it." I rode my bike home and signed up for my first class called "Simply Writing."
What do you write about?
I write mostly for corporate websites. I have rewritten, repaired and revised the content on corporate websites. I have also been involved in corporate journalism and writing corporate news for Dutch companies who have an international website.
In the past I have written for financial and insurance websites. I have also written about food and agriculture, new work environments in the Netherlands, sustainability, corporate responsibility, sponsoring and conferences.
What do you like most about writing?
I am creative, sarcastic, funny, dynamic, daring and full of personality. When writing for financial organizations during the financial crisis, much of my writing personality was stripped away and we had to write about just the facts.
I like writing about people and have been fortunate enough to have interviewed some amazing people during the past few years: Muhammad Yunus the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2006, Temple Grandin the author whose life story about living with autism was made into an HBO movie, and Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer after his World Championship and Olympic wins. I love writing about regular folks too.
I would like to be paid to be hilarious, write funny and be more creative. Right now, not being funny is paying the bills.
What aspects about being a writer do you find difficult?
Writing on its own can be a lonely business. I need to be in a quiet place to concentrate and write. As a freelance writer now working from home, I realize that too much quiet time is not so great for a social creature like me. I need to build in more social time that people have naturally when they work in an office.
I also find long approval processes and waiting for feedback very challenging. Most writers will tell you that they are self doubters and become overly critical of their own work. Shushing the inner doubting critical writer is a challenge.
How has living abroad influenced your work as a writer?
Being in the Netherlands is better for my English writing, copywriting, editing business. Not so many people can write well in English. In this country my skills are special and needed. Being a native English speaker in the US or UK is more competitive, and my English skills are less special.
Are writing groups/courses easy to find in the Netherlands?
Finding writing groups, courses, coaches are not that difficult, but finding the right one to fit you is the trick. Early on, I found Lisa Friedman's courses at the American Book Center. Her positive, encouraging style and feedback was exactly what I needed to get started.
Some people want a more critical voice or approach to writing. That does not work for me. There are plenty of people writing or wanting to write in the Netherlands, so starting your own group with your own rules is also possible.
Which writers have inspired you the most?
My grandmother used to sit me down at breakfast and make me read the Erma Bombeck column in the morning newspaper. Erma wrote about daily life, was funny, smart and made it look easy.
I am also in awe of the amount of writing and published books from John Grisham and Janet Evanovich, During the past two years, I also attended several events at the John Adams Institute and was able to listen to American writers talk about writing. Putting myself in the same crowd and same room with writers like Kathryn Stockett and David Remnick gets me excited about what I do and makes me feel more normal.
What hurdles, if any, have you encountered on your path to becoming a published writer?
I am my biggest hurdle. Writing is hard. Finding time to write for myself is hard. Not writing my own material and making excuses are both very easy and I am really good at that.
What advice would you give to budding writers?
Good writers need to be paid. If you are a good writer, people will pay you well. Starting out, you need to be very careful about writing for free or being too cheap. I did some free writing with the goal of building my portfolio and samples. Quality writing deserves a quality paycheck. Get paid for your writing.
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