From earth scientist to writer of fiction: Gemma Veenhuizen

Gemma VeenhuizenGemma Veenhuizen: ‘Writing fiction is just like sex: you shouldn’t think about it too much while you’re doing it’

April 2013 – Gemma Veenhuizen studied Physical Geography at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and then became a freelance journalist. Recently, albeit reluctantly, she has begun calling herself a writer too: January saw publication of her first novel Alle bessen kun je eten – alleen sommige maar één keer (‘You can eat all berries – but some only once’).

Gemma gained her Bachelor’s in Physical Geography in 1997 and in 2010 a Master’s cum laude in Physical Geography at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In the interim period she spent a year studying Norwegian. Her Master’s programme included a year of science communication with a work placement at the journal Grasduinen, now known as Roots. Following her studies Gemma began working as a freelance journalist, with clients that included Roots, SNP.NL, FietsActief and NRC Handelsblad. She conducted interviews, wrote travel reports and described hiking and cycling routes.

Has she profited from her studies? “That’s something I often ask myself. I’m not really a scientist, and I think I would have had an easier time doing a humanities degree. But I have certainly benefited from my studies, and I often write about geography-related issues. What’s more, the studies influenced me as a person. All the fieldwork helped me get over my homesickness, for instance. And today I really enjoy working on the interface of science and art.”

“When I was fifteen I wrote down three ideal goals in my diary: visit New Zealand, write a book and marry the man of my dreams. Thanks to my studies I was able to participate in an essay competition for young geologists. I won, and last year this led to me visiting a geological conference in Australia. Which I combined with a five-month holiday in New Zealand. In turn, that trip gave me an idea for a story: my next book will be taking place in New Zealand.”