Longer biography

mayken_londonWhen I was a child, my father worked in London for an international organisation. During my week-long visits, I would count the number of red phone booths and mailboxes I saw. My favourite monument was Tower Bridge. Today, I prefer to visit bookshops.

The list of my after-school activities in middle school was quite exhaustive, including swimming (which I have continued ever since), table tennis, judo (I finished with a blue belt), horseback riding, writing for the school newspaper and music lessons. None of those stopped me from taking home a fresh stack of library books each week.

mayken_swimAt 17, I spent a year as an exchange student in Quebec to learn French. When I came back, my French teacher had a hard time understanding my strange accent. I had also learned to play the trumpet.

After graduation I went to study in France, but I was quickly disenchanted with the country. The French appeared so self-centred and were always on strike. However, my passion for the language remained. On top of my binational diploma, I obtained certification as a sworn translator for French.

mayken_lemansIt took an inline skating trip to Paris to rekindle my love for France in general and Paris in particular. Soon I was commuting 900km every weekend to officiate in the 30km-long Friday Night Skate, where I met most of my current friends as well as my future husband, a member of the Skate’s first-aid team.

After a year of commuting, I quit my job and moved to Paris full-time. I continued to officiate in the Friday Night Skate for another seven years and participated in an annual 24h relay skate race for eight years in a row.

When two separate friends threatened to drag me to the first Lord of the Rings movie premiere whether I had finished reading or not, I rushed through the book, and soon after joined the online fan community of Tolkien illustrator and LOTR movie concept artist John Howe. One of the monthly illustration contests on his website forum challenged participants to team up in pairs to write and illustrate a short story or story opening. It was out of this contest that MAGE GIRL was born. Sharing my progress with the forum community provided the accountability I needed to finish the first draft.

mayken_badgeSeveral years and drafts later, an illustrator friend advised me to join the French chapter of SCBWI, which I now consider the best writing advice I ever received. Just a year after I joined, SCBWI announced their first Europolitan conference, to be held in Paris of all places. Not having to pay for transport and accommodation made the decision of attending easy, even though the number of strangers with “Writer” and “Illustrator” nametags proved intimidating at first. Even more intimidating were those with name tags reading “Agent” or “Editor”.

Thanks to this and the subsequent second Europolitan conference in Amsterdam, I have made new friends in the writer and illustrator crowd and learned about the many steps that separate the first draft from the published book.

I consider the Internet the best invention ever made for writers – both for the wealth of information at one’s fingertips and the ease of communicating and staying in touch with friends all over the world.

mayken_cowpicMy favourite pastimes are reading (both to my daughter and by myself), writing, swimming, chatting with friends, and travelling to Brittany and Normandy with my family. (Did I mention I love cows?)

I tweet as @maykenalanna and share ordinary and exceptional details of my adopted city under the hashtag #mypicsfromParis.