Interview: Marijke Durning

I met Marijke Durning at a blog network we both worked for. One thing that interested me was that she is a nurse as well as a writer. So many people want to be writers but they work in different fields. Marijke found a way to make it work for her so she could do both. As a result, her writing is filled with great medical information that is never too dry or boring. She has the perfect balance of medical knowledge and writing skills.

If you’re wondering how to pronounce Marijke Durning’s first name, don’t fret. She has a blurb on her website that spells it out. She says:

If you aren’t sure about how to say my name, don’t worry – you’re not the first to wonder. I was born in Canada of Dutch parents. “Marijke” is a Dutch name. Phonetically, my name is said muh-rye´-kah/keh. If you can roll the “r”, all the better.

Enjoy this interview.

You’re a nurse who is also a writer. What a great combination. Tell us how you came to do both and what types of things do you write. Is there a certain area you cover the most?

I have always enjoyed and been good at writing. Language comes naturally to me and I am very interested in it. It could be be because I grew up in a Dutch household in Quebec, which is majority French. I’ve read and heard many times that people who are exposed to more than one language often have a certain ability with languages in general.

The thing is though, that back in the late 1970s, writing wasn’t considered a good option for a career. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and nursing seemed like a good path to follow. After all, nurses are always needed.

In the mid-90s, the hospital I was working at was closing and I was fed up with nursing. I saw a small ad in a newspaper for a nurse with good communication skills who knew the Internet. That was me. And the rest is history. I’ve been working online ever since.

Although I write for all audiences, from professionals to the general public, my passion is writing educational material for the every day person. Health information is difficult to understand sometimes, so I enjoy the teaching aspect of writing. To me, it seems like an extension of patient teaching, something that is a huge part of nursing – when you have the time.

I still work as an RN from time to time because I need to be licensed to use “RN” behind my name. It also keeps me in touch with what is happening.

You’re the cofounder of GadaboutMedia and GadaboutHealth. How did these two sites come about? What types of information can we find there?

Gayla Baer and I founded these two networks to give writers and bloggers another outlet. We had both worked for another network before and, while our experiences there began well, the company took a direction that neither of us agreed with. The networks were Gayla’s idea, but she asked me to partner with her, which I did very gladly.

The word Gadabout means to go about and be social, looking for information as you go along. Gayla says that her grandmother used to call her a gadabout, so it was a fitting name for her networks.

Gadabout Health, my niche, is geared towards providing health information in a friendly style. We’re aiming for helpful and informative, with fun added in. But we also tackle serious health issues, such as abuse and dying. These topics are important and need to be dealt with in a respectful manner. Gadabout Media is for lifestyle and entertainment issues.

Tell us about your latest book, Oscar’s Diaries: Life as a Retired Greyhound. What do you hope readers take away from it?

Greyhounds are an amazing breed of dog. I didn’t know much about them until our first dog, a golden retriever, died. Rox, the golden, was such an amazing dog that we knew there was no way we could come close to replacing him. So, I went to a very different breed.

Oscar, our first greyhound, came to live with us off the track just before he turned 2 years old. That’s quite young to get a greyhound, but he, too was an amazing dog. He only lived to the age of 5 – he died of cancer. But he left behind memories for not only me, but for many people who loved him.

The book was a compilation of “diary entries,” complete with photos, that were written for a website dedicated to loving greyhounds. The goal of the book was to promote the breed and to show people how goofy and loving these 45-mile-per-hour couch potatoes can be.

I also donate 10% of the profit to a greyhound-related cause. Most recently, the money was donated to Ohio State University, where there is amazing research going on into greyhound cancer and this is ultimately – believe it or not – helping research into pediatric cancer.

Share some of your writing and health goals. What’s next for you?

Although my writing has included a lot of blogging, I’d like to move back to my original path of writing more patient education. I have a passion for palliative care (I used to work in the field) and I would love to bring this more into the open. I wrote an article for the CBC.ca website, about two years ago now, on the need for more palliative care in Canada, and I also have palliative care information on my professional website, www.medhealthwriter.com.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

That’s a good question. I’ve read so many interesting ones. I think though, it is likely the most recent one I read called the Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Favorite authors?

Honestly, I don’t have one. Sometimes I’ll latch on to a great author and read a few of his or her books, and then I read one that I really didn’t like.

Book you’re currently reading?

I’m reading two right now. I’m rereading a wonderful book by Steve Pitt called My Life and Other Lies. It began as a series of posts on a listserve for the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). It’s a delightful read.

I also just started reading Time of My Life, by Allison Winn Scotch.

Where can we learn more about you?

I have my personal blog at http://medhealthwriter.blogspot.com, where I write about stuff that is health or writing related. I try to make it both educational and thought-provoking, but sometimes I put in personal posts as well. My professional site is at www.medhealthwriter.com and I can be found blogging at www.gadabouthealth.com, as well.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes – writing is incredibly diverse. People often don’t understand the scope of what writers do. You know the news blurb you heard on the radio? Someone had to write that. The greeting card you bought? Someone wrote that? The billboard on the way to work? Yup, someone wrote that too.

And finally, I encourage people to be realistic. So many people say to me that they’d like to be a writer and that’s great. But, many don’t want to put the work into finding out what is actually involved. Just because you can put pen to paper (or type on a keyboard) doesn’t mean you can write, just as although I am able to put windshield washing fluid in my car I’m not a mechanic.

Writing is great and if you really want to be able to do it, you need to learn about it, you need to read, you need to want to learn more and how to better your craft. You need to be able to take criticism and editing. And, you need to believe in yourself.

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1 Comment on "Interview: Marijke Durning"

  1. Fabulous interview! I’m so pleased to know Marijke from writing jobs in the past. It’s always interesting to see how people choose to craft their jobs together into a solid career!

    [Reply]

    Cherie Reply:

    Cyndi,

    Well said! I love hearing about how writers can making a living in so many different ways. It’s inspiring.

    [Reply]

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