About

sandrajensen_sl2010I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1961. I left when I was 7. Since then I lived in England, Germany, Canada and Greece. I spent a year in Australia, and many months in India and Sri Lanka. I have passports from South Africa, Canada and the UK.

I am currently based in Hove, Brighton and the west coast of Ireland. I live with my partner David Crean and Rónán our foundling cat.

bookshelfFrom an early age I was encouraged to be self-motivating, to experiment with what life had to offer. When I was thirteen I decided not to go to school. I had already been to about eight (I can’t remember) schools and enjoyed none of them, so I taught myself and went on to obtain a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Bristol.

I have experimented a variety of  jobs and vocations – from photography to house cleaning to counselling to mime to cooking to acting to Jeet Kune Do practitioner to website project manager for the head office of Corporate Communications, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. I have also had an eighteen year long, ‘interesting’ journey with my health, a version of Lyme Disease with the usual CFIDS (chronic fatigue immune dysfunction) type fall-out. Simply put, I can’t always do the things ‘normal’ people do, and although this experience informs my life and indeed my writing, I don’t define myself as a sick person. (Here’s a list of people with CFS on wikipedia…. it includes Stevie Nicks, Ali Smith, Cher and Keith Jarrett, I suppose I’m in good company!)

VERSAL_SandraI always thought I’d be a ‘writer’ when I grew up. ‘Growing up’ took rather longer than I expected (and included writing awful tortured poetry in my teens and twenties). My first fiction publication was in 2008 (‘La Llorona’ in Versal 6) when I was 46 years old. Since then I have had over thirty short stories and flash published in literary magazines and journals. Awards and publications are listed here

flowerbowl_andpotIn 2010, I began work my novel, Ten Virtuous Acts. This is a multi-perspective narrative set in Sri Lanka and Thailand during the early 80s.

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I have worked on this novel under the mentorship of Marina Endicott in the Banff Centre‘s 2011/12 Wired Writing Studio program, as well as at the Sirenland Writers Conference 2011, 2012 and 2013 with Dani Shapiro and Jim Shepard.  The novel has won the 2011 J.G. Farrell Award for best novel-in-progress and was long-listed for the 2011 Mslexia Women’s First Novel Competition.

DDLogonotypemainSMALLI cultivated the on-line writer’s group at Gaia.com called Diving Deeper: A Writing Workshop for three years, where at times there were over 300 members. When Gaia shut down in March 2010, I rebuilt the group and it ran for another two years online.

I have led Diving Deeper writing retreats in Europe and North America, but these days I’m focused on my own work.

My creative writing is based on an approach called Freefall Writing, taught to me by Barbara Turner-Vesselago. For me, Freefall Writing was the key that opened the floodgates, and it is the key that keeps me going.

As Barbara says on her website: “Freefall invokes the courage to fall without a parachute, into the words as they come, into the thoughts before they have fully formed in the mind, into the unplanned structures that take shape, without prompting, to contain them.”

buddhacrowsmallMy goal as a writer is to explore the full breadth of the human condition. I write what I ‘know’ and I also write to discover what I don’t know. I write about the price we pay for living, about the consequences of action and thought. I write to discover the good in the darkest situations and characters. I write about experiences that push us to or over the edge of our envelope of safety, and I write to push myself beyond that envelope.

In my spare time I’m occasionally addicted to appalling television talent shows. I fundraise and advocate to support animal rights volunteers and rescuers in Bosnia Herzegovina, where numbers of reports of animal abuse to international animal welfare organisations are amongst the highest in the world. In the past four years, my group AWABosnia (Animal Welfare Advocates for Bosnia) has homed over 250 rescues.

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I gratefully acknowledge the support of The Banff Centre; The Jeff and Kim van Steenbergen Scholarships; Arts Council England, The Arts Council Ireland, and the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which in 2011 invested $20.1 million in writing and publishing throughout Canada.

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