Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Q&A with Krissy Nicholson

Krissy Nicholson is the author of the memoir Tsunami and the Single Girl: One Woman's Journey to Become an Aid Worker and Find Love. She spent 10 years working for Oxfam in Africa and Asia, and now works for Plan International, where she focuses on Africa. She is based in Australia.

Q: Why did you decide to write a memoir about your experiences? 

A: In all my years of travel and working in emergencies abroad, I have kept diaries and written lively e-mails home. “I feel like I’m there with you, I am there on your adventure,” my friends would say as they encouraged me to write a book.  

I never took them seriously but in the midst of a cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea with Oxfam, I decided to give it a go. Even if it was just for myself, as writing is like meditation to me, a cathartic experience. I did not in my wildest dreams think it would be published….

In the beginning I was writing for myself. But more and more a driving factor as I considered that it may get published, was to raise awareness about important global issues.  

I wanted it to be accessible to people who would not usually read about poverty and disaster, thus the search for Mr. Right angle! I hope by reading my stories, as an everyday single girl, people will become aware of important yet complex issues.    

Q: Your book includes descriptions of horrible tragedies, and also of humorous situations. How did you blend the two, and what did you see as the right balance? 

A: Originally I started to write my book in chronological order, and it was only later that I started to consider the structure. I tried to make sure that any serious story of the aid work was followed by the fun, lighter side of my life, i.e., the search for Mr. Right!    

A few readers have commented that they wished I stuck to the aid stories and less of the love side of things, but Tsunami and the Single Girl is the story of my life. Often aid worker books are all work, no play, but that is not realistic in life….well, not my life anyway. There needs to be a balance.

And my friends and I have always had a good laugh (or cry!) at some of the dating situations I have found myself in. My very loudly ticking biological clock and desire for a husband was just as strong as my dream to be an aid worker. In fact, the tension between these two potentially polar opposite dreams was a theme throughout the book and deserved the same amount of attention. 

Q: Of the various places you lived, is there one that has remained with you more than the others? 

A: Actually, there are two: the Sri Lanka Tsunami Response and the Uganda post-conflict work.

Sri Lanka because it was the first big emergency I have worked in.  I was thrown in the deep end and I will never forget first walking through the depleted villages that were now rubble, the long days and nights and the incredible levels of stress. In addition. my avid social life and trials and tribulations of relationships along the way added to the experience.   

Uganda is my favourite country to have worked, but is also up there of the 55+ countries I have travelled in. On a work front, it is where I first made the transition to work in public health – to become a “real” field worker, and not based in the capital head office. 

Learning the complexities of a post-conflict situation and drawing from the hope and resilience of a people who had been traumatised by war and famine over the years was extremely rewarding.

On the travel side of things, my mum came to visit and we went on amazing adventures, including to hike to see the mountain gorillas – a once-in-a-lifetime experience! 

Q: How did you come up with your book’s title? 

A: Lots of brainstorming!  I wanted something catchy that would aptly depict the essence of the book, which I think it does well. 

Q: Are you writing another book? 

A: I don’t know. If it was to be another memoir I would need to live another 10 years in the field! Saying this, writing Tsunami and the Single Girl was such an amazing journey. I learnt so much about myself, and of writing. I would love to have the time to do it again. At the moment I don’t even have time to maintain my blog space so let’s just wait and see. 

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: For those who may be interested in getting into aid work as a career – go for it.  For me it is the most rewarding job in the world that allows me to continue to travel and explore other cultures while making a difference at the same time.

Aid work is not for everyone, but I would like to encourage people to make a difference in the lives of others in any way they can. To become aware of social justice issues, to look beyond their back yard, to conserve energy, to donate when they can. It makes for a richer life. 

Tsunami and the Single Girl is not yet out in the USA; however, if you are interested in purchasing it, you can do so through Or as an e-book. If you have any other questions or would like to drop me a line, my contact is on my website.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment