I was a romantic girl, who loved to read… but my father’s idea of raising me was to build my confidence by taking me on real-life adventures to faraway places that were not even on the map. When I was fourteen, I walked six weeks in Lapland, encountering only gold prospectors and reindeer. We got lost and our food supply ran out. I wrote a book about this vacation that, miraculously, had a happy ending.
I’m intensely curious. There are so many things I know that I don’t know. I gulp in experiences of every kind. I live by what Robert Louis Stevenson told children: “The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.”
I never was much interested in writing …… ...until right after my daughter Charlotte went into remission from the leukemia she was born with. I sat down one night and took a pen and wrote her name. Then I wrote mine. I have never stopped writing since then.
I am married to the Herald of the King… My husband Robbert Dijkgraaf is a theoretical physicist and science communicator who every year does a high-rated TV special in the Netherlands. When Willem-Alexander was inaugurated king in 2013, Robbert announced it to the crowds assembled in front of the Nieuw Kerk on Dam Square.
When I was pregnant with my oldest, I signed him up for full-time daycare. I naively thought that I would not let my child interfere with my career. How wrong I was! When he arrived, I was completely overcome by emotions, hormones and love. Let alone lack of sleep. Motherhood was completely different than I expected.
I lived in Amsterdam on the posh Herengracht canal. But in the alley next door to us a hooker worked in a brothel. She was young and blond and always wore the same pink bra when she paraded in front of her window. She knitted hats and sweaters for my children. She lit a candle for Charlotte when she was sick. We became friends.
Five years ago, after I left my beloved Amsterdam to live in America, I struggled with the English language. And I am a word person! That I am now able to tell my story in English means the world to me.
I always was a city girl. In Amsterdam, it did not matter that I had no yard, not even a balcony. But then I moved to a house in the American suburbs surrounded by woods filled with squirrels and deer. It took a while to get used to it. Now I love how calm it makes me feel. There is something healing about being in nature.
Before I was a writer, I worked as an imagination therapist. I loved helping people to connect with their deepest feelings and find their True North. And now I finally have found my own.
Writing my memoir changed me. Before my daughter was sick, I was outgoing and fun-loving. But to heal her I turned into a self-protective introvert. Now, with the release of my book, I am ready to be out there again. World, here I come!
Every week I write a column about my life in America for a leading Dutch newspaper. The U.S. is country that never fails to surprise me, full of contradictions. And I only once wrote about Trump!
Saving Charlotte is published by W.W. Norton & Company, £12.99, http://wwnorton.co.uk/books/9780393609158-saving-charlotte.