Kimina Lyall: Aussie Success Story

ALTHOUGH THE BACKGROUND has mostly been cropped out, Kimina is seen here in front of a large promotional image of her book cover during her book launch at the ABC Shop in Melbourne, December 5, 2006.

Before writing her book, Kimina was working as a successful journalist for The Australian newspaper. Fatefully, she was offered the coveted position of Southeast Asia correspondent and her home base moved to Bangkok. She and her life partner, JP, also acquired land on Thailand’s Koh Phra Thong island and set about building a weekend home, which they later christened Baan Tarntawan.

JP and Kimina were on Koh Phra Thong on December 26, 2004 when the now-infamous tsunami swept the Indian Ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people. They and other residents watched first in curiosity, and then in dawning horror, as the wave approached their idyllic beach community.

Not only did Kimina have to deal with surviving the wave itself, and the personal aftermath, but she was required by her job to cover this major news event. What eventually came out of it all is her book, Out of the Blue: Facing the Tsunami (ABC Books, 2006).

In the midst of writing her book, Kimina came up against a farily disabling case of writer’s block. Searching the Web, she found Fear of Writing and visited the section for the Online Creative Writing Course. Her application to join the course included this honest and heartwarming letter of enquiry:

Hi Milli,

I am the journalist who recently wrote to Dee [one of Milli’s Course Presenters] about my fears around writing my first book. You are very kind to offer to talk to me about my situation and advise on whether you think your course would suit me.

I thought I might first give you a few more details. It is a tough project on many levels. Some of my problems are technical and some of them are emotional. For example, on a technical level, I feel overwhelmed at the word length required to write a book. As a journalist, I am used to editing as I go, to keeping my writing concise and crisp. It is very difficult to allow the writing to expand without me thinking I am becoming drawn-out and boring. I also fear that I simply do not have enough material to fill in a whole book.

On the emotional level, I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which means some days are spent in deep depression. Sometimes writing helps that, and sometimes the burden of “I should be writing” adds to it. I am also afraid of the reactions of the people who are going to be in the book. Many of them are friends and associates and I know I am terrified in advance that they will “hate me” after reading about themselves. It is not that I am writing anything awful about anyone, I am just aware that people have already had a lot of pain this year and I would hate to inadvertently add to it.

I considered your course because I thought that the discipline of following through some unrelated creative writing exercises might help “unblock” me from my current inertia.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and to consider whether you think your course would benefit me.


While Dee worked with Kimina in the online arena of the course curriculum, Milli worked with Kimina via email and “Internet telephone” (Skype), lending emotional support as well as feedback on the book itself. Kimina also received key support and advice from various friends and writing colleagues closer to home. This was, as we can all imagine, an incredibly difficult book to put to paper.

Her courage in finishing the book now speaks for itself, and she is touching lives with her story. You can hear Kimina interviewed by Richard Fidler of ABC Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), visit her page at the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and read five-star praise from some of her ABC Shop book customers.

You can also order Kimina’s book from the ABC Shop (if you live outside Australia, click on “Delivery and Payments” at the bottom of the order page for info about International Airmail).

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