By V. Jolene Miller
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a month ocean-side. It has been a longstanding dream of mine to balance my Arctic life with some sun and sand. As I narrowed down the destination, I made plans to connect with a fellow writer I’ve known for some time. Unbeknownst to me, this same writer was making plans of her own, including starting an independent publishing company. As soon as she announced WhirlWhirl had opened its doors, I asked her for the opportunity to interview Vanessa Leavitt and her business partner, David J. Knight. So, I bring you an inside look at WhirlWhirl Publishing.
FIRST, A ROUND OF INTRODUCTIONS. WHO ARE YOU?
VL: I’ve been a writer for about twenty years. Well, I’ve been trying to learn [about writing] and take it seriously for that long. I write fantasy and speculative fiction mostly. During the day, I am a customer success manager. My company provides contesting software and websites to our clients. I help train them on these tools and with their overall digital strategy. I also have a side gig with the Orlando Informer, writing about various events at the theme parks, like Halloween Horror Nights or Food and Wine Festival for the Orlando Informer. I’ve also written reviews for restaurants and other attractions in the area.
DJK: I’m not really a musicologist, but I delve into music. I appreciate experimentalists and early Italian futurists. I make my own music to shape how it’s heard. I’m amazed by the idea that at dawn, as we are waking up and having REM sleep, those dreams are informed by the morning chorus of birds wherever we live…speculative, new mythology of dreaming…aerosomnia… sleep and dreams brought to us by the air. It’s poetic, not scientific. Think of it like an art book about listening and dreaming.
SO, I’M SITTING HERE PHYSICALLY WITH VANESSA, SOMEONE I’VE ONLY KNOWN THROUGH ONLINE WRITING GROUPS AND POSTAL MAIL EXCHANGES, AND GETTING THE CHANCE TO MEET YOU (DAVID) VIA ZOOM. I THINK IT’S ONLY NATURAL TO ASK, HOW DID YOU TWO MEET?
DJK: (chuckles) I started my career in the UK as a field archeologist. For health reasons, I decided to go into higher education at the University
of Southampton. I received an MA and Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in archaeology there, with a specialization in Archeoaccoustics, specifically the ancient acoustics and architectural space of the sixth-century Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. For various professional and personal reasons I returned to my hometown (Guelph,Ontario, Canada). Giving up my career was a shock. Later, I got involved in local heritage and spent time writing
and publishing a lot of academic work with colleagues in Italy, namely Professor Lamberto Tronchin (University of Bologna).
Since 2007, I’ve published 11 major publications. Last year I was able to write a paper on the 6th-century pandemic known as the Justinian Plague (San Vitale’s Aural Networks in the Context of Pandemic and Transformation) -an article in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series, organized in Manila, Philippines. Then in 2017, I was invited by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA to speak at a conference on Sound and the Sacred. This particular conference was open to the public, and that’s where I met Martin Page.
[AS DAVID IS TALKING, ALL I AM THINKING IS THIS MUST BE IT! AT THIS MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE CONFERENCE IS WHERE HE AND VANESSA MET!]
DJK: About a year ago, I was working with Martin. He’s into music and such like I am, and we worked on covers and music, that sort of thing. Then, the pandemic and lockdowns hit. Martin told me to get in touch with his media person, and that’s how we met.
SO VANESSA, YOU WEREN’T AT THE MEDEVIAL AND RENAISANCE CONFERENCE?
I DON’T UNDERSTAND. DAVID, DO YOU LIVE NEAR HERE?
VL: [Laughs] Oh, we’ve never met… in person. David had the idea to publish Martin’s work. When Martin introduced us, I discovered it would be better if we formed a publishing company.
DJK: WhirlWhirl was born in June 2021. We had some fun making logos and taking care of logistics. In July/ August, we were all set up and launched the company on Martin’s birthday, September 23rd.
SO, YOU ALL HAVE THIS ONE MUTUAL FRIEND, HAVE NEVER MET IN PERSON, AND YOU DECIDED TO START A COMPANY TOGETHER?
VL: [Nods] Yeah, basically.
DJK: My entire archaeology career brought me to the UCLA conference, where I met Martin.
[NATURALLY, I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THIS KISMET-CREATED ENTITY AND HAD TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE BEHIND IT.] TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR WRITING/BOOKISH BACKGROUNDS.
VL: My latest book, Five Tales of Transformation, is a collection of short stories. It’s an e-book, and it’s available on Amazon. I’m hoping to do another book of short stories in early 2022 and a novel later in 2022. Also, David and I are collaborating on some projects that will be happening in the near future.
DJK: Personally, I appreciate aesthetic writing — the look of writing, not actual writing. Similar to New York writer, Cy Twombly, who has a visual nexus of the aesthetics of books. After Martin writes lyrics, I put them into drawings. I’m interested in the visuality of reading.
WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
VL: I’m currently reading two books. The first is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I’m also reading a nonfiction book called The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. It’s about a lady who was friends with Ted Bundy.
DJK: I always made quotes of whatever I was reading when I was in academia. I’m a big fan now of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. For heavy reading, I turn to books by Paul Oster. I’m also a huge fan of John Steinbeck. I love reading whatever Brian Eno writes, and I like his ideas. I just read Crocodile Island by Nancy Drew. I also collect Mad Magazine.
YOU BOTH ARE SO UNIQUE. I’M EAGER TO HEAR HOW THAT TRANSLATES INTO THE BUSINESS. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR COMPANY. WHY THE NAME WHIRLWHIRL?
VL: It was David’s idea. It wasn’t hard to get the domain name or for social media. Except for Twitter– that was annoying.
DJK: Simply for the musicality of the word. I knew Vanessa lived in Orlando and we were having a storm, a tornado, and I thought of WhirlWhirl. It’s pliable for social media.
WHAT ARE YOUR ROLES IN THE BUSINESS?
WHIRLWHIRL: As for our roles, we’re equal partners, but we handle different elements. Vanessa does more of the business side and social media. David does more on the creative side, such as creating our first e-book project. We both collaborate on what will actually go on social medi as well as any projects we’ll work on.
WHO ARE YOUR CLIENTELE?
VL: David’s working on a book right now. We’re in collaboration on a children’s book I wrote that David will likely illustrate. We’re kind of open to anything going forward. But for now,we’re starting slow and go from there.
DJK: The spine of WhirlWhirl was
set up basically to publish the book and other creative things that I do. But,
we quickly honed in on the fact that Vanessa’s a writer, I’m a visual artist, and we can do quite a lot of things that are text-based and visual art as well.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SUBMISSION PROCESS? REQUIREMENTS, PARAMETERS, OPEN/CLOSED PERIODS?
WHIRLWHIRL: For submissions, we are always willing to discuss projects at any time. People can contact us via our website or through social media. We also offer a la carte editing for projects whomay or may not want to publish with us.
You can learn more about WhirlWhirl Publishing and the fabulous duo behind the company, almost anywhere online and on your favorite social media platforms.
Article originally Published in the February / March 2022 Issue: New & Upcoming.