I discovered Australian author, Vanessa Woods, when we were thinking about moving to Central America. Her book, It’s Every Monkey for Themselves, was set in Costa Rica and gave us our first insight into the rigors of life in the jungle.
It’s Every Monkey for Themselves is a humorous account of Vanessa’s time studying wild monkeys which manages to give insights into both primate and human life. Constantly exhausted, and living in extreme conditions with strange people, Vanessa managed to survive the situation and turn it into a funny story.
Vanessa Woods: Researcher
Vanessa is now part of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group which compares the psychology of humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Their aim is to find the differences between us and our closest living relatives.
Vanessa explained to me that bonobos are especially important to this question because they are the closest relatives to humans. Bonobos are an extremely endangered ape. There are less than 15,000 bonobos left in the wild and they live only in the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo. While chimpanzees live in violent male dominated societies, where sexual coercion, war and infanticide are common, bonobos are peaceful and female dominated. In bonobo society there is no infanticide or war and sex is used to resolve all kinds of conflict.
10% of author profits for Vanessa’s book, It’s Every Monkey for Themselves, go to Lola ya bonobo sanctuary in the Congo.
Vanessa has also written three kid’s books that make science fun, the It’s True series: Pirates ate Rats! Space Turns You Into Spaghetti! and There are bugs in your bed!
Please tell us a bit about the work you’re doing at the moment and where you live.
At the moment I live in North Carolina, USA. I work in the Congo with highly endangered bonobos.
I’d love your thoughts on how people what people should do to live their dream. Can you give me a pithy quote about living your dream?
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Nice quote, thanks. What advice do you have for people who want to live their dream?
Just go for it.
How do you stay motivated?
I’m an extremely anxious person, I think you have to be to be a writer otherwise I would just go and sit in coffee shops all day and update my Facebook status… wait a minute…
Please tell us a funny story – something to make us laugh.
I wrote most the first draft of my next book in Congo, which means I could see the bonobos I was writing about as I was writing. There is a big table outside the house with a view over the sanctuary all the way down to the river. I could hear the bonobos calling and the mamas singing, and the keepers yelling at each other.
One morning I was writing about a bonobo baby called Kata, and she busted out of the nursery, ran down to the house, jumped on the table, grabbed a whole stack of pages from the draft and started to eat them.
Tell us some of your favorite books
The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel, Barbara Kingsolver,
Dirt Music, Tim Winton
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
The Road (Oprah’s Book Club), Cormac McCarthy
The Mermaid, Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Blind Assassin: A Novel, Margaret Atwood
Which country would you most like to revisit and where would you like to go next?
Top Spot isn’t it! What could everyone do to make the world a better place?
Sponsor a bonobo through the Friends of Bonobos website.
Many thanks to Vanessa Woods for being interviewed and for sharing her wisdom with us. Check out Vanessa Woods’ website and blog for her latest adventures, or buy her book, It’s Every Monkey for Themselves. Remember, 10% of her profits will be donated to Lola ya bonobo sanctuary in the Congo.
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