English blogs

I get often asked: will you be writing a new book?  The answer is: yes, I’ve been working on it for the last four years. But it will be a different book than Officier in Afghanistan. Instead of a military autobiography, it will be a book ABOUT military autobiographies: my PhD research.

It is now almost ready. At the moment, the inner doctoral committee (‘de leescommissie’) is reading the manuscript and when they are happy with it, the accompanying promotion ceremony will be held at the Erasmus University Rotterdam on the symbolic date of September 11 at 13:30 hours .

To give you some idea of the exciting results of this research, I would like to share the fifteen most remarkable statistical results. They come from the study of all military Afghanistan memoirs that were published between 2001 and 2010 in five different countries: the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. They answer the three main research questions: who are these soldier-authors, what do they write about and why do they write?


  • On average it takes military authors of immediate memoirs two years before they publish a book after having been deployed, irrespective of whether they publish with a self-publisher or a traditional publisher.
  • In a warrior nation a book is 12 times more likely to be written by a combat soldier than in a non-warrior nation.
  • Independent of country, combat soldiers are nine times more likely to get published by a traditional publisher than their combat support colleagues.
  • Even though the individually deployed soldier is more likely to be a writer than the soldier who is deployed with his own unit, traditional publishers are five times more interested in publishing the stories from people who went with their own unit than from the individually deployed ones.
  • The same goes for professional soldiers, they are almost eight times more likely to get published by a traditional publisher than a reservist


  • Revelatory plots (growth and disenchantment plots together) make up the majority (69%) of Afghanistan memoirs.
  • Working soldiers are nine times more likely to write positive plots than former soldiers.
  • A combat soldier-author is almost four times more likely to write a negative plot than a combat support soldier.
  • Soldier-authors with a traditional publisher are four times more likely to add a truth claim to their books than self-publishers.
  • A large part of all soldier-authors (59%) make some kind of disclaimer as to the content of their book; almost always (in 97% of the cases) about some form of self-censorship for operational security reasons, rarely (12%) for literary reasons.


  • 78% of all soldier-authors feel the need to explicitly explain why they wrote and published their book.
  • A positive plot is five times more likely not to have an explanatory motivation text than a negative plot.
  • Authors of negative plots are five times more likely to voice a desire for change than authors of positive plots.
  • Soldier-authors who write that they themselves have experienced some kind of mental adaptation problem (such as PTSD symptoms or prolonged alienation) are eighteen  times more likely to admit to writing as a form of therapy than people who do not write about these problems.
  • Of all soldier-authors who give self-help motives, 79% is individually deployed, and individually deployed soldiers are almost six times more likely to give self-help motives than soldiers who have been deployed with their own unit. 
Read the entire thesis here.
Listen to and look at the public defense ceremony (15 minutes, in Dutch)

Er is ook een Nederlandse vertaling van dit blog.

Every review is nice to get, but some feel even more special than others. Last week, I got a very special one.

In the acknowledgement of Officier in Afghanistan and in a blog, I have made no secret of my admiration for Robert McKee. He is a writing teacher who can truly be called a guru. Therefore it was wonderful to be recommended in his weekly newsletter:


What Writers are Saying about Robert McKee:

[…] ‘a great read’ is hard work, but can definitely be learned. For me, two books and a course were crucial in this learning process. The course is the famous (or better: infamous) Robert McKee seminar, the Hollywood script doctor. […] In his seminar he teaches a whole life of writing experience in four days.”

“[…] Robert McKee who has taught me during his seminar to use subtext and who is able to clearly express and analyse what makes a really good story. Every time I got stuck and thought: why doesn’t this chapter work, I only had to do a value change analysis to understand what was missing.”


Esmeralda Kleinreesink Author (Officier in Afghanistan)

To visit Esmeralda Kleinreesink’s website (English blogs),

click here

Please note that the book is written in Dutch; an English version should be available eventually; in the meanwhile, you can download sample translations in English for free here

Autographed copies available (Dutch only)


The entire newletter can be read here

Er is ook een Nederlandse vertaling van dit blog.

“I was always last to get a handshake. Uniforms first.” My civilian colleague, a professor, shakes his head. He has just attended a military exercise with a group of cadets.

“That’s what you get when you don’t wear your salary scale on your shoulders,” I say.

“Seems fitting for a former conscripted corporal,” another colleague says.

But despite our sarcastic comments, it’s obviously weird that such a high ranking civilian gets introduced last.

The Mentalist

Later that week I unexpectedly run into the same problem. I am working on a scenario for the American police series The Mentalist. The team from The Mentalist is composed of four agents and a civilian. The civilian is Patrick Jane, the title character. In my script Lisbon, the boss, introduces them all to the new sheriff. The question is: in what order does she do that?

I have no problem classifying the other agents in order of status: first the one who’s been acting chief before, Cho, then his partner Rigsby, next the rookie, Van Pelt. But what to do with Patrick Jane? This is the man who solves every case, but he’s also a civilian and therefore not part of the hierarchical police pecking order.  Should he be mentioned first? Or last? Or at least before Van Pelt, the rookie?

I watch a few episodes looking for a similar introduction. I can’t help smiling when I finally hear Lisbon say: “Meet Cho, Rigsby, Van Pelt and Jane”. So in American police circles it is also ‘uniforms first’.

We are all just like chickens.

More English blogs.



The first English reviews of Officier in Afghanistan have been published. I may not have an English literary agent yet, but the sample translations have been picked up by bloggers who are just as enthousiastic as the Dutch reviewers. Like the Dutch readers, they also have to laugh about it, although not always for the same reasons.  Milblogger CDR Salamander:

Working in an international environment is enlightening in many aspects, one of which is that you quickly realize that national stereotypes exist for a reason – they are more often than not accurate. […] The following excerpt is from the 2012 book ‘Officier in Afghanistan’ (‘An Officer in Afghanistan’), written by LCOL Esmeralda Kleinreesink (RNLAF). It makes me laugh, and anyone who has worked with the Dutch will get a giggle out of it – or cuss.

Damn, I have turned into a Dutch cliché! But a fairly good cliché, as one of the commenters notes:

I also worked with Dutch MPA folks at CTF-57 in early 00s. They were awesome — very professional and focused on the mission. But very blunt.

I think the Dutch can live with that.

More English sample translations can be found on the download page.

The CDR Salamander review

The Defensie Weblog review

Er is ook een Nederlandse vertaling van dit blog.

I am often told that Officier in Afghanistan is such a great read, a real page turner. That is not incidental: ‘a great read’ is hard work, but can definitely be learned. For me, two books and a course were crucial in this learning process.

The course is the famous (or better: infamous) Robert McKee seminar, the Hollywood script doctor. McKee is once or twice a year in Europe (he’ll be in London on 22-25 November 2012). In his seminar he teaches a whole life of writing experience in four days. He teaches you how to profoundly look at your texts and to analyse where you’re doing okay, where not and how to solve those problems. You can also read his book Story, but I honestly have to say that I found the book not as impressive as the seminar.

Two other writing books did impress me. Both are practical and funny, and I’ve read them so often that I know them almost by heart. Which is actually necessary, because these books are so jam-packed with good, technical information that there’s no way you will absorb it in one read. They are How Not to Write a Novel and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Writing can definitely be taught.

More English blogs.

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