ANNA EMM is the pseudonym for Anna Margriet van der Vyver (nee Strydom). She was born on 27 March 1976 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where she grew up in a house filled with books and art. Her father, Leon Strydom, was an award-winning poet and art academic, and her mother a librarian and language practitioner.
Anna wrote her first 'book' at the age of 4, by dictating the story to her kindergarten teacher.
She attended Willem Postma Primary School from 1983-1989 and Sentraal High School from 1990-1994.
She had always been an obsessive reader and continued to write her own stories. While in primary school she wrote a series of action-packed stories to entertain her classmates. These stories were so popular that her eager readers often offered to do her homework for her so she could finish the latest chapters.
Anna was diagnosed with severe depression in her early teens, attempted suicide twice, and taking chronic antidepressants by the time she was sixteen.
She matriculated in 1994 and went on to study Education at Boland Collage from 1995-1997. After graduating she got a teaching job at a primary school in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Cape Town. She was 21 years old, and in over her head. There were many social issues at the school - drugs, alcoholism, violence, gangs. Anna soon realised the impossibility of teaching Maths and Geography to a group of 8-year-olds who were traumatised by the things they had witnessed at home. Desperate to help, Anna resorted to the only remedy she knew: fiction. So, instead of formal teaching, she spent her days reading to her students, and when she had worked her way through the library, she wrote them her own stories in which, often, the students themselves features as underdog heroes.
Anna was amazed at the effect this diet of stories had on the children. Not only did the reading visibly relax and soothe them, but the stories seemed to build some kind of mental resilience that helped them cope better with the external factors. The more stories she read the the children, the better they could concentrate and express themselves through vocabulary, writing and art. Their ability to learn and remember facts also drastically improved, as did their confidence and their empathy towards other people and the world around them. Fascinated by this, Anna started to make a study of the use of fiction in play therapy.
It was during her research that she began to understand for the first time the profound impact fiction had had on her own mental survival and, ultimately, recovery. She started to notice the physiological differences between people who come from households where there was a culture of reading, and those who come from households where there wasn't. As an author this made her extremely excited!
After four years Anna bid teaching goodbye and set out on a mission to equip the world with stories. In 2006 she launched her own production company, Anna Emm Pty Ltd, through which she would go on to write more than 3,000 children’s stories over the course of fifteen years, focusing on therapeutic elements like humour, suspense, intricate riddles and imagination. The feedback from teachers and parents was overwhelming, and Anna's stories soon became a household name in South Africa. She was regularly invited to appear on radio and television or at local events, to talk about the therapeutic power of fiction. She also developed courses to train teachers, therapists and parents on the use of storytelling in treating mental health issues in children. In 2015 her company won AfriGrowth's award for Small Business of the Year.
Although the company focused mostly on children's stories, Anna started thinking, if stories can help children, then it must have the same power to help adults, too. But ironically, what she heard from most parents she dealt with during this time was that they used to love reading as children, but that these days they were simply too busy and mentally exhausted to get into a lengthy book.
Anna knew she could change their minds and so, implementing the same elements she had used to trigger the attention span of children - short chapters, relatable characters, informal dialogue, cliffhangers - she wrote 21 romance novels for adults. As she had suspected, these were a roaring success, and especially amongst those self-proclaimed non-readers! People who haven't read a book in more than thirty years, went on to read all 21 of Anna's novels, one after the other. That was when she knew that she was onto something.
Anna Emm believes in the power of stories to nourish, to heal and to restore like no other medium on earth. Her new DUAL BOOK SERIES, incorporates everything she has learned. Although the stories in this series are first and foremost fiction, with suspenseful plots aimed at easy reading, the writing style is designed to enhance concentration, to stimulate creativity, and to assist in healing the brain from symptoms of trauma and fatigue.
In October 2023 more than 500 people, men and women between the ages 25 and 65, took part in a Trial Read of the first book in Anna's Dual Book Series. They were then asked to complete an anonymous survey. The results were: 82% of the readers reported a drastic improvement in concentration, with a drop in anxiety levels, mental fatigue and insomnia. 88% of readers said they felt more hopeful, more relaxed, and had more energy, even days after reading the book. 49% of the trial readers stated that some of their previous mental health symptoms have completely disappeared.
"I believe that a story well told, has the power to heal, nourish, inspire and uplift like no other medium on earth." - ANNA EMM