Katie Spain joins us as our Writer in Residence and we took her aside to have a quick – but meaningful – Q&A with her. Katie will be hosting The Art of Feature Writing workshop in June.
If you were a supermarket item, what would you be and why?
Froot Loops. The name says it all. Plus, they rock some really bright outfits.
If you could be a super hero, what power would you like to have?
I’d like to be able to fly. I’m pint-sized so reaching things is an issue. I’m sure flying would help. I also the fancy the idea of ‘popping over’ to New York with the simple flap of my super heroine wings.
Which book best resembles your life? Or which book character best resembles you?
Alice in Wonderland.
What do you fear the most?
Apathy and losing my memory.
What do you love the most?
Hitting the open road in a little caravan called Charlie, moments alone in nature and exploring streets I’ve never walked before. My family is pretty wonderful, too.
What hidden/special talent do you have?
People open up to me during interviews, even when they specifically intend not to. I think it has something to do with being a chatty country kid. I also have the ability of convincing total strangers to let me apply glitter to their face. It is a gift.
What do you like most about the writing industry?
It’s full of hard-working people with big dreams and even bigger imaginations. As far as the writing process is concerned, you can’t beat that magical moment when a conversation with a stranger changes you forever. The trust people give when they allow you to tell their story is priceless and an honour I take very seriously.
What is the best thing about SA Writers Centre?
The support. It’s got a special energy about it. The team’s passion is infectious and the love of words genuine. They allowed me to clap along in a rhythm workshop with Mem Fox – what more can you ask for?
What are your personal longterm goals?
I’d like to grow a bit (in case the super hero thing doesn’t work out). But in reality, books full of words I made, is the ultimate goal. I don’t “do” house, financial or relationship goals. Instead, I want to be a respected biographer and digital nomad who lives and writes out of a vintage caravan. The idea of a new view every morning is appealing.
If you could choose one writer to be your life mentor, who would you choose?
Jean M. Auel
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?
In those initial stages, don’t stop. Don’t read it over. Just keep writing.
What is your typical writing process?
Sporadic. I work as an editor and writer for a digital publication and various magazines so there’s always deadlines to hit before focusing on the “personal stuff”. I fill three pages with whatever is in my head as soon as I wake up every morning, then head to the city to work out of co-working space DEW on Hindley Street. They serve food and wine (which can be a blessing and a curse). My own personal writing space varies from cafes, my bedroom, libraries, parks, bars with a book focus (they do exist) and of course, in Charlie the van. I work better with noise around me – which I think is a side-effect of working for many years in radio stations and newsrooms. I have to have tea or coffee by my side and dark chocolate when transcribing. I flick between handwritten notes in journals (I have hundreds) and my laptop. It flows better by hand.
What is your proudest writing/editing/book related achievement?
I wrote a piece about my battle with bulimia for SA Weekend Magazine. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done but the most important. It helped people in a similar situation and raised awareness about an organisation that helps. I thought it might be career-damaging but it had the opposite effect. We’re all human and there’s strength in admitting our vulnerabilities.
I also wrote a piece on former Australian Women’s Weekly editor Helen McCabe. I think she was nervous about how the story would turn out but emailed after it was published to tell me I am a beautiful writer. It meant the world.
What did you want to be as a grown up when you were a kid?
An artist or radio presenter.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What about ten?
Still covered in glitter and collecting vintage garb. In five, I hope to have a stint in New York behind me, have attended the Iceland Writer’s Festival and have a book (my book) in my hand. In ten years, I hope to be an established biographer. Location-wise, who knows. Let’s hope it’s somewhere faraway and fabulous.
How did you decide that this was the career path you wanted to pursue?
It decided on me. Writing is just the thing I could do. It took a lot of work though – I’ve put in more free hours than I’d like to admit. Every single sentence helps hone the craft and I’m still learning.
Who are people you admire/emulate/learn from?
Editors who have the balls to take risks on important, challenging stories. People who live authentically and are fearless in the pursuit of their art, who step out of their comfort zone, are dedicated enough to stick with something until they make their little mark on the world and anyone who sticks their middle finger up to the ageing process.
Where has your age been a barrier in writing/the arts? Where has it been an advantage?
You know what, I haven’t encountered this. Maybe I would have if I’d stayed in Australia but I flew the roost when I was young and cut my professional teeth abroad. Age and gender hasn’t been an issue. Yet.
What are your hopes for the industry?
I hope the arts (all of the arts) are given the respect and financial validation they deserve so that bright sparks of the future can continue to create magic. The world needs it.
I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!