16 July 2013 - KATE LARSEN - Director of Writers Victoria


KATE LARSEN

- Director of Writers Victoria -



G'day guys,

Welcome to the life and times of a director of an organisation that represents and assists writers - Kate Larsen.

Kate is a writer, poet and arts manager with 15 years’ experience in the not-for-profit, government and cultural sectors in Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom. Kate is passionate about the arts (and, of course, about her first love: writing). With a background in arts and social justice, Kate is a strong advocate for the benefits of creative engagement and for creating opportunities for everyone to get involved. As director of Writers Victoria, Kate has been gracious enough to be interviewed by me so soon after she has taken up her new role. Thanks, and welcome, Kate ...


TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BOOK INDUSTRY JOURNEY.



I am a writer, poet and arts manager who has been working in the not-for-profit, government and cultural sectors in Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom for the last 15 years.



I have always written, but it’s only in the last four years that I’ve felt confident referring to myself as a ‘poet’. My alter-ego (Katie Keys) publishes a tiny little poem every day on Twitter.



I joined Writers Victoria as Director in May.



WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?



My brother and I were both voracious readers. Our parents had to set a no-reading-at-the-table rule to get us to stop.





WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME DIRECTOR OF ‘WRITERS VICTORIA’? DID THEY APPROACH YOU?



I was working as an arts management consultant when the Writers Victoria opportunity came up. It brings my day-job (as an arts manager) and my personal creative practice (as a writer and a poet) together for the first time.



WHY A WRITERS ORGANISATION?



As a writer myself, I was already a member of Writers Victoria and have been a big user of writers centres over the years. They’re a great one-stop-shop for writers at all stages of their careers and a great way to get involved in the writing community.



WHAT’S THE MAIN PURPOSE OF YOUR ORGANISATION?



Writers Victoria supports and connects all Victorian writers. We represent a membership of nearly 3,000 writers from all areas of the state and provide professional development and advice to beginners to professional published authors (and everything in between).



WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL AIM IN YOUR CURRENT POSITION?



I want to make sure that Writers Victoria really does support all of our state’s writers – be that through doing more workshops in regional areas, extending our digital platforms, or making sure their voices are heard through our advocacy work.





WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THE WRITING / PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?



I love words. I love stories. And I love what writing and reading those stories does for people. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the thrill of being paid to write – whether that’s poetry or professional writing. 



WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT JOB?



Being over-excited and wanting to do everything all at once. We’ve got so many fantastic ideas coming in from our members but only so many resources and days in the week.



WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME THE DIRECTOR OF WRITERS VICTORIA?



I returned to Australia from London two years ago, where I’d been working in arts and disability. On moving to Melbourne, I took the job of CEO of Arts Access Australia on the proviso that I would replace myself with someone that identified as a person with disability within two years. Before London, I worked in performing arts touring, contemporary art galleries, festivals and theatre companies all over Australia and in Singapore.



HAVE YOU BEEN PUBLISHED?



My first residency in the UK was within the London Borough of Camden. I wrote a series of poems about life in the borough, which was published by the local council in ‘An Apology to the Librarian (and other Camden poems)’ in 2010.



For the past four years, I have also published a poem on Twitter every day – which means I have a very large body of very small work. You can follow me at www.twitter.com/tinylittlepoems





WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?



I always have several books on the go at the same time. On the tram, I’m reading ‘Melbourne’ by Sophie Cunningham. At night, I’m reading ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel (leftover from my recent holiday reading list). For my Poetry Book Club, I’m reading ‘Love and F*ck Poems’ by Koraly Dimitriadis. I’m dipping in and out of old Paris Review interviews that I found at a jumble sale and have just picked up ‘Gil Scott Heron is on Parole’ by Maxine Beneba Clarke, this year’s winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Of course, I am also reading the latest edition of The Victorian Writer magazine on political writing.



WHAT INSPIRES YOU?



Clever people doing clever things. Good stories. River water. The poetry of everyday life.



DO YOU PREFER A PARTICULAR GENRE’? WHY?


I began working almost exclusively in poetry four years ago, when I got fed up with my excuses about not having time to write. On a purely logistical level, finding time for poetry was a lot easier than getting round to rewriting the first-draft novel I still have in my bottom drawer. But I also love the simplicity and accessibility of poetry – the practice of paring something down to the bare essentials.



DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?



When I felt I was too busy to write, the thing that worked for me was actually to give myself another deadline. Sending out a tiny little poem on Twitter every day not only got writing back into my everyday life, but led to a whole lot of other opportunities – publications, interviews, residencies and paid work as a poet in residence at festivals and events.



DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE / SPACE TO WORK?



For new ideas, I tend to be most creative when I’m surrounded by other creativity. So I always have a notebook with me at gigs or theatre shows.



WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST PERSONAL JOY IN PUBLISHING?



As a writer, I know the giggly joy of finding out that one of your works has been selected for publication. It’s pretty special that I now get to give that to others.



WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ALL TIME AUTHOR? WHY?



Ooh, too hard. I need at least 10: AS Byatt, Carol Ann Duffy, Peter Carey, Tim Winton, Vikram Seth, Douglas Adams, Mem Fox, JK Rowling, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Roald Dahl.




WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A CLIENT?



In a recent interview with Time Out Melbourne, I was referred to as ‘fiendishly organised’. (I think that’s a compliment).



WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A CLIENT / COLLEAGUE?



As a teenager, I did my first ever solo performance at an old people’s home. A few moments after I started, the entire front row started turning off their hearing aids. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered.



WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?



I grew up in a country town, which is one of the reasons I’m so committed to getting Writers Victoria out into the regions.



OTHER THAN PUBLISHING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



Family, friends, art, theatre, salt-water swimming, good food, travel, letters in the post.



DO YOU ALSO WRITE? POETRY TOO?



Yes, mostly contemporary short-form poetry but I also have a number of other writing projects that I want to get back to eventually: songs, a theatre scripts, longer stories.



WHAT FRUSTRATES YOU ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?



I’ve only been in the job four weeks so no-one’s had the chance to frustrate me yet.



DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.



Now that the weather’s getting cooler, my perfect day would start without an alarm and sneaking back to bed with a good book, coffee and vegemite toast. I write best when I’m not thinking about other things, so I’d get all my emails out of the way before laying my current writing project all across my desk. I usually write in long-hand first, so my notes tend to be a mish-mash of scrap paper and journal entries that need to be pulled together. A full day to luxuriate in writing would be rounded off with an evening on the sofa with my partner and a glass of red wine. Bliss.



WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?



From 2014, we hope you’ll see a lot more of Writers Victoria online and out in regional areas of the state. I’m looking forward to exploring Victoria’s many writing communities.



DO YOU HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS?



Yes. Publishers regularly refer people to Writers Victoria who may need to do some more work on their manuscripts before they’re ready for publication. In addition to our workshops and courses, we also provide mentoring and manuscript assessments to help people develop their skills and their work.





HOW DO YOU SEE GLOBAL PUBLISHING IN GENERAL? POSITIVE?



It’s an interesting and uncertain time for global publishing, but I think the possibilities are very exciting.



WHAT’S YOUR VIEW ON E-BOOKS VERSUS TRADITIONAL BOOKS.



I think they both have their place and that we’ll reach a point where the two exist happily side by side. It makes me excited to wonder about the technologies we haven’t even dreamed of yet – and what they will mean for reading and writing in the future.



WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING UP AND COMING WRITERS?



The removal of gatekeepers and increase in digital platforms has democratised and opened up publishing, which is fantastic. The challenge now is to make your voice heard in amongst the plethora of other writers’ work.



SHOULD WRITERS BECOME INVOLVED IN SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES? HOW?



Writers have a great opportunity to help shape and reflect the world around us: through articles, fiction or even poetry. If you care about something, write about it. Build yourself an audience through a blog or social media. Like-minded people will actively seek out your work and you can help share a different story with the mainstream.



WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK AWARDS? WORTHWHILE, OR A CLUB?



Most writers don’t get the opportunity to write full time. The prizes that come from Book Awards can give them the chance to do that. Even being longlisted can make the difference to someone’s career by helping them demonstrate the interest and the value in their work. Prizes for emerging writers and unpublished manuscripts are particularly important in digging up the next generation of Australian writers.




ANY VIEWS ON SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS?



I love it when writers get out there and do it for themselves. There are so many different ways to get published now, and so many different ideas of what a ‘book’ can be.



WHAT WOULD BE THE LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?



Hopefully, the last line of my (future) autobiography: A life lived loud and well – with no regrets.



ANY INNOVATIVE IDEAS YOU CAN PASS ON?



Twitter gets a lot of bad press for the sort of ‘this is what I had for lunch’ posts you can find there, but there are thousands of online creative communities and conversations going on that can be great for writers to get involved in. Follow Writers Victoria or tinylittlepoems to check them out.



HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SUMMARISE YOUR LIFE IF YOU HAD THREE MINUTES TO LIVE?



I’ve been happy. I’ve been lucky. I have loved my life and work.







Clancy's comment: Thanks for sparing the time, Kate. Good luck in your new role. It's an important one. I would encourage any aspiring writer to contact any organisation that assists writers. You need all the help you can get when you start out. Do the research, put in the hard yards and learn from those who have already invented the wheel.  Kate Larsen has ... that's why she is where she is.




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