Kate Orson is a freelance writer from England and lives in Basel, Switzerland, with her husband and daughter. She studied creative writing but to date, has not been able to finish the novels she starts. Her non-fiction parenting guide Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children is due for release in the autumn and with the release of this book, Kate has been inspired to return to fiction writing.
Have you always been a scribbler? What are your early memories of writing?
Yes. I can remember aged five that sometimes in the school holidays my Dad would take me into work with him. I can remember writing a story on the computer there, and as those were the days before laptops and iPhones, it was very exciting. In my teenage years I became more sure I wanted to be a writer, and I journalled a lot to help me through those turbulent times.
You have a Masters in Creative Writing. Tell us about studying; how did you find it, what did you take from it?
Studying creative writing was wonderful. In one of our first sessions we had to write our own autobiography, and I can remember struggling to even call myself a writer. It helped me take my writing much more seriously and to see myself as a professional. I know there are a lot of people that question whether you can really learn to write on a creative writing course, and some who think the writers all come out the same. But that’s not what I found with my Masters at The University Of Glasgow. Instead it was a place where we could write our stories, and get feedback and support to make them the best they could be. Luckily this was not a course with a big long reading list, and prescribed assignments. Everyone was on their own writing path, and the course simply fostered our natural creativity.
You have a parenting book coming out in the Autumn. Tell us about this?
When I was pregnant, I was reading and thinking a lot about being a parent, partly because I went through periods in my life when I was depressed, and so I couldn’t take it for granted that children naturally grow up happy and well-adjusted. I came across the idea that crying is actually a healing process, and that sometimes, babies, children, (and adults too!) cry not because they actually have a need in that moment, but because they are healing from stress and upset.
Knowing this was a great help to me. When my daughter was a baby in those moments when I had met all her needs and she was still crying, and knowing there was a reason behind all those tantrums was really helpful too.
I wanted to share this important, relatively unknown information with parents, and how often when you’re dealing with behaviour challenges, it’s likely your child simply needs you to stop distracting them or trying to ‘fix’ their feelings, but simply to be with them and listen. My book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children is all about that.
How do you balance writing with parenting – do you have a writing space you can go to?
My daughter is not in school yet, so I tend to get up very early in the morning while she is still sleeping, and I have a few hours each week when she’s at her playgroup. Luckily my husband is a teacher, and a writer too, so in the holidays we divide the time between us, and I get a lot done then. As we live in a small flat, I love to go to cafes. I think I have probably already spent the advance for my book on teas!
Do you have a writing routine?
I try to write for at least an hour or two a day. I’m a bit of a writing addict, and I start to feel like something is missing if I don’t write for a few days.
Your long term goal it to be a novelist. What sort of novelist do you want to be and and tell us how you think you might make this happen?
Oooh thanks for asking about my novel writing! I’ve been trying to write novels for at least 15 years, but I have never managed to finish one. Life was always changing, and my style was always evolving, so I kept starting from scratch. I was also drawn to sharing ideas that help us live happier lives. That feels so important too
On some level I keep restarting the same old story. There’s a girl who lives by the sea who writes songs. Now she has a baby, and she’s a single parent, a little lonely and isolated, and unlucky in love. She’s trying not to go crazy, and she’s trying to rebuild her identity. Before her life was about drinking, and partying, but now she needs to take care of a little one. I start the bare bones of the story, but then I get stuck with the editing and crafting.
Right now, I’m blogging a lot, and getting out there on social media, because there’s a scary statistic that only a quarter of books make back their advance from the publisher. I really want to make sure my book does well! I think it’s possible that if I could set up a schedule for blogging a few times a week I could dedicate the rest of my time to novel writing. I think I’ll do that once I feel safe that when Tears Heal goes out into the world, there will be people there to read it.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Yes in the past. I had a short story published by a literary magazine called The Eildon Tree in Scotland. It was really exciting to see myself in print!
Do you get to mix with other writers? You live in Switzerland. Is there a writing community there?
Yes. I’ve just been catching up with some of my writing friends here. When I was working on my book I really didn’t have much spare time, and focused only on the writing. Now I’m thinking about novel writing again, I have reconnected to a writing group in Basel called Thin Raft. And in Geneva they have a big monthly writer’s workshop. One of my old friends from my Glasgow course lives in Geneva actually!
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Yes, I have, and what I found was the best cure was to listen to what my unconscious really wanted to say. I had it really badly when I was about 25. I was trying to write novels, and felt like my head was going to explode. I suddenly began to realise, that I had to let go of writing a novel, that there were things I needed to process about my own life, through autobiographical writing. That led me on a path that didn’t feel entirely like my choice, but I’ve ended up with a published book that I think will help many people. Now back to my novel!
What do you like to read?
I’m currently reading Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish, which is just wonderful. So many fantastic insights into parenting in our modern world, all beautifully told. What I like about it is it’s easy to read, and is just perfect for exhausted parents who don’t have a great concentration span, but yet want to read something ‘literary’.
I must have only read one novel since my daughter was born. Somehow I find it very hard to let go of life, and parenting, and escape. So I read a lot of non-fiction, right now it’s books about blogging, and twittering, and how to be a genuine person on social media. Life is so busy right now I find it hard to read simply for pleasure, so I read more for ideas, and information.
LadyNicci comment: I really like Kate’s honesty here – that the desire to write is so strong, but it doesn’t always flow in the way we expect or want. Many writers publish a non-fiction book first and go on to write their novels. Perhaps we need the validation that yes, we CAN write and publish a book first, before taking on the mammoth task that is a novel. Also, there may be safety in non-fiction – a certain truth that we don’t always know is in our fiction writing. Kate believes in the therapy and healing of writing and I think she’s right – many of us take a calmness from our work. For whatever reason, Kate was led to write her parenting book first, which will go on to help thousands of others. I’m sure that her novels, when they are finished, will bring the same joy.
How I write is a blog post series published on Sundays on www.ladynicci.com. The posts aim to give a voice to writers, published, unpublished and everywhere in between, to help and encourage other writers. If you would like to take part email firstname.lastname@example.org with How I Write in the subject line.