Maree Kimberley is a writer from Brisbane, Australia. She has published feature articles, short stories, flash fiction and a children’s book, Curse of Fire, which combined speculative fiction and magic realism.
Her short stories have appeared in print and online anthologies across a range of genres including literary fiction, magic realism, speculative fiction and horror.
She is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, is actively involved in the writing industry as a submissions reader for a speculative fiction magazine and is a judge in the horror category for Australia’s Aurealis Writing Awards.
She has studied creative writing at university level through her undergraduate degree, masters degree and PhD.
Throughout her studies she has focused on young adult fiction, in particular young adult speculative fiction.
She has an eclectic range of research and writing interests, including speculative fiction, neuroscience and posthumanism, and often posts about writing on Twitter.
1. How Did You Know You Needed to Come on a Retreat?
I’ve been to Varuna House, in the Blue Mountains before. But this was a treat for myself as a reward for finishing my PHD, in Creative Writing with Queensland University of Technology. I’d been learning French so it made sense to come to France. I saw La Muse, thought, this sounds great, just decided to go. It sounded really gorgeous. I loved the fact that I could do three weeks here. The longer time period really appealed to me, particularly if coming from the other side of the world. Also liked that it was unstructured and could meet other writers and artists, which is a big part of the experience. I love how it’s a completely different climate, experience than what I am used to.
2. What Is the Difference Between La Muse and a Writing Course to You?
The best thing for me about La Muse is that it gives you space and time. I’ve done a lot of courses, heaps of short courses and my undergrad degree, my masters and my PhD are all in creative writing. For example, at Varuna House, I went on a professional manuscript development week, we had feedback sessions on an existing draft of something. But here I wanted something really different. I felt this would be a really good space to explore whatever would come out. The fact that it was such a different space to what I am used to really appealed. You can do a lot of courses but the time comes when you need to sit your butt down and write. And that’s what you can really do here at La Muse without distractions. It’s quiet and peaceful, it’s a great little village, looking out over the mountains, it really gave me the time and space I needed to sit and write.
3. Can You Give Us One Word to Describe Your Retreat?
4. What’s Been Your Eureka/Transformative Muse Moment?
I know where walnuts come from! No. When I came I was working on two projects, one I was half-way through, and for the other I wanted to just sit down and write what came out. And I did that, I wrote about 28,000 words but then on the weekend I just had this thing about changing perspective and I think coming across from the other side of the world and changing perspective in that way helped me come to that point. And that gave me a way to work out how to frame the story that I probably wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t removed myself from my everyday life.
5. What was the one thing you didn’t pack that you wish you had?
6. How Do You Know You Are a Writer?
When you look at a point in your life and find yourself thinking ‘I might never get a novel published or make money from this. Do I still want to do this?’ If, the answer is ‘yes’, then you are. It’s that impossibility of stopping. I’ve been writing on and off for most of my life but I didn’t really get into it until my late 30s, and I had a friend who was a poet, and he said to me, if you’re going to be a writer just call yourself a writer, and say that’s what you are and that’s what you do. I think it is really about naming yourself as an artist, as a writer, and making that your intent of what your life is about.
7. How Does One Be A Mother Who Writes?
Being prepared and disciplining yourself so that when you get spare time to write, you take it. Call yourself out on procrastination. Discipline and flexibility. My kids are adults now though when I started writing they were still quite young. You really do have to fit the writing between caring for your kids when they’re little. Mine were quite late sleepers (yay!) so I was able to write before they woke up. I balanced part-time work with uni study and the kids, and just fit it in around them, like when they were at swimming lessons I could sit and write while they were swimming. You have to take the opportunities to write where they arise, and learn to write when the opportunity is there.
8. What is Creativity to You? What is Your Creative Process?
My creative process is generally just to shut up the inner editor and let the words come out. It takes a lot of practice to do that but that’s how I work. For example when I came here I just sat and wrote “stuff”, I didn’t worry about what it was, what it was going to be, how the structure would work or anything like that. I just wrote the words, and then the other stuff comes later. I don’t structure or anything like that until I’m well into a project. You have to be disciplined and you have to turn up to the page, that’s what creativity is about. Don’t be scared of the blank page. Write down anything rather than nothing.
9. What is Inspiration or Inspirational to You? How Do You Live an Inspired Life?
I get a lot of inspiration from art. I went to art school after I left high school but I wasn’t particularly good at visual art, although I enjoyed it. Now I get a lot of inspiration from looking at art, I love to go to galleries and museums. I prefer to go alone, to me they’re almost like my church. Also from everyday life, listening to what people say on the bus, or around.
10. What Advice Would You Give To a Young Writer
I know it’s hard to have confidence in your own work. Even at this point – and I’ve been writing for quite a while – you always go through periods where you’ll write something and think, that’s great, then later you’ll go back and read the same thing and think, that’s so bad. But it’s about having confidence in your own work and understanding that not everyone is going to love what you do. They’re just not. There’s certain types of writing I don’t read because it doesn’t do anything for me, that doesn’t mean it’s not great writing or that writing doesn’t inspire or do something for other people. You’ve got to write what’s important to you and not worry too much about what other people think.