Lest she appears to exaggerate, Kate Richards is careful when she says that RMIT’s PWE course changed her life.
‘Up until then, my life was medicine and clinical research, which was fabulous and a stable career, yet there was a massive part of my life that felt empty and grey,’ she says. ‘I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to go as a writer, but knew there was a force in me, where giving it a red-hot go was essential for my evolvement as a human.’
Kate gained something as a writer from every subject she took. Two subjects in particular were seminal. Di Websdale-Morrissey was her mentor, her source of encouragement and hope. In Di’s class, Kate started writing Madness: a memoir. Then Toni Jordan taught her the tools of fiction to bring a true story to life.
PWE opened up a whole world of discussing creative work in a positively critical way, which was entirely necessary for where Kate was about to go…
‘It was kind of like coming out. No one in class knew I had a mental illness and it was my turn to workshop. I didn’t sleep the night before – it felt so important that this story be told, yet I didn’t know if it would resonate and I was scared about the stigma.’
Kate’s first stint at workshopping presented the first couple of pages of Madness as it is now published. Her efficacy as a writer felt like it hinged on people’s responses. ‘After I finished reading, there was dead silence for about ten, fifteen seconds. I would not have been surprised if people walked out. But the overall response a supportive: “Wow, there’s really something here.”’
Kate’s proud of how the memoir has influenced mental health in Australia in terms of professional practice, the way family interact with unwell loved ones and people manage their own illness. But her personal joy comes from publishing her novel Fusion. ‘Probably since the age of four or five, it was my life dream to write long-form fiction.’
Find out more about Kate here.
This profile was written and researched by Ann Bolch from A Story To Tell.