Up Close With: Kathryn Koromilas
The sunshine in our Zoom screens, Kathryn — or KK — is no stranger to most of our patrons. She’s the talent behind The Artist’s Way and Big Magic groups, the co-host of the critique sessions, a leading light at open mic, and she even hosts Writers’ Hour when Ma & Pa can’t make it. Her signature bright colours and big smile are everywhere, but how much do we really know about KK? We put her in the hot seat this week.
- Kathryn Koromilas (aka 🦄 KK 🦄 )
- Based in a wee cottage in the lowlands of the Scots.
- We’ll put the rest of this in her own words…
Would you like to divulge your age? (No pressure!)
Oscar Wilde once said that “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age.” So, what do I do now? I’m 51.
What do you write, in general?
I write fiction, er, autofiction. I write poetry.
I write occasional newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, and notes to myself, lists, lots of lists.
Over the years, I’ve written on everything from philosophy and books to Greek travel and jazz musicians, to coffee beans, ouzo, and love.
As an educator, I’ve written lessons and courses on grammar and how-to-write essays.
My favourite thing to write is opinion. The NYT once published an opinion of mine. But I haven’t written one since.
Sometimes, I don’t write a thing.
What are you working on right now?
I am writing a book (currently known to me as “The Work”) about 17 men from my past…or something like that.
I’m also writing a book on “Journaling with the Stoics” in collaboration with Dr. Ranjini George who teaches Stoicism, mindfulness, and creative writing at the University of Toronto.
There’s a half-written crime novel, too.
Where and when do you write?
Current practice looks like this:
- 4–6am: On the floor of the living room. Pen and paper. Henrietta (my German Shepherd) by my side. This is the first draft of the current “The Work.”
- 8am: On Zoom with 300-odd other writers during the London Writers’ Salon Writers’ Hour. Depending on the day, I’ll also do another co-writing hour at 1pm and 4pm.
- Day: Depending on other commitments, I dictate or type up handwritten notes and edit.
- 7pm: Evening writing. Journal pages. Set the page up for the morning’s writing.
How do you write?
I write most things on a computer. I’m starting to dictate more and more, which I only sometimes like because I’m not a very linear thinker and that messes things up.
I write some things on paper with a fountain pen (currently, the paper is Clairefontaine and the pen is a blue Lamy Safari with Lamy T53 Crystal Ink). I sometimes write on a typewriter.
For the first time in years, I’m writing the first draft of a long work by hand on paper. Ever since I started typing, I’ve always resisted going back to pen and paper because it’s slower and also you have to then transfer to the computer anyway so it seemed like a waste of time.
But, now, I’m finding this so essential to the way I’m working with the new story. I do one of two things: write or read one of the three books I’ve chosen as guides/models.
This slow pace and quiet space invites me to stay with the writing for a long time and in this way the story is opening up to me in a way I haven’t experienced before.
I can’t backspace or delete so I have to keep writing forward, again and again, over and over, and I see the shape of the story emerging that way.
I then type up or dictate to the computer and by that stage the process is very different. Cerebral. Controlled. There’s an agenda.
Whereas with pen in hand, the whole body, intuition, it’s all involved in the process. It’s murky down there. There’s a sense of feeling through the darkness of the story to find the light; the point where the story meets the light.
That said, sometimes I just write in my head. And forget what I wrote there.
Why do you write?
Writing helps me pay attention. Writing helps me think. It is me, thinking quietly, on paper. I’m not a talker. I’m very slow at forming ideas, at articulating ideas. So I have to write, otherwise I sound wobbly. And I like asking lots of questions and the only person who’ll listen to that sort of thing is the blank page. So, you see, I have to write.
What inspires your creativity?
I didn’t know the answer to this until quite recently: It’s faith and duty.
Faith in the practice of making things and making sense of things; faith that my writing practice is important; it’s meaningful and it makes meaning.
Duty in the sense that I have been given the tools and a role to play; I’m a writer. With that comes the duty to write.
I came to understand the faith bit from Julia Cameron. I recently came to understand the duty bit through Stoicism and specifically during a conversation with Sharon Lebell who, 25 years ago, wrote a classic Stoic text, The Art of Living, which pretty much influenced the modern Stoicism movement.
What’s your favourite book?
My favourite book is all the books. Every single book ever written is my favourite book. They’re all the one book, really. And they’re my favourite!
What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?
That creativity has to be the most important and urgent thing in the world for me; that creativity must also not be important at all.
What’s the one thing you would tell other/aspiring writers?
Write as if you’ll never be published, as if you’ll never be read. Write for yourself. Write because you’re curious about something; there’s something you have to work out. Listen to what that thing is; don’t try to work out someone else’s something. (Sounding very David Whyte there.)
How can we discover more about you and your work?
I guess start by Googling my name. I’m not sure how I feel about Google curating my public identity, but there you have it, me.
Maybe also visit Practical Paths to Flourishing, a conference I’m co-organising which is the first-ever women’s conference on Stoicism. Stoicism informs my creative practice and I’m speaking on the conference creativity panel.
And also maybe have a listen to a new podcast I’m hosting called The Stoic Salon where I chat with guests about life, love, work, play, the universe, and Stoicism. And follow my Stoic alter on Instagram and Twitter.
You might like to listen to a podcast chat about a story I was commissioned to write, The Happy House.
KK is part of the Stay at Home! Literary Festival, starting Monday 26 April. She’s doing two workshops and daily live meditative writing on Insta. Find out more, here.