King’s alumni came together in community and conversation for the inaugural Alumni Talks event in December with Kate Cayley, BA(Hons)’01, as the featured guest. A writer of fiction, plays and poetry, Kate discussed her path to becoming a writer—generating a lively and engaging discussion with her account.
As an undergraduate at King’s, Kate was heavily involved in theatre and directed several KTS productions. After graduation, Kate and some fellow King’s alumni started a theatre company: together, they spent a decade creating, directing and writing plays that toured extensively.
“It’s not a bad education in writing—to write for theatre. Especially if you’re doing so in a context where you are collaborating and working collectively—there are a lot of voices in the room,” Kate explained, contrasting the process of writing for theatre with the more independent process of authoring books.
Next came a stint as writer-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, where she worked until 2017, while continuing to write poetry and fiction. Though Kate continues to work as a playwright, mostly with Halifax-based Zuppa Theatre, her recent work is a totally different experience from traditional, black-box theatre.
“In the last couple of years, Zuppa have been doing this immersive, site-specific, really technology-heavy work. You’ll follow clues on your iPhone that will take you to different secret locations!”
It’s an approach to theatre that has gained in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“It’s been really interesting because Zuppa was already creating in a mode that is somewhat adaptable to COVID-19, so there’s been a lot of discussion about how to keep thinking about creating theatre work that’s public and available to a live audience.”
iPhones aside, Kate emphasizes that the most important aspect of theatre is bringing people together in person, not virtually. She hopes that theatre will return to its traditional format in the future: “Envisioning a world where we are all just talking to each other in our own lonely rooms is not a good idea!”
Kate is currently working on her fifth book, a short story collection. Her 2014 collection of short stories, How You Were Born, won the Trillium Book Award and was also a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction.
“I really love the short story form… you really get to consider a very specific situation in great clarity of focus and then you leave it,” Kate explains. A number of stories in the new collection are linked, with recurring characters. “There are some stories about the same character, and then there are a number of characters that are peripheral and there are tiny clues so that you can connect them.”
Asked what advice she would give an aspiring writer, Kate has words of caution as well as encouragement.
“To someone who is thinking about beginning—it will take a really long time … you need to be reading all the time, you need to be writing all the time, and you need to be ambitious but also modest. But have some faith that if you are devoting yourself to writing and writing obsessively, it will appeal to someone,” she explains. “And the amazing thing about writing that isn’t like other arts is that it’s not very expensive to pursue—all you need is a library card!”
Thanks to Kate for joining us and for sharing her journey to become a writer.
Our next Alumni Talks event will take place on Wednesday, January 13 from 12-1 p.m. AST via Zoom, with food writer, recipe developer and host of The Food Podcast, Lindsay Cameron Wilson, BA’95, BJ’99. Lindsay’s new book, FOOD + REFLECTION, made with photographer Justine Barnhart, is an intimate collection of 20 recipes photographed through her kitchen window during isolation.
If you’re an aspiring food blogger, interested in creating your own hit podcast or simply seeking some new year inspiration in the kitchen, this is the event for you! Join Lindsay, King’s alumni across the globe and current students for this unique networking opportunity. To register for this event, please email email@example.com.