Writer-in-residence – Gemma Killen

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be getting to know our four writers-in-residence a bit better, before we publish their first pieces for you to dig into! Today, meet Gemma Killen.


Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m into cats, crafts and queers. Also, a little bit of alliteration. And a cup of tea. I’m a PhD candidate and a sessional academic in gender studies at the ANU. My thesis happily marries two of my favourite topics (queer women and the internet) to explore how queer women talk about identity, community and their bodies in online spaces. When I was in early primary school, I wrote in an assignment that my dad worked in a very tall office building and that my mum made really good cake. Afterwards, Mum and I had to have a long conversation about feminism and how she also went to work every day in an office. I still think the ability to bake a really good cake is more important than working in a very tall office building.

What drew you to apply for the residencies?

A writing residency with such a great team seemed too good an opportunity to pass up! The chance to get some solid mentoring and good feedback on my writing is actually quite rare and exciting. I also really enjoy the content on Feminartsy and the ways in which critical debate is woven through beautiful and poetic writing. I also enjoy the breadth of the content in the journal and how it suggests that feminist writing doesn’t just have to be about gender – that feminist critique and thought (and feminists!) belong everywhere, even in fiction. Valuing and engaging with the voices of feminists is important to me and it seems to be at the top of Feminartsy’s priority list as well.

What would you like to get out of the program this year?

Aside from the opportunity to work with/for a publication that I respect and enjoy, I feel that this program would allow me the space and support to become a more holistic writer. I want to build confidence as a writer that can write creatively and critically across a variety of formats. As a PhD student, the opportunities to expand my creativity are rare though precious. Further, the life and career of a PhD candidate depends on producing publishable writing on a regular and frequent basis. The chance to receive feedback from editors about my work would be fantastic as that kind of critique can be hard to come by in the beginning of a writing career, especially in academia. My hope is that the support and structure offered by Feminartsy through this program will help me develop a clearer picture of myself as a writer and give me the experience on which to build a more fulfilling career as an academic and as an author.

What’s the best book you read in 2015?

Aside from academic and theory books (such as Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online), my favourite book was probably Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. The collection of essays in the book beautifully explores what it means to live everyday as a feminist in an accessible and enjoyable way. Does that count as a non-academic book? Writing a thesis doesn’t leave enough time for reading fiction!

What do you like about living in Canberra?

Let’s be totally honest – my favourite thing about living in Canberra is going to Sweet Bones for cinnamon buns. Beyond stuffing my face, the people are what make this city so excellent. Everyone imagines that Canberra is boring and full of public servants but in fact I think a lot of the people who move here do so to achieve something specific, which makes for a passionate, warm and engaging community. The events and opportunities here are plentiful and the people are just so interesting in so many different ways. I’m also a big fan of winter so I was always going to love Canberra.

What’s a topic you would like to see more written about?

In a purely selfish way – I want to see more stories about queer women. I want those stories to be celebrations too, of our everyday lives and of our communities. Frankly, I’m tired of looking for myself in tragedies. I want adventure stories and hilarious stories and stories about our relationships and I don’t want anyone to die at the end, thanks.

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