Profile: Kaye Spence

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Kathryn Kaye Spence and I am known as Kaye. My career was as a neonatal nurse and I work at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney. I have worked there for nearly 40 years and have just retired to concentrate on creative writing.

I had a successful career and received an Order of Australia (AM) for my contributions to the specialty, education, and professional organisations.

I love to travel and have travelled to most continents except South America. I have spent considerable time in London, Cyprus, and Paris.

I am married to a philosopher, and we live in Newtown, Sydney.

What draws you to writing?
I love the idea of creating ideas and sharing these with potential readers. I feel as though I have something to say. I find it rewarding to see my ideas come to life on the page.

I have many professional publications in journals; these are mostly science based.

What I like about creative writing is the exploration of ideas, the creation of characters, and getting a message across.

So tell us about your book?
I have written two books that are vastly different.

In the first book – A Personal History of Neonatal Nursing – I was encouraged to write this by two nurses who are relatively new to neonatal nursing and Australia.

I was talking to them about the history, and they were not aware of the developments in the care of sick newborn babies but also how nurses became empowered to champion the course of science and development.

I was planning to retire in a year or so and saw this as an opportunity to leave a legacy of my experience in living and being part of the history.

I surprised myself when I sat and wrote the book from my reflection of the history supplemented by a few scratchy notes.

It took me about six months. I chose to use photographs throughout so I could acknowledge certain people.

The second book, Living Out Loud, I wrote with two other women whom I met in Paris at a memoir writing workshop. Vicki Geraghty, Ruth Morgan, and I became the Rue Berger Writers – this was the street in Paris of the apartment hotel where we stayed during the course. This is an epistolary memoir of our time in Paris and other life events.

Following questions will be in reference to Living out Loud.

Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from the pandemic!

When we returned to Australia from Paris our intention was to return to France the following year (2000).

However, the pandemic put a stop to that.

We started to write to each other, sharing memories of Paris and travel. This rolled on to memories of our lives, childhood, relationships, friendships, personal stories, and travel.

We used many references to literature throughout and included a bibliography in the final book.

The genre of the memoir was not originally our intention and the epistolary memoir of using letters had an appeal as we could all combine our memoirs so to speak.

What’s the story you’re trying to tell?
We wanted to tell a story of friendship that develops between strangers. As we were all women of a similar age and ideas, we found we had a lot in common but at the same time, we were very different women. We also wanted to show the power of the pen or the written word.

And what do you hope your readers draw from your writing?
We would like to think that other women or men could be inspired by our book to seek out their ambitions and take a risk and go to Paris, or anywhere and fulfill a dream.

We also hope the readers appreciate friendship and how that can develop from writing and sharing stories and ideas.

What’s your writing process?
We had a unique process as we were three authors who didn’t really know each other when we started. We also had different writing styles.

We decided to just write our letters naturally and not try to conform to a particular style. We each wrote when we felt like we had something to say. Often, this was in response to one of the letters one of us had written.

When we felt we had finished (although it never really finishes) I took on the role of putting them in sequence and then we all sat and agreed – of course we had to make sure there was consistency and the content flowed. Now that was a challenge.

We got together twice in person to work on this. We chose Canberra as it was a central location for the three of us. It was not Paris, but the warmth and friendship remained.

We selected about 20 photographs to include in the book – we wanted the readers to get a feel of Paris and share with us our stories. We all agreed on this – luckily as it did add to the overall expense of the final publication.

When we had a reasonable draft (version 6 or 7!) we sent it to a couple of beta readers (this was through AJ Collins in Melbourne). Their reports were so helpful and encouraging. There were some criticisms that we took on board. One of the most encouraging statements was, ‘If this was under my Christmas tree I would be delighted.’  This was a very encouraging response as this was where we saw the market.

We then sent it to a professional editor. This was essential as she picked up details we had missed and advised us on the use of foreign words and terminology. She kept the uniqueness of the writing style of each author which we wanted.

All of us had done various writing courses and we were aware of the challenges of getting our work published. We decided to go with an Independent publisher as we wanted to get it out as soon as possible as we felt the content was timely.

We chose Busybird Publishing as I had worked with them on my previous book. I found them on the web after a thorough search of many and they appeared to have a strength and personal approach which is what I wanted.

Living Out Loud was finally published in December 2022. The process was were excellent as we were constantly receiving useful feedback.

For three authors our biggest challenge came on deciding on the graphics for the cover – we had different ideas but knew we wanted a white background and spine. We had crawled through bookshops looking at what stood out on the shelves.

So white it was.

Tell us one thing about your book, or your writing process, that nobody else knows.
Sending letters to each other kept the motivation going for all of us as we waited for each other’s letters every few weeks.

What are you working on next?
We want to keep the Rue Berger Writers going and hopefully build a name amongst readers. We are looking at writing about particular topics or themes and each author will put their own unique interpretation on the topic. We think (but who knows?) we may have another book from Paris, or London, or Rome?

When readers talk about you as an author, what do you hope they’re saying?
The Rue Berger Writers manage to have creative magic, three very different women who managed to create a seamless whole from their letters to each other. Their voices are distinctive, but always part of the combined work. Their journeys are separate but they connect and cross over and enrich each other’s path. 

Any advice for other writers?
When you have an idea stick with it. If you are writing as a two or three be sure you all know where you want your story to go. Have fun as this is what shows in the writing, we believe.

Where can we get your book?
Our book was launched at Better Read Than Dead bookstore in Newtown, Sydney. It is available there and at some other stores.

However, primarily it is available in both print and e-book on Amazon etc.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *