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Koraly Dimitriadis on self-care and writing fearlessly

A portrait of Koraly Dimitriadis.

Poet, writer and performer Koraly Dimitriadis is the author of the poetry collections Just Give Me the Pills and Love and F*ck Poems.

Koraly’s theatre show I Say the Wrong Things All the Time premiered at La Mama in 2016. She was awarded the UNESCO City of Literature Residency in Krakow for her debut fiction manuscript in 2019.

Her first short story collection, The Mother Must Die, was recently acquired by Puncher & Wattmann, and will be available in mid-2024.

Prior to her workshop Conquering Fear as a Writer, Koraly spoke with membership officer Gabriella Munoz about self-care and the power of writing.

You’ve written fearlessly about fibroids, IUD and mental health for national and international publications. In your piece about fibroids, published in Shondaland, and in your piece on Today about mental illness you also advocate for future generations and give voice to many women whose health problems have traditionally been dismissed. How do you practice self-care before and after writing such pieces?

I didn’t in the past, but in more recent times I’ve learnt about self-care and how to look after myself. If I am getting anxious, I meditate or exercise, log off from social media for a few days. But the most important thing is to have really good boundaries with people, both people I know and don’t know (who comment on social media.) That means that if I don’t want to comment further about a point raised with me which has upset someone else, I just say that and end the conversation. I never put any obligations on myself to do so. 

Reclaiming one’s life and identity is a topic that seems to appear often in your work. You’ve written about leaving your job as a computer programmer to become a writer and performer, and about your divorce. How has writing changed your relationship with yourself and with others?

I have learnt who I am through my writing. I didn’t know who I really was before because I was trapped in a cultural bubble and just did what was expected of me. Becoming my true self, and being empowered in my own right, has ricocheted through my life and affected every single one of my relationships (sometimes even professional ones). I used to berate myself for it, but now I say to people, ‘if you don’t like it there’s the door – bye bye.’

It’s been over ten years since you first published the poetry collection Love and F*ck Poems. It’s been translated to Greek and republished many times. What’s your relationship with this book today? Did you ever expect it would get a life of its own and be so celebrated because of the topics it explores?

No, I didn’t expect it to still sell today. I didn’t expect the zine to be proclaimed recently a bestseller in BlueStockings, a very popular feminist bookshop in New York.

I’ve outgrown the poems myself, but I still think the book has relevance. The truth is that it hasn’t had a big publisher behind it. If that were to happen, that might increase its success even further. Let’s see!

Your short story collection The Mother Must Die will be published next year. Congratulations! The title sounds borrowed from the chorus of a Greek tragedy, but that may not be the case. What can we expect from the book?

The stories are actually very dramatic. I see the stories as a TV series, each one as an episode.

They are very controversial stories, and I am a bit nervous about putting them out there, but I have to be brave as this is the natural progression for me – from poetry to short stories, and then, hopefully one day, my novel will be published.

With these stories I want to shake things up in the working-class diaspora. It’s time for the feminist voice to be heard more strongly. That’s my aim for the book.

Performing is also big part of your career. Do you think that performing has influenced your writing and has given you more tools to write fearlessly?

I think my writing comes alive on stage, and that is the space where I really push myself to get behind my writing. It’s easier to write and hide behind your screen, but performing adds another level of fearlessness to the writing. It’s another dimension you are trying to break through – the physical barrier.

Without spoiling your workshop, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to writers who want to conquer their fears when facing the blank page?

There is always a price to pay for fearless writing, but you do it because you can’t NOT do it. Accepting this truth is the first step in writing fearlessly.

Places are still available in Koraly’s workshop Conquering Fear as a Writer. Members of Writers Victoria receive up to 37% off the full price of all clinics, workshops, seminars and courses. Writers experiencing financial and social barriers to developing their skills are encouraged to apply to The Writers Victoria Fund for subsidised attendance at workshops and clinics.

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