I was born in Melbourne in 1972 and, apart from some time in Rome, Shanghai and London, I have always lived here. I went to progressive community schools and the University of Melbourne, where I got an Honours degree in literature and classics. I had jobs as a dish-pig in a café, in a patisserie, as a hair model and in a bookshop before turning to an unexpected career in heroin addiction and, a little later, as a professional sex worker.
I had quit both by the time I turned thirty and after living in Rome for a year, and teaching English in Shanghai for several months, got a diploma in Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT, where I started working on a draft of a memoir.
In My Skin: A memoir (Text Publishing), about my years as a heroin addict and prostitute in Melbourne, was first published in 2005 and re-issued in 2007. It was shortlisted for awards in Australia, and has been published in the USA, the UK, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Brazil, France and Italy. It was part of the Books Alive Great Read promotion in 2006, and voted by readers one of the State Library of Victoria’s top 5 titles in ‘The Summer Read’ program in 2007. My family and I featured in an episode of Australian Story (ABC) in 2005 about my experiences as a heroin addict.
Writing In My Skin gave me a new career: that of a full-time professional writer. I’m now well known for my fortnightly column in the Saturday Age newspaper, featuring my preoccupations, fancies, observations and dilemmas. My short stories have appeared in several anthologies including Readings and Writings (Readings), Some Girls Do (Allen & Unwin), Sleepers Almanac 2007, Thanks for the Mammaries (Penguin) and The Big Issue. I also write a lot of freelance criticism, with reviews in The Age, Australian Book Review, Sydney Morning Herald, Weekend Australian. And my essays and shorter non-fiction have featured in The Monthly, Australian Author, Cleo and New Woman, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. My short play ‘Waiting it out’ was commissioned and performed by the White Whale theatre company in 2008.
I’m regularly asked to speak at writers festivals, libraries and private events, and really enjoy getting to expand on my writing and meet readers. I now have a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from RMIT. I was the incredibly fortunate recipient of the CAL Second Book Fellowship at Varuna, the Writers’ House, and in 2008 I went on an Australia Council for the Arts residency to the B. R. Whiting Library in Rome for six months.
In 2011 I embarked on that most perilous and rewarding of writerly tangents: teaching creative writing (in my case, non-fiction), at RMIT in the same grad dip course that I originally did as a student. I’ll be doing it again in 2012 and enjoying the remarkable talents and lessons of my students.
My new book, a follow-up to In My Skin, is called The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days and was published in October 2010. It came out in a b-format and e-book in 2011 and will also be published in the Czech Republic and Brazil.
I now write full-time, go to the gym for the good of my upper back (very important for writers), love to cook and am housekeeper to a perfect orange and grey tortoiseshell cat.
PS I have a Facebook page, embarrassingly but necessarily called ‘Official Page of Kate Holden‘ where I update on events, press and general persiflage.