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Amelia Lester is the editor of Good Weekend. For the first episode of 2017, I could think of few more qualified guests than Amelia Lester. Penmanship is all about exploring the gritty details of how to build a life around working with words, and Amelia has done just that at the very highest level of magazine publishing. After graduating from Harvard University, she worked at a literary agency for a year and then achieved her dream of working at The New Yorker, which has long been regarded as one of the leading homes for longform journalism in the English-speaking world. Amelia stayed there for ten years in various editorial roles before returning to her home country to take the reins at Good Weekend, a magazine she loved to read while growing up in Australia. In early March, I met with Amelia at the Fairfax Media building in Sydney. I have written for Good Weekend since 2014, and for Amelia since October, so this episode marks the second time I've interviewed a current editor of mine on Penmanship, following last year's chat with Erik Jensen of The Saturday Paper. My conversation with Amelia touches on what makes a great magazine feature story; her philosophy about how editors should manage their schedules to spend less time at the desk, and more time out in the world; how she began working at The New Yorker as a fact-checker and then became Managing Editor by the time she was 26; why manners are important in journalism; how she learnt to manage her email inbox, and why she is leaving Good Weekend in April after a little over a year in the role. Amelia Lester is the editor of Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers. Amelia grew up in Sydney and graduated from Harvard with a BA in English and American Literature and Language. She spent ten years at The New Yorker, where she was first a fact-checker and was appointed managing editor at the age of 26. Later on she relaunched the Goings On About Town section of the magazine, served as executive editor of, and wrote the "Tables for Two" restaurants column. In between she was also a features editor at The Paris Review, a New York literary quarterly. Amelia has worked at Good Weekend, Australia's premier home of long form journalism, since February 2016, and relaunched the magazine in June of that year. She appears regularly on television and radio as a political commentator and is a board member of the Sydney Writers Festival.  Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Amelia Lester on Twitter: @ThatAmelia Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Anne Summers is an author, journalist, editor, publisher and columnist. The fact that I need to use five adjectives to accurately describe her role in Australian writing culture speaks volumes about Anne's impact, influence and ability. To my knowledge, she is the first guest of Penmanship to appear on an Australian postage stamp, as part of a series celebrating Australian legends in 2011. Her career began with the publication of an ambitious and controversial book named Damned Whores and God's Police in 1975. Anne has written eight books so far, but it's the updated 2016 edition of that first title which brings her to Brisbane in late April for an event at Avid Reader bookstore. Before the 40th anniversary book launch at Avid, I met Anne at her hotel room in South Brisbane for a conversation which touches on how she became a contributing writer to Australian newspapers and radio while still a child; the difficult and lengthy process of writing Damned Whores and God's Police; how she made the transition from journalism to working for a prime minister – twice! – in 1983 and 1992; what makes a great magazine profile, and how she decided to launch her online magazine Anne Summers Reports after a disagreement with an editor at a major Australian magazine. Dr Anne Summers AO is a best-selling author and journalist with a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia, Europe and the United States. She is author of eight books, including the classic Damned Whores and God’s Police, first published in 1975. This bestseller was updated in 1994 and, again, in 2002 and stayed continuously in print until 2008. A new edition was published on International Women’s Day 2016. In 1975 she became a journalist, first on The National Times, then in 1979 was appointed Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and then the paper’s North American editor. In 1987 in New York she was editor-in-chief of Ms. – America’s landmark feminist magazine – and the following year, with business partner Sandra Yates bought Ms. and Sassy magazines in the second only women-led management buyout in US corporate history. In November 2012 she began publishing Anne Summers Reports, a lavish free digital magazine that promises to be ‘Sane, Factual, Relevant’ and which reports on politics, social issues, art, architecture and other subjects not covered adequately by the mainstream media. In September 2013, Anne launched her series of Anne Summers Conversations events with former prime minister Julia Gillard in front of a packed Sydney Opera House. In 1989 she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for her services to journalism and to women. In 2011, along with three other women, Anne was honoured as an Australian Legend with her image placed on a postage stamp. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Anne Summers on Twitter: @SummersAnne Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Kathleen Noonan is a journalist and weekly columnist at The Courier-Mail. For 13 years, she has written a column in the Saturday Courier-Mail named 'Last Word'. It's a blank canvas where she is tasked with writing one thousand words about whatever has caught her eye or piqued her interest out in the world that week. It seems no topic is too big or too small for this canvas: I've been reading her every Saturday for about six years, and that column is among the most consistently fascinating, moving and insightful pages I'll read all week. Besides being an eminently experienced and capable journalist, I have long wondered how Kathleen manages to write such wonderfully original material based only on her careful observations and analysis of herself and other people. It's a brilliant trick, and her name has been near the top of my list since I first conceived of using Penmanship as a vehicle to meet and interview my favourite Australian writers. I met Kathleen at her home in East Brisbane on a Monday morning in mid-March, where I was enthusiastically greeted by her white Jack Russell puppy, Basil, who was keen on playing with the stranger in his house while we chatted nearby Kathleen's writing desk. The sounds of suburbia were in chorus that morning, prompting her to shut the window and doors to avoid power tools and leaf blowers on a couple of occasions. Our conversation touches on how Kathleen manages to come up with fresh ideas for 'Last Word' each week; how she decided to write a column about the recent passing of her beloved greyhound, which prompted an unexpected flood of reader mail; what led her to seek out a job as a cadet reporter in North Queensland; how she handled the tricky task of performing 'death knocks', and the advice that she tends to give when aspiring journalists contact her. Kathleen Noonan is a Brisbane-based journalist and columnist.  She has written a weekly opinion column named 'Last Word' in Saturday’s Courier-Mail for 13 years. Raised on a farm amid paddocks of sugarcane in north Queensland, Kathleen did her early news reporting in the Mackay district. After reporting in South Africa through the dying years of apartheid and release of Nelson Mandela, and a stint travelling and writing in the UK, Kathleen returned home, working as a freelance journalist for publications including The Australian. She returned to The Courier-Mail as a news reporter, sub-editor, section head and senior features writer. Her weekly column explores everything from love, death, books, running, music, poetry, teachers, refugees and chooks. She is also chair of the Second Chance committee, the only charity in Australia that raises money exclusively for homeless women. It helps fund crisis accommodation for elderly women, young teenagers with babies, and at-risk women and children in Queensland’s domestic violence shelters. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at Brisbane Times. He was one of the original team recruited to work at Fairfax Media's new online news outlet when it was launched in 2007, and today he remains one of only a couple of reporters who has worked at Brisbane Times since its inception. Before that role, though, Tony has enjoyed a long career as a journalist in Queensland. I first met him about a year ago, when I sent an email to ask whether he'd be open to sharing one of his sources with me for a story I was working on. This type of request can go either way, as some journalists are extremely protective of their sources and wary of sharing with their workmates, let alone a freelancer like myself, but the fact that Tony welcomed me with open arms says a lot about his character. We met at his home in the inner-city suburb of West End on a Friday afternoon in March, when he and his Brisbane Times colleagues happened to be on strike for the day, in solidarity with their colleagues in Sydney and Melbourne, after Fairfax Media announced plans to cut 120 full-time equivalent jobs from newsrooms at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. We began by speaking about what these job losses will mean for consumers of Australian journalism, before moving on to discuss Tony's early interest in environmental sciences, and the link he has noticed between science and journalism; his early years working at The Queensland Times in Ipswich, where he saw the rise of an influential figure in Australian politics from up close; the character traits he has observed about the young reporters who excel in this business; why he lost the ability to speak for several months, and how he overcame this affliction; and how a long-running series of stories led to the funding of a major Queensland infrastructure project. Tony came to Fairfax Media and Brisbane Times after working at The Queensland Times in Ipswich where he worked as a reporter, chief of staff and deputy editor over 14 years. At Ipswich he started affairs with the Ipswich Motorway, southeast Queensland's population growth and how Brisbane and Ipswich needed to play nicely together. They are affairs which continue to this day, though he is yet to tell his wife and two daughters, who are more interested in netball, basketball, circus and the rebuilding of the Brisbane Lions. Tony is a cricket tragic who realised early in his career that being straight-driven for six was less than encouraging for a Brisbane swing bowler. It took a ceremonial hip and shoulder bump to end his career as a young ruck-rover spreadeagled along the boundary fence at Wests at Chelmer. He remembers The Stranglers and Xero at Festival Hall, The Birthday Party at Souths Leagues Club and the Royal Exchange Hotel when it was a Triple Zed venue. Dimly. Tony was born and still lives in Brisbane, went to Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Tony Moore on Twitter: @eastTMoore Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Katharine Murphy is political editor of Guardian Australia. Having spent more than two decades as a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, Katharine has earned a reputation as one of the nation's sharpest political analysts. While based in Canberra, she has worked as a reporter for The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and The Age, and more recently, she has been a part of Guardian Australia's team since the website launched in 2013. In addition to her daily reporting and editorial duties, Katharine also writes occasional longform essays for the Melbourne-based literary journal Meanjin. In late August, I spoke with Katharine before a live audience at the Canberra Writers Festival, whose theme in 2017 was "power, politics and passion". Our conversation at the festival touches on Katharine's approach to political reporting, which requires constant scepticism while avoiding cynicism as much as possible; how her mother's fiery passion for a Sydney Morning Herald columnist rubbed off on her at a young age; what she has observed about the cultural differences of working for three different media organisations in Fairfax, News Corp and The Guardian; what she has learned about the mechanics and logistics of live blogging political news with little time for coffee or bathroom breaks, and how she came to write an intimate and moving essay about the joys and sorrows of raising her daughter. Katharine Murphy has worked in Canberra's parliamentary gallery for more than 20 years, starting at The Australian Financial Review, where she was Canberra chief of staff from 2001 to 2004. In 2004, Katharine moved to The Australian as a specialist writer until 2006, when she became national affairs correspondent at The Age. In 2008, she won the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism, and has been a Walkley Award finalist twice: for digital journalism for her pioneering live politics blog, and for political commentary. She is a regular panelist on the ABC’s Insiders program, on ABC24’s The Drum, and Sky News Agenda. Katharine is Guardian Australia's political editor, and has worked there since the site's inception in 2013. She is also a regular essayist for the quaterly literary journal Meanjin. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Katharine Murphy on Twitter: @Murpharoo Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Sarah Elks is Queensland political reporter at The Australian. During her decade of writing for the national newspaper, Sarah has reported on many of the biggest news stories that have taken place in Queensland. It takes tenacity and passion to be a daily news reporter, and Sarah clearly has an abundance of both of these qualities. After extensively covering the fall-out from the closure of the Queensland Nickel refinery in late 2015, Sarah was named Journalist of the Year at the Queensland Clarion Awards for her stories that uncovered Clive Palmer's use of the alias 'Terry Smith' to manage his business while also holding office as a Member of Parliament. The judges for that award in 2016 noted that Sarah's work is "a tremendous how-to for journalists young and old, and deserves recognition". I met with Sarah at her home in Brisbane's inner-north in early July to record a conversation which touches on how she manages an unpredictable workload that can vary drastically from week to week; how she handled the paranoia of 'correspondent syndrome' while working as The Australian's sole reporter based in Far North Queensland; how her two years in that role took her to a remote island in the Torres Strait, where few people will ever have the privilege of setting foot; why she has a deep and abiding passion for court reporting, which is not shared by many other journalists, and how she increases her likelihood of getting Clive Palmer to respond to her text messages during the course of reporting on the man himself. Sarah Elks is the Queensland political reporter for The Australian. She began her career working for the newspaper at its Sydney headquarters in 2007, before moving back to her home state of Queensland. After a two-year stint in Cairns as the paper's north Queensland correspondent, Sarah returned to Brisbane to cover general news and legal affairs, including some of the state's highest profile criminal trials. Now, as well as state politics, Sarah reports on the continuing fallout from the $300m corporate collapse of Clive Palmer's Queensland Nickel. In what is surely a sign of love and respect for her ongoing work, Mr Palmer recently tweeted: "Is it true or did you read it in the Australian". Sarah's only useful skills are catching beach worms with her bare hands and arranging cheese platters.  Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Sarah Elks on Twitter: @SarahElks Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Marcus Teague is an editor, freelance writer, songwriter and musician. His contribution to Australian music journalism during the last decade has been significant. After co-founding a magazine and website devoted to independent music named Mess+Noise, Marcus went on to work as music editor at The Vine for six years from 2008. Under his editorial guidance, this pop culture-centric website became one of the most popular and respected outlets for music writing in the country. It also provided a regular home for thoughtful, longform journalism and criticism for many freelance writers, myself included. Writing for Marcus at The Vine was an incredibly important aspect of my development as a journalist and music critic, and I have many fond memories of my time writing for the site for four years from 2010. Since he left The Vine in 2014, Marcus has freelanced for the likes of Rolling Stone and Guardian Australia, while copywriting and working on artist bios on the side, in addition to his day job as commercial editor at Broadsheet. One evening in April, I met Marcus at a studio in Fitzroy, and our conversation touches on why he thinks suspicion is an essential character trait for music journalists; how he developed resilience as a fledgling musician who dreamed of making it in Melbourne; how he started writing songs in tandem with publishing a magazine that was a precursor to Mess+Noise; why he now finds it harder to write songs as he becomes more invested in journalism, and what happened when the drummer of Metallica read a concert review on The Vine and decided to give Marcus a call.  Marcus Teague is an editor, freelance writer, songwriter and musician based in Melbourne. He formed the band Deloris in the late 1990s, and wrote and recorded four albums until the band split in 2008. While in Deloris, he began writing about Australian music, first in the self-made, small-run zine Poolside with friend and bandmate Leigh Lambert, then as co-founder of magazine and website Mess+Noise. In 2008, Marcus was hired as full-time Music Editor for new website The Vine, a pop-culture offshoot of Fairfax Digital. Writing daily about music, it was there many of his formative experiences as a music journalist occurred: covering CMJ in New York, becoming a panelist and guest on the likes of Bigsound, triple j, and Face the Music, filing reviews for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and being asked to tour with Metallica after the band read Marcus's review of their live show. After leaving The Vine in 2014 Marcus freelanced, becoming a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and Guardian Australia, among others. He also began a sideline in writing copy for music industry clients and artist bios. Marcus is currently the Commercial Editor for Broadsheet, and continues to freelance as a music writer. He also writes and releases music under the solo moniker of Single Twin, as well as in the band Near Myth, whose debut album, Idiot Mystic, was released in late 2016. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Marcus Teague on Twitter: @MarcusTeague Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Richard Fidler is an author and host of Conversations. Since 2005, he has hosted a national radio program that sees him interviewing a wide range of guests, for around an hour at a time. Named Conversations, Richard likes to think of it as a form of guided storytelling, and over the years he has spoken with everyone from prime ministers to average Australians who have a remarkable story to tell. The host records four of these conversations every week, and the results are never less than fascinating: to my ears, he is among the top interviewers in the country. In July 2016, he published a book named Ghost Empire, an ambitious, multi-year project which blends ancient history with a travel story of personal significance. A few years ago, Richard travelled to Italy and Turkey with his 14 year-old son, Joe, to retrace the rise and fall of Constantinople, the magnificent eastern Roman city that endured for a thousand years, and saw every aspect of human nature unfold within and outside its imposing walls. “The story of how Constantinople flourished into greatness and expired in terrible violence is one of the strangest and most moving stories I know,” Richard writes in the book's introduction. When reviewing Ghost Empire for The Weekend Australian, I wrote, "We already know he is an interviewer of great empathy; now we know he mirrors that skill on the page, too. The beauty of this book is its accessibility. It has been written by a man who sits near the centre of Australian culture, and his name on the cover will draw many new readers to this old tale. It certainly attracted me." In early August, I met with Richard at the ABC building in South Bank, Brisbane, and he kindly offered the use of his studio recording equipment for this interview. After fiddling with the audio levels for a few moments, like a master pianist tinkling the keys to warm up, he allowed me the rare chance to ask him all sorts of questions for around an hour. Once we had finished, I got another glimpse at his efficient workflow, when he quickly edited out a minor blemish where he had accidentally cleared his throat mid-sentence. Our conversation touches on how his approach to storytelling for the radio program helped him when researching and writing Ghost Empire; how he struck upon the structure of interspersing historical detail with present-day travel vignettes; what he got out of reading the book aloud to his son during the writing process; where his love for stories began; what he learned about making radio programs from This American Life host Ira Glass a few years ago, and how being behind the microphone at Conversations has changed how Richard thinks about storytelling. Richard Fidler presents Conversations, an in-depth, up close and personal interview program broadcast across Australia on ABC Radio. He has interviewed prime ministers, astronauts, writers and scientists, but the program often features remarkable people who are unknown to the wider world. The program attracts a large listening audience around the nation, and is the most popular ABC podcast in Australia, with over 16 million downloaded programs in 2015. Richard has also presented several television series over the years, including the acclaimed Race Around The World, and he was the creator of Aftershock, a documentary series on disruptive new technologies. In another life Richard was a member of Australian comedy trio The Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS), which played to audiences all over the world. Richard's first non-fiction book Ghost Empire was released in July 2016. It blends travel memoir with history, following his journey into Istanbul with his fourteen-year-old son Joe, to uncover the history of Constantinople, the lost capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Richard Fidler on Twitter: @rfidler Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU    
Liam Pieper is an author and freelance journalist.  Since the publication of his first book in 2014, a memoir named The Feel-Good Hit of the Year, he has quickly followed it up with two more. Last year, he published a collection of short essays called Mistakes Were Made, which I reviewed for The Weekend Australian, where I described his writing as "electric: charged with meaning and energised by surprising comedic turns". With his third book, Liam has proved that he's supremely talented at writing fiction, too. Named The Toymaker, his debut novel is based on an ambitions, multi-layered narrative that travels between an Australian business set in the present day, and German concentration camps during World War II. The character that links these two worlds is a Russian man imprisoned during the war who escapes to Australia and starts a globally successful toy business. When Liam visited Brisbane in early August, I met him for the first time at his hotel room. Our conversation touches on the unique way in which Liam received funding to research and write The Toymaker while living overseas; how he navigated the legal threats that arose after the publication of his first book, which detailed his career as an adolescent drug dealer; how he messed up an important magazine assignment by filing 22,000 words instead of the requested length of 5,000 words; and how he helps young writers with finding the voice that best suits their style while working as content director for an online community called Writers Bloc. Liam Pieper is a Melbourne-based author and journalist. His first book was a memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of the Year, shortlisted for the National Biography Award and the Ned Kelly Best True Crime award. His second was the Penguin Special Mistakes Were Made, a volume of humorous essays. He was co-recipient of the 2014 M Literary Award, winner of the 2015 Geoff Dean Short Story Prize and the inaugural creative resident of the UNESCO City of Literature of Prague. He is also content director of Writers Bloc, a platform and resource for emerging writers. The Toymaker is his first novel.  Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Liam Pieper on Twitter: @LiamPieper Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Steve Kilbey is a songwriter, musician and author. Steve is best known as the songwriter and frontman of Australian rock band The Church, a role which he has inhabited for 35 years across the band’s extensive and respected career. In 2014, he became a published author with the release of his memoir, Something Quite Peculiar, which explored his history working as a professional musician, from his first job playing in a popular cover band in Canberra as a teenager, through to more recent years as he approaches 60. I first met Steve in February 2013, when I interviewed him for my book Talking Smack, about his experiences with illicit drugs in general and his addiction to heroin in particular. The Kilbey chapter opened the book, not only because it was the most immediately engaging and transformative story, but because Steve is such an articulate and fascinating interviewee that I was tempted to just publish the transcript in its entirety, and leave it at that. (An edited version of the Kilbey chapter from Talking Smack was published in The Weekend Australian Review, which you can read here; there’s also a funny YouTube clip filmed at our first meeting here.) This conversation took place on a Sunday afternoon in a downmarket hotel room in inner-city Brisbane in early July, when The Church were playing two shows at The Triffid. This was billed as a double-album tour, where the 1982 album The Blurred Crusade and the band’s most recent album, Further/Deeper, were intended to be played in full, but as we discuss here, the band soon realised that wasn’t such a good idea. While we spoke, Steve and I sat on the floor of the hotel room, with the microphone between us. There were a couple of other blokes in the room while we recorded: fellow journalist Michael Dwyer, and Mike Brook, who filmed our interview as part of the documentary about Kilbey he’s currently working on. Our conversation touches on the experience of writing his memoir, and Steve’s response to my review published in The Weekend Australian; the differences between his on-stage and off-stage personalities; how he went about learning the bass guitar; how his artistic career is dictated by money, and how he enjoys being lean and hungry; the origins of his remarkable blog, which is named The Time Being; and how he prefers to write lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness style that’s rarely edited between the page and finalised albums. Steve Kilbey began his professional music career when he was 17. He played in several bands before forming The Church in Sydney in 1980. After some initial success, Kilbey and The Church shot to international fame in 1988 when their album Starfish, featuring the song ‘Under the Milky Way’, rose to the top of the music charts in both Australia and the US. Kilbey has collaborated with a vast array of musicians on various projects and has produced a number of solo works as well. He is also a painter, poet and music producer. In 2010 The Church was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Steve Kilbey currently lives in Bondi, Sydney and continues to evolve through his craft as a vocalist, songwriter, poet, artist, actor, writer and guitarist bringing all his talents together for unique and instinctive performances. Show notes and links to Steve's writing and music discussed in this episode: Steve Kilbey on Twitter: @SteveKilbey Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Tim Levinson is a songwriter and musician. Within the Australian hip-hop scene, he's better known by his stage name, Urthboy, under which he performs as a solo artist and as a member of the eight-piece band The Herd. I've watched and listened to his music closely for more than a decade, and I've interviewed Tim several times, including for my book Talking Smack. When he visited Brisbane on a Saturday in early June while touring for his latest album, The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat, I met at his hotel room during the afternoon, where his band and manager were relaxing soon after arriving from a show on the Sunshine Coast the previous night. Our conversation touches on how his songwriting style has changed over the years to reflect a broader range of perspectives and emotions; the handful of times in his career where he has felt like he's truly nailed a song's execution; the members of the inner circle of people who he feels comfortable showing early drafts of his work to; why he decided to write a song about his mother for his newest album, and his father for his last album; and the creative breakthroughs that can emerge while writing lyrics alone at 3.00am. Tim Levinson, otherwise known as Urthboy, is an award-winning Australian hip-hop artist based in Sydney. His second solo album The Signal was hailed as ‘a classic’ by Rolling Stone, received numerous award nominations and was shortlisted in the 2007 Australian Music Prize. He is one of the main songwriters in eight-piece band The Herd, and also manages Elefant Traks, an independent record label which includes artists such as Hermitude and Horrorshow. Celebrating the government’s apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, Urthboy worked with GetUp to re-imagine the song 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', at Paul Kelly’s personal request. The song helped raise over $100,000 for Indigenous run health and education programs. Urthboy has released five solo albums, the most recent of which is 2016's The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat.� Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Tim Levinson on Twitter: @Urthboy Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Trent Dalton is a staff writer at The Weekend Australian Magazine. He’s one of the most influential journalists in my life, and I'm honoured that he's my first guest on Penmanship. Trent’s writing moves and inspires me with shocking regularity. Judging by the volume of praise-filled letters to the editor published in The Weekend Australian Magazine following each of his stories, I’m not the only one. Our interview touches on Trent's upbringing in Bracken Ridge, Brisbane; his early interest in magazine journalism; working at an auto-electrical parts supplier for a year after finishing high school; studying creative writing at university; his first writing job at Brisbane News on a salary of $26,000; his pre-interview tactic of looking in the bathroom mirror and reciting a mantra misquoted from Reservoir Dogs; and his transition to writing feature stories with great emotional depth. Previously, Trent was a staff writer at Qweekend and an assistant editor of The Courier-Mail. He has won a Walkley Award for excellence in journalism, been a three-time winner of the national News Awards Feature Journalist of the Year Award, and was named Queensland Journalist of the Year at the 2011 Clarion Awards for excellence in Queensland media. His journalism has twice been nominated for a United Nations of Australia Media Peace Award. Show notes and links to Trent's writing discussed in this episode: Trent Dalton on Twitter: @TrentDalton Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Amy Remeikis is Queensland state political editor at Brisbane Times. Amy’s role sees her covering Queensland’s political machinations from Parliament House during sitting weeks. She’s a journalist with serious skill and dedication to the task of holding Queensland’s politicians to account. As a feature writer, I’m far removed from the demands of daily reporting, so I was thrilled when Amy agreed to speak with me and offer her insights into this aspect of the news media. Our interview took place in April in Amy’s living room at her home in Bowen Hills, in Brisbane’s inner north. For someone who had been at work for the previous 12 hours, she was remarkably chipper, as she sipped on a cup of peppermint tea while perched on a bench. Our conversation touches on political press conference etiquette; the delicate task of performing what’s known in the media business as a ‘death knock’; moving away from journalism to teach English in South Korea; Amy’s Lithuanian heritage, and the emotional task of writing about her father as he slowly dies before her eyes. Amy Remeikis has been in and out of journalism since 2001, working in radio (moderately successfully) and television (very unsuccessfully) before finding her groove in the written word, working for newspapers and now, online. Nominated for a Young Walkley Award as a police reporter at a regional daily, Amy has since covered almost every round, and until she became the only reporter to be mentioned in Campbell Newman's concession speech earlier in 2015, she was most famous for doing the Conga with Clive Palmer. Show notes and links to Amy's writing discussed in this episode: Amy Remeikis on Twitter: @AmyRemeikis Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Fiona Stager is a bookseller and co-owner of two independent bookshops. Positioned side-by-side on Boundary Street, in Brisbane's inner-city suburb of West End, her shops Avid Reader and Where The Wild Things Are cater to a wide range of readers. The latter store was launched in March 2015 and specialises in titles for children and young adults. Its neighbour, Avid Reader, opened in 1997, and has since established itself at the centre of the city's literary culture by hosting regular book club meetings and author events. Avid is where I launched my first book, Talking Smack, in August 2014, in conversation with Brisbane author – and previous Penmanship guest – John Birmingham, who also used the cosy room above the store as a place to write his novel Without Warning (2008). It's my favourite bookshop in Brisbane, not only because it's my local, but because walking through its front door always feels like returning home. This is a wonderful feeling for a bookshop to give to its customers, and I suspect that I'm not the only one who has this experience at Avid Reader, since it is now approaching two decades in business. My conversation with Fiona took place in early November, in the writers' room above Avid, where handwritten plot outlines and chapter structures are posted on the walls. Our conversation touches on her unusual path into bookselling; her philosophy and vision for what she wanted Avid Reader to represent; the advantages of hiring writers as her staff; how she manages a formidable reading schedule, and her recent involvement in a national news story which highlighted the store's decision not to stock the biography of the former Premier of Queensland. Fiona Stager is the co-owner of Avid Reader Bookshop and Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop. Avid Reader has gained a national reputation for its extensive events program which regularly features international, national and local authors. The Queensland Writers Centre named her the winner of the 2009 Johnno Award for her contribution to the Queensland writing community. She is a regular judge of literary awards including the inaugural Stella Award and the Queensland Literary Awards 2015. After sitting on the board of the Australian Booksellers Association for twelve years, Fiona was awarded life membership in 2014 for her services to the Australian bookselling industry. National Bookshop Day was one of her initiatives. Fiona lives in West End with her family, three chickens and her native bee hive. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Avid Reader on Twitter: @AvidReader4101 Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Hedley Thomas is an author and national chief correspondent at The Australian. He has been a journalist for 30 years, most of the time while based in Queensland: first on the Gold Coast, and later in Brisbane, where he is based while reporting for The Australian. A multiple Walkley Award winner, Hedley has been involved in some of the biggest national stories of this century, including investigations into the wrongful arrest of a suspected terrorist, a natural disaster whose damaging floodwaters could have been avoided, and the behaviour of a negligent surgeon. In 2007, he published a book named Sick To Death about the latter of these three stories. Most of the action in that tale took place in my hometown of Bundaberg, where the actions of a surgeon named Dr Jayant Patel brought the failings of the Queensland health system into sharp focus. I first met Hedley at the Queensland Clarion Awards in August, and this interview took place at his home in Brisbane's western suburbs on a public holiday in early October. You'll hear birdsong in the background, including the occasional chicken. Our conversation touches on his first job in journalism as a copy boy at The Gold Coast Bulletin; his promotion to News Limited's London bureau in his early 20s and some of the momentous world events he covered as a foreign correspondent; the mechanics of filing stories in the pre-email era; how he discovered some of the biggest stories of his career, and how journalism came close to killing him on two occasions. Hedley Thomas, 48, would like to be a professional racetrack punter but as that would bankrupt his family he instead works as a Brisbane-based journalist for The Australian. He is the winner of five Walkley awards including a Gold, and two Sir Keith Murdoch awards. He is the author of true crime book Sick To Death, father to two precocious teenagers, and husband of Ruth. Show notes and links to Hedley's writing discussed in this episode: Hedley Thomas's writing for The Australian: Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Brent DeBoer is a songwriter and musician. I first met him in unique circumstances in September 2010, when my partner and I won a competition to fly to the United States and interview The Dandy Warhols at their studio in Portland, Oregon. This was a promotional tie-in because the band were booked to play at Parklife Festival that year, so we were accompanied by a cameraman for Australian website Pedestrian.TV, who filmed the encounter and cut a short video about our experience. (The entire interview was later published on I’m a big fan of The Dandy Warhols; they’re one of the best live rock bands I’ve seen, and as a solid drummer and co-vocalist, Brent is a key part of their appeal. Born in Portland and based there for most of his life, Brent has called Melbourne home since 2010, after he married an Australian and relocated. When he’s not touring or recording with The Dandy Warhols, he’s inevitably doing the same with his Australian band, Immigrant Union, who this year released their second album, entitled Anyway. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and one of my favourites of 2015. When reviewing Anyway for The Weekend Australian in June, I described it as “a timeless album for all moods and seasons” and gave it four-and-a-half stars. Besides his excellent musicianship and songwriting in two of my favourite bands, though, I actually didn’t know much about Brent’s past or his path into music, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him a little better during this interview, which took place upstairs at Lefty’s Music Hall in Brisbane, a few hours before Immigrant Union played three sets there on a Thursday evening in late August. Brent was jet-lagged, and spent most of the interview either staring out the window, watching the fading light, or with his eyes closed, while darkness gradually consumed the room where we sat. Our conversation touches on how he learned to play the drums at age five; how he manifested his own destiny as a child, when he would imagine playing to a sea of people who were all there to watch him play drums; a favourite prank of his when playing to drunk fraternity crowds in his early career; how he was asked to join The Dandy Warhols in 1998 and how he struggled for a couple of years with the demands of the role; and the differences between being a drummer who sings in that band and being a singer-guitarist in Immigrant Union. Brent DeBoer was born in Portland, Oregon, where his parents bought him a drum set for Christmas when he was five years old. By the age of 16 he had formed his first band, Spoon, with Rick Bain. Just out of college, in 1998, he joined The Dandy Warhols as their drummer. After moving to Melbourne, in 2010, he was at the iconic Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane. It was here that he began to form a band called Immigrant Union with Bob Harrow and Peter Lubulwa, taking on the role of lead guitar and lead vocals. The Dandy Warhols will release their ninth studio album in 2016 and they continue to tour the world extensively. Immigrant Union recently released their critically acclaimed second studio album entitled Anyway. Show notes and links to Brent's music discussed in this episode: Brent DeBoer on Twitter: @FatheadDeBoer Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Kate Kyriacou is an author and chief crime reporter at The Courier-Mail. By coincidence, I met with Kate at News Queensland’s offices in Bowen Hills on August 3, the day that her first book was published. It’s called The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe's Killer, and it’s a true-crime narrative about a case well-known to every Queenslander, and most Australians, I’d wager, given the high-profile nature of the disappearance of 13 year-old Daniel Morcombe in December 2003. Besides writing and publishing The Sting, Kate is chief crime reporter at Queensland newspaper The Courier-Mail, where she has worked since 2012, following earlier stints reporting in Mildura, Melbourne and Adelaide. Crime reporting is a tough beat: day in, day out, these reporters are dealing with some of the nastiest aspects of human nature. Being immersed in this world can take an emotional toll, which is something that Kate and I discuss in this episode. We also explore the tension of writing a whole book about one of these nasty characters; her experiences as a junior reporter in a regional city and having daily briefing with the local police over tea and breakfast; Kate’s early interest in children’s literature and young adult novels, which remains an area she’d like to explore in her own writing; why she prefers colour reporting over straight news writing, and the traits required for crime reporters to succeed in this taxing business. Kate Kyriacou has been a journalist since 2001. She has written for newspapers around the country, including the Sunday Herald Sun, the Adelaide Advertiser and Sunday Mail, and Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail. She has been The Courier-Mail’s chief crime reporter since 2012 and has won awards, at both a state and national level, for her work as a crime writer. Her first book is The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe's Killer, published by Echo Publishing in August 2015. Show notes and links to Kate's writing discussed in this episode: Kate Kyriacou on Twitter: @KateKyriacou Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Lizzie Loel is a restaurant critic at Qweekend and freelance writer. As a regular reader of Qweekend, I’ve been intrigued by Lizzie’s reviews in the last couple of years she’s been in the role. Her writing is sharp and evocative, but what has interested me most is that her ratings are on a scale of 20, and she rarely awards a score higher than 15. This has created the perception in my mind, and in the minds of others, that she’s a tough marker – a critic who’s hard to please. We talk about this perception at some length in our conversation, which also touches on Lizzie’s upbringing on a sheep and cattle station in western Queensland; her experience as an apprentice chef in Brisbane and Paris; and the difficulties associated with perfecting the art of making an Indian curry; how she developed her palate and food vocabulary; how she got into restaurant criticism, and her unique method of writing reviews without taking notes; and the type of reader she keeps in mind when reviewing restaurants for Qweekend. This interview was recorded at Lizzie’s home in Paddington, Brisbane, on a Friday morning in June, at her dining room table. Her obsession with all things food was evident through the fresh ingredients on the table beside us, as well as the countless cookbooks and food magazines in her living room. You’ll even hear her cat making its presence known at a couple of points in our conversation. Lizzie Loel lives to eat and eats to live.  As a chef-turned-restaurant critic she has seen all angles of the restaurant industry from the good, the bad and the utterly delectable. Widely travelled and with more than fifteen years' experience as a restaurant critic, Lizzie knows a thing or two about eating out.  Her life prior to this was all about food as well: she ran the popular A Moveable Feast for six years and then went on to establish The Grape Catering Company, both of which won multiple awards over several years. During the 'critic' years, Lizzie moonlighted as a caterer-of-sorts, producing mountains of food daily for her constantly hungry three young sons and their ever-expanding entourage.  She stopped reviewing when the boys left school, jumping back into the industry but early in 2013 she returned to The Courier-Mail's reviewing for the prestigious Qweekend magazine. Show notes and links to Lizzie's writing discussed in this episode: Lizzie Loel on Twitter: @LizzieLoel Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Everett True is a freelance music critic and author. Born in England, True was involved with several key British music magazines throughout the 1990s and 2000s, including NME, Melody Maker and Plan B. He moved to Brisbane in 2008 and immediately made a name for himself by deriding popular bands such as Silverchair, The Vines and Savage Garden as “musical abominations” in a memorable article for The Guardian. At the time, these comments caused significant waves among the Australian music writing fraternity. As an arrogant, opinionated young writer myself, it took some time for me to see past True’s brash, abrasive style of writing and view him as a real person with real feelings. Over the years, we became friends and colleagues, supporting each others’ work as freelancers and forming an unlikely bond. Besides his work as a prominent music critic, True is an accomplished author, having written books on Nirvana, Ramones and The White Stripes. More recently, while living in Brisbane, he has been a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, and when I met him at his home in the western suburb of The Gap in early June he had just submitted his PhD thesis. You’ll hear his children running around and playing nearby, as we talk about how he failed English in high school, the Blondie song that first endeared him to pop music, the origins of his pen names, his tumultuous relationship with alcohol, and the time when he pushed Kurt Cobain in a wheelchair in front of tens of thousands of people at Reading Festival in 1992. Everett True is a former editor of Melody Maker, VOX, Careless Talk Costs Lives and Plan B in the U.K. He has written for more rock publications than most people can name. He is the author of several books on rock music featuring Nirvana, Ramones, The White Stripes and others, and was a key writer covering the rise of Nirvana and the Seattle scene in the early 1990s. Nick Cave described one of his live performances as "more entertaining than Nina Simone," while Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs called him "the coolest man in England." The Gossip's members say he's the most important music critic of their generation. Show notes and links to Everett's writing discussed in this episode:   Everett True on Twitter: @EverettTrue Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Ed Kuepper is a songwriter and musician. If you’re a regular listener of Penmanship, you’ll already be familiar with at least one of his many songs, as the podcast’s theme music is ‘Eternally Yours’ by his band Laughing Clowns, which he formed in Sydney in 1979. But if you’re a fan of Australian music, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a few others, too: perhaps the title track to the 1977 album (I’m) Stranded by Brisbane punk rock band The Saints, or a single named ‘The Way I Made You Feel’ from his 1991 solo album Honey Steel’s Gold. He has been writing, recording and performing music in Australia and around the world for more than 40 years, and to my ears he is one of this country’s most distinctive and memorable guitarists, too. December 2015 marked the release of Ed Kuepper’s 50th album, Lost Cities, though depending on how you count his prolific solo catalogue, that number might be as high as 100. After exploding out of the gates with the incendiary, distorted guitar tone in The Saints, it’s been fascinating to watch him shift across several genres and playing styles to end up with the sparse arrangements heard here. When reviewing the album for The Australian, I wrote that “there’s nobody quite like him operating in Australian music today, and that he continues to invest in this work is a gift.” In a sense, the album was a gift to himself, too: its release coincided with Ed’s 60th birthday. I first interviewed Ed at his home in the south-west Brisbane suburb of Sherwood for Mess+Noise in 2010, where we spoke about the song ‘Eternally Yours’ at some length. I return to the same house on a quiet Sherwood street in late February 2016 to interview Ed on his back deck, with his dog Oscar lying on the ground between us. You’ll hear cicadas, planes and garbage trucks in the distance as we discuss why Ed thinks fuzz-box guitar distortion sounds “pissweak”; how he avoids retreading the same ground when writing songs; how his writing has progressed between The Saints, Laughing Clowns and his solo career; his experiences with touring as a member of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds a few years ago, and whether songwriting gets easier with age. Ed Kuepper is an Australian musician. He is a highly regarded and prolific songwriter and a distinctive and unique guitarist and vocalist. He was the founding member of The Saints, Laughing Clowns and The Aints. He has led an active solo career since the mid 1980s and won numerous ARIA awards. He has toured extensively in Australia and internationally. He has worked on film soundtracks, toured as back-up guitarist for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and recently released Lost Cities, his 50th album. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Ed Kuepper on Twitter: @EdKuepper Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
John Clarke was a freelance writer, performer and author. John died suddenly on Sunday, 9 April 2017, aged 68. I had spoken to him a few days beforehand, and we had made plans to record a conversation for this podcast while I was visiting Melbourne that weekend. Since that cannot happen, I am bringing you a special episode based on a day that I spent with John in November 2014, when I was reporting a story for The Weekend Australian Review about the creative process behind Clarke & Dawe, the weekly political satire program that John wrote and performed alongside longtime collaborator Bryan Dawe. As I wrote in my article, Clarke & Dawe was more often than not among the week’s sharpest commentary on up-to-the-minute matters relating to Australian politics and public life. Together, the two performers sought to make us laugh while also making us think. This was a dream assignment for me, as it involved spending a day in John’s company as he wrote a couple of scripts, met with Bryan to film the program at an ABC television studio, and supervised the final edits of a two-and-a-half minute program that would be broadcast around Australia the following evening. In between these tasks, there was plenty of time for conversation; at no point did John seem rushed, and he had a kind word and a wry joke for everyone he crossed paths with. This episode consists of excerpts from some of the writing-related discussions he and I had that day, as well as a few amusing asides. I’d also encourage you to read my article for The Weekend Australian Review, which is called ‘In The Line of Political Satire’. I put a lot of effort into the writing and rhythm of this piece because I knew John would read it, and that man rarely wasted a word. Our first conversation that day took place in a Fitzroy cafe on Wednesday, 12 November 2014. My recording device was a small digital recorder placed on the table between us, or held in my hand as I wrote in my notebook while on the move. The audio wasn’t captured with this podcast in mind, as Penmanship did not exist at the time. The recording at this first location has the most ambient noise, so you’ll hear a bit of the coffee machine in action, as well as some other voices in the background. Please bear with me, as the audio quality does improve throughout this episode, as we move to quieter locations. There is about 20 minutes of audio in this cafe section, cut into four segments. Some of the cuts are quite abrupt, but I’ll briefly introduce each section to give some context throughout the episode. CLARKE, John, Dip Lid, PhD in Cattle (Oxen). Advisor and comforter to various governments. Born 1948. Educ. subsequently. Travelled extensively throughout Holy Lands, then left New Zealand for Europe. Stationed in London 1971-73. Escaped (decorated). Rejoined unit. Arrived Australia 1977. Held positions with ABC radio (Sckd), ABC Television (Dfnct), Various newspapers (Dcd), and Aust Film Industry (Fkd). Currently a freelance expert specialising in matters of a general character. Recreations: Whistling. Address: C/– the people next door. Or just pop it inside the door of the fusebox. Should be back Friday. Died 2017. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Bernard Zuel is senior music writer at The Sydney Morning Herald. He was visiting Brisbane in early April as a guest speaker at the inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival, so after a day of inspiring and enlightening discussions about all things music writing, we went back to his hotel room in Fortitude Valley to talk more about that very topic. I've been reading his album reviews and features in The Sydney Morning Herald for years, so it w as a treat to pick the brains of one of Australia's most prolific and enduring writers in this field. In 2016, Bernard is actually one of very few journalists in the country to be employed as a full-time music writer for a newspaper. We talk about this very fact, and the shrinking nature of such jobs, as well as how he chooses which artists to write about; how he manages to juggle writing up to six album reviews per week; how he prefers to take notes in dark rooms when attending concerts; why he hates the five-star ranking system; the value he sees in writing negative music criticism, and why he now uses voice recognition software rather than typing. Bernard Zuel has been writing about music since typewriters, C90 mixtapes and coming home stinking of everyone else’s smokes. Having written for RAM, Rolling Stone and street press, and talked on TV/radio for anyone who asked and paid nothing, he’s been covering arts at The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media for more than 20 years, the past 12 or so as senior music writer and chief critic. He still buys records and discs and sound files because it’s great. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Bernard Zuel on Twitter: @BernardZuel Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Benjamin Law is an author, freelance journalist, columnist and screenwriter. Since I first ventured into full-time freelance journalism in 2009, he's been someone that I've greatly admired, not only for his ability to write well across a range of publications and styles, but also for the simple fact that he's a generous and enthusiastic supporter of other writers. I first met him in early 2010, when I emailed him to introduce myself and ask for a meeting, and from that point, he has remained as a firm friend and mentor. I interviewed him for The Courier-Mail that same year, for an article that coincided with the release of his first book, The Family Law, a memoir which described his upbringing as a Chinese-Australian. The following year, he spoke about freelance journalism alongside John Birmingham at an event I hosted in Brisbane as part of National Young Writers' Month. I reviewed his excellent second book, Gaysia, for The Weekend Australian in 2012, and since then, he has taken me suit shopping, offered me a place to crash while visiting Sydney, and provided some timely advice when I was negotiating my first book contract. As you've no doubt already gathered, I'm a big fan of Benjamin's. His career has recently taken an interesting turn into screenwriting, as his first book was turned into a six-part SBS television series. The Family Law debuted on Australian screens in early 2016; it was very well-received, and Benjamin is currently writing the second season. His regular writing gig is his weekly column in Good Weekend, which never fails to make me laugh. When he visited Brisbane in late April for a QUT Journalism and Media Society event, where we were both speaking to university students about feature writing, I took the opportunity to interview Benjamin in an empty classroom before the crowds arrived. Our conversation touches on how a mentorship with Matthew Condon helped him to pitch stories and get his head around writing longform features; how he was approached by a publisher to write The Family Law; what he learned about the book industry while working at Brisbane bookstore Avid Reader; how he comes up with ideas for his Good Weekend column, and how he views being in a relationship where both partners work in the creative industries. Benjamin Law is a Sydney-based TV screenwriter, journalist and newspaper columnist, who has PhD in creative writing and cultural studies. He’s the author of two books—The Family Law (2010) and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012)—and the co-author of the comedy book Shit Asian Mothers Say (2014) with his sister Michelle and illustrator Oslo Davis. Both of his books have been nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards. The Family Law is now in its fourth reprint, has been translated into French and is now a major SBS TV series. Gaysia was published in India in 2013 and North America in 2014. Benjamin is a frequent contributor to Good Weekend (The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age), frankie and The Monthly. He has also written for over 50 publications, businesses and agencies in Australia and worldwide. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Benjamin Law on Twitter: @mrbenjaminlaw Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Baz McAlister is editor of Qweekend. When we meet at the News Queensland offices in late February, he is only a couple of months into his new job in charge of The Courier-Mail's weekly colour magazine. I had not met the man prior to this interview, but I had observed his Irish charm and wit from a packed auditorium during the 2015 Clarions, the annual Queensland media awards that Baz co-hosted and wrote the script for. Thanks to his background as a stand-up comic and snappy newspaper headline writer, his clever, media-centric jokes were a clear hit with the crowd of journalists, and the scene was topped off by the handsome kilt he wore on the night. Our conversation touches on Baz's upbringing in Northern Ireland and how his early interest in language was earned through reading fantasy and science fiction; how working at a Borders bookshop in the middle of Glasgow changed his reading habits; why he decided to leave the UK in search of a new life and career in Australia; how he began writing film reviews for the Brisbane street press, and later became a national arts editor; how his sub-editing and headline writing skills helped with his stand-up comedy debut, and how he learned to cope with bearing witness to terrible things such as watching footage of beheadings while working on the "backbench" of production staff at The Courier-Mail. Baz McAlister is originally from the rugged County Antrim coast of Northern Ireland and has worked in print media in Australia for 12 years. Based in Brisbane, he is currently the editor of News Corp Australia's Qweekend magazine, The Courier-Mail's Saturday insert. Baz is a multi-award-winning senior journalist who has been a feature writer, columnist and night editor for News and spent six years as national arts editor for Time Off and The Music, covering the entertainment scene in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Baz is also a screenwriter who recently reached the quarterfinals of the Academy's Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting with a horror-drama feature. He has several television and film projects in various stages of development as writer. He also writes and performs stand-up comedy. Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Baz McAlister on Twitter: @BazMcAlister Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Holly Throsby is a songwriter, musician and author. As an accomplished singer and songwriter, Holly has been performing since 2004, and has released five albums. In 2010, she joined forces with her friends Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltmann to form the indie pop group Seeker Lover Keeper, which released one album the following year. In 2016, she became an author: her first novel was published in September by Allen & Unwin. It's named Goodwood, and it's about what happens to a small town in New South Wales when two prominent members of the community go missing within a week of each other. The story is narrated by a 17 year-old named Jean Brown, and everything we see is filtered through the young narrator as she grapples with the dramatic turn of events. It's a combination of a mystery narrative and a portrait of a town experiencing a collective trauma. Goodwood offers a wonderfully lush and well-realised depiction of several aspects of contemporary Australian life, and it announces Holly as a major talent in fiction writing. I first met Holly in April 2013, when she invited me into her home in Sydney to talk about drug use for my book Talking Smack. In late September 2016, Holly's book was launched in Brisbane by previous Penmanship guest Kathleen Noonan at Avid Reader bookstore. The morning after, we met at an inner-city hotel room for a conversation which touches on her extensive research into the creative process as she began the book's first draft while pregnant with her daughter; why she likes the distance and anonymity that comes with writing fiction; how elements of the story and its characters draw on her upbringing in Sydney's inner west; how she snuck some of her favourite Australian expressions into the book's dialogue; what inspired her to record an album for children, and what led her to write an op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald about same-sex marriage. Holly Throsby is a Sydney-based songwriter and musician. She has released four solo albums and a children’s album called See! She is known for summoning melodies that sound beautifully crumpled, worn and decades-old, and matching them with hushed, cutting lyrics that read like a Carver short story. Holly has been nominated for four ARIA Awards: two for Best Female Artist, one for Best Children’s Album, and one as part of Seeker Lover Keeper, her band with Sally Seltmann and Sarah Blasko. Goodwood is Holly's debut novel.  Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: Holly Throsby on Twitter: @HollyThrosby Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
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Podcast Details

May 4th, 2015
Latest Episode
Oct 18th, 2017
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Avg. Episode Length
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