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Penmanship

Penmanship is a podcast about Australian writing culture. It features interviews with Australians who earn a living from working with words: writers, journalists, editors and publishers, among others. Each episode features an in-depth, one-on-one conversation about the guest’s career, craft and inner life. The goal of Penmanship is to provide unique insights into the creative process, mechanics and skills behind the best writing in the country. The podcast exists to explore the diversity and complexity of Australian storytelling by speaking directly with leading contributors to the field.
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Now displaying: June, 2016
Jun 29, 2016

Cory Taylor is an author and screenwriter.

In May 2016, she published a book named Dying: A Memoir. As the title suggests, it will her last public writing, for Cory is dying of melanoma-related brain cancer. Structured around three essays, Cory writes of how her body has failed her since the initial diagnosis in 2005, just before her 50th birthday. While her once full life has since contracted to just two rooms – her bedroom and her living room, where she spends most of her days now – her mind remains sharp and active, and in the book she describes the arc of her narrative with vivid detail. She writes: "When you're dying, even your unhappiest memories can induce a sort of fondness, as if delight is not confined to the good times, but is woven through your days like a skein of gold thread". At once sad and proud, her writing in these pages is truly masterly. Readers of any age will find much to learn here, and it is difficult to imagine a finer note on which to close.

Cory and I live on the same street in inner-city Brisbane – Montague Road in West End – and I met her for the first time on a rainy Wednesday morning in mid June. She was propped up on the day bed in her living room, and in between occasional interruptions from friends and carers, Cory kindly allowed me to ask her a few questions about her life as a writer. There's a bit of ambient noise in the background of the recording, as traffic rushes past on the wet street outside. But the living room itself is a wonderful sanctuary of art and literature, and despite the fact that her body is wasting away, Cory's love for words and language burns brightly. Our conversation touches on how she decided to write about her impending death; the hardest parts of writing about dying; her early experiences working as a freelance screenwriter in the 1980s; how her PhD research into the internment of Japanese immigrants during the Second World War led to her second novel, and what she aimed to achieve by writing her final book.

Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Pacific Region) and her second, My Beautiful Enemy, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Her most recent book is Dying: A Memoir.

Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-27-cory-taylor/

Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU

penmanshippodcast.com

Jun 15, 2016

Sarah Ferguson is a journalist and author.

Last year, ABC television screened her three-part documentary series The Killing Season, which examined the forces that shaped the Australian Labor Party during the recent years in which Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard led the party, and the nation. Based on Sarah's lengthy and insightful interviews with key political players, and filmed with the drama and style of the Netflix series House Of Cards, it was pitch-perfect television that resonated strongly across the country, attracting around a million viewers each episode. The series further established Sarah's reputation as one of Australia's finest television interviewers and presenters. Since 2008, she has worked as an award-winning investigative journalist on current affairs program Four Corners – which she currently hosts – as well as filling in for Leigh Sales as the host of 7.30 in 2014, and conducting several hard-hitting political interviews during that time.

In 2016, Sarah became an author with The Killing Season Uncut. Co-written with series researcher Patricia Drum and published in April by Melbourne University Publishing, Sarah's book goes behind the scenes to candidly reveal the stories behind the interviews with Rudd, Gillard and a host of other key players. I found that her asides into the craft of journalism were a highlight of the book, such as this quote: "The business of persuasion is a fraught one for journalists. Persuasiveness is one thing, bullshit is another. You have to understand your subject intimately and what their purpose is in speaking on camera. I prefer candour but it's not enough by itself. And you are not friends, although it can appear that way. The line you shouldn't cross is usually only visible when it's behind you."

When Sarah was on a day trip to Brisbane in early May, we met at her inner-city hotel room so that I could ask her a few questions before she had to dash off to a radio interview across town. It was a thrill to be sitting across from one of the country's most formidable journalistic brains; within a few minutes, she had called me out for incorrectly attributing a quote from the book to her, rather than Julia Gillard. Our conversation touches on how her writing style has developed across her career; her early writing influences, including her love of poetry; how she comes up with ideas for her Four Corners stories; why she posted a Julia Gillard quote above her desk; who she turns to when she's having trouble with a story; and how she decided to open a live budget night interview on 7.30 with a particularly devastating question for then treasurer Joe Hockey.

Sarah Ferguson is an author and ABC journalist. In the same year that she worked on The Killing Season, she also wrote and presented Hitting Home, the landmark series on domestic violence. She has presented the ABC's 7.30 and worked as a journalist on Four Corners, where she won four Walkleys – including the Gold Walkley in 2011 for 'A Bloody Business' – the Melbourne Press Club Gold Quill Award, four Logies for most outstanding public affairs report, as well as the George Munster Award for Independent Journalism and the Queensland Premier's Literary Award.

Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-26-sarah-ferguson/

Sarah Ferguson on Twitter: @FergusonNews

Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU

penmanshippodcast.com

Jun 1, 2016

Luke Williams is an author and freelance journalist.

I first became aware of his writing when The Saturday Paper published his feature story, 'Life As A Crystal Meth Addict', in August 2014. In that story, he wrote about his decision to investigate the issue of crystal methamphetamine abuse by moving into a sharehouse with a couple of addicts, but it wasn't long before the writer became addicted to the drug, too. It was an eye-opening article for which he later became a finalist in the feature writing category at the Walkley Awards that same year. I emailed Luke after I read that initial story, and we've been in sporadic contact since, as we're both freelance journalists with an interest in writing honestly about drug use.

That story in The Saturday Paper led to a book deal with Scribe, and the result was published in May 2016. Entitled The Ice Age: A Journey Into Crystal-Meth Addiction, it's a lengthy and detailed exploration of the drug's surge in popularity from both a personal and journalistic perspective. When I reviewed the book for The Weekend Australian, I wrote that it offers something that has never before been attempted by an Australian author, and I described it as "a ­remarkable, original and compelling journey". When he visited Brisbane in early May for an event at Avid Reader bookstore, I launched The Ice Age for Luke before a highly engaged audience, who appreciated the rare chance to speak openly about the realities of crystal meth use and abuse.

In the afternoon before the book launch, I met with Luke at his hotel room in inner Brisbane. Our conversation touches on how he went about pursuing a book deal immediately after the publication of that story for The Saturday Paper; how he pitched to his drug-addicted housemates the fact that he planned to write a book about their lives; how he approached the tricky task of writing about his drug-induced psychosis; how he became a reporter for Triple J's current affairs program, Hack; and why he now prefers to work as a freelance writer while living in south-east Asia, rather than in Australia.

Luke Williams is an Australian journalist and author. He has previously worked as a reporter and broadcaster at ABC Radio. His written work has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday PaperBrisbane Times, Crikey, The Global Mail, The Weekend Australian and Eureka Street. In 2013 he was nominated for a Human Rights Media Award for a long-form investigative piece in The Global Mail, and in 2014 his article on ice addiction, 'Life as a Crystal Meth Addict', was a finalist in the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism. His book The Ice Age: A Journey Into Crystal-Meth Addiction was published in May 2016 by Scribe.

Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-25-luke-williams/

Luke Williams on Twitter: @LukeWilliamsj

Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU

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