Jenny Valentish is an author, freelance journalist and editor.
In 2014, she published her first novel, Cherry Bomb, a teenage psychodrama set in the music industry. She’s currently working on a book of immersive journalism about addiction to be published in 2017. Before writing books, though, she was better known as an accomplished magazine editor, having moved to Australia from England in the mid 2000s and worked on titles such as Time Out Melbourne and Triple J Magazine. The latter publication is where I first met her, in 2009, when I was a new freelancer and still very much learning about how this business works. As an editor, Jenny was patient, supportive and fun to write for, and we’ve kept in touch since.
With her long history of sitting in the editor’s chair and dealing with the daily deluge of story pitches, she has a finely tuned sense of what editors want from their freelance contributors. With her long history of sitting in the editor’s chair and dealing with the daily deluge of story pitches, she has a finely tuned sense of what editors want from their freelance contributors. We discuss this topic in a conversation that took place in Brisbane in early December, as well as how Jenny’s substance use overlapped with her creativity; how she was misrepresented as a “middle-class super groupie” by an NME journalist at age 18; what that experience taught her about having a duty of care toward the people she writes about; why British editorial staff tend to get preferential treatment in the Australian publishing industry; why she started a blog with the goal of doing something new every day for a year and writing about it, and how her early career writing for porn mags helped her to write graphic sex scenes for Cherry Bomb.
Jenny Valentish has been a music journalist since her teens, when her self-published fanzine got her splashed across the British papers for all the wrong reasons. Her career proper started in London as a music publicist, then took a sharp left into book editing for a crime fiction publisher. Staff positions followed at adult magazines and a guitar title, as well as a much-coveted column in NME. Upon defecting to Australia, she worked as chief sub for ACP's Ralph, then as editor of Triple J’s Jmag, and finally as editor of Time Out Melbourne (sister mag to London’s Time Out), which she launched. On her daily commute she wrote the novel Cherry Bomb for Allen and Unwin, tagged as ‘a teenage psychodrama set in the music industry’. Since retiring – as she calls ‘going freelance' – she writes artist bios for record labels and regularly contributes to The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Saturday Paper. She is working on a non-fiction book for Black Inc on women and addiction.
Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-17-jenny-valentish/
Jenny Valentish on Twitter: @JennyValentish
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
David Astle is an author, freelance writer and cruciverbalist.
That last word might be unfamiliar to you, so allow me to explain: a cruciverbalist is a person skilled in the art of creating and solving crossword puzzles, which is something that David has been doing for most of his life. Since the mid-1980s, he has been crafting cryptic crosswords for readers of Fairfax newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, but for most of that time, he was known only by his initials. It wasn't until 2010 that 'DA' exposed himself as David Astle, with a book named Puzzled: Secrets And Clues From A Life Lost In Words.
All of my guests on Penmanship share a love of words and language, but David Astle might take the cake in this regard – if only because when we met at a hotel room in late November, he was wearing a shirt which read, "Triple Nerd Score". David is unique among my guests thus far to have co-created a new word: in 2012, he was part of a team which met at Sydney University to come up with a definition for the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention. Their creation? 'Phub': a phone snub.
For years, I have enjoyed David's column 'Wordplay', which appears in The Sydney Morning Herald's arts section, Spectrum, each Saturday. It was through this narrow window into his long and prosperous freelance career that we met while he was visiting Brisbane to promote his first book for kids, Wordburger: How To Be A Champion Word Puzzler In 20 Quick Bites. As I soon learned, however, David is a man who carries many arrows in his writerly quiver, and it was a delight to discuss how he has built a life around a love for language.
Our conversation touches on the challenge of writing for children instead of adults; how he chooses timely topics for his weekly column; how he became obsessed with puzzles as a teenager and began stalking a prominent Fairfax puzzle editor; the interview that led to him quitting his one-time dream job as a feature writer for Inside Sport, and how he became the host of a television game show on SBS named Letters and Numbers.
David Astle is the author of ten books, most of them digging a wordy vein. His latest is Wordburger – his first for kids – that sneakily unlocks the mystery of cryptic crosswords. Other verbal odysseys include Riddledom, Cluetopia and Puzzled. Smitten with language, David writes his weekly Wordplay column for Spectrum in the Sydney Morning Herald, exploring anything from emojis to Dothraki. He’s also responsible for the weekly DA cryptic on Friday in that paper, and The Age, while his news anagram can be heard on Radio National’s Sunday Extra program. From 2010 until 2012, David fulfilled the role of dictionary umpire on SBS’s Letters and Numbers. He’s also been a feature writer for Sunday Life and Inside Sport, plus a tutor in both journalism and creative writing at RMIT.
Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-16-david-astle/
David Astle on Twitter: @DontAttempt
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU