42 episodes

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.

Penmanship Andrew McMillen

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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.

    Episode 42: Katharine Murphy (live)

    Episode 42: Katharine Murphy (live)

    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: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-42-katharine-murphy-live/
    Katharine Murphy on Twitter: @Murpharoo
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
    penmanshippodcast.com

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Episode 41: Nick Feik

    Episode 41: Nick Feik

    Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.
    Since its inception in 2005, The Monthly has been one of the few Australian publications to strongly invest in longform journalism. Each month, the magazine publishes a handful of essays from some of Australia's best writers and critics, which regularly run in excess of 5,000 words apiece. Because of this dedication to funding and promoting serious journalism that concerns the nation's culture and politics, The Monthly has built a large and devoted base of subscribers and readers. Nick Feik has been in the editor's chair since April 2014, after joining the magazine's publisher, Schwartz Media, several years earlier to establish online projects which included daily email newsletters and building a home for longform video.
    I met with Nick at the Schwartz Media office in Melbourne in late July, shortly after he and his team had sent the August issue off to be printed. Our conversation touches on the origins of a cover story that Nick wrote about the effects that tech giants Facebook and Google are having on the media landscape; how the choice of cover photograph or illustration can affect The Monthly's newsstand sales; his routine for getting away from screens in order to read first drafts without distractions; what he's looking for when commissioning work from first-time contributors to the magazine, and how he feels about being the first person to cast his eyes across essays by great writers such as Helen Garner.
    Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly magazine. Under the auspices of The Monthly, Nick created email newsletters the Shortlist Daily and Politicoz (later Today), and was The Monthly’s first online editor. As a writer, Nick has contributed political and current affairs-related pieces to Fairfax, ABC’s The Drum, The Saturday Paper and The Monthly. Previously he worked at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) as programmer, short film coordinator and travelling film festival coordinator.
    Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-41-nick-feik/
    Nick Feik on Twitter: @NickFeik
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
    penmanshippodcast.com

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Episode 40: Gideon Haigh

    Episode 40: Gideon Haigh

    Gideon Haigh is an author and freelance journalist.
    Since he began as a cadet journalist at The Age in 1984, fresh out of high school, Gideon's main subject areas in journalism have been in sport and business. For most of his career, Gideon has worked as a freelancer, and his writing has been published in more than one hundred newspapers and magazines around the world. As an author, he has written 32 books to date, with at least two more underway. The breadth and depth of his body of work is simply astounding, and I've been an admirer of his for some time. During the last few years, my main understanding and appreciation of Gideon's writing is through his role as senior cricket writer at The Australian, where he has become one of the most read and trusted voices in sports journalism.
    In late July, I met with Gideon at his home in Melbourne's inner-city, and was led into his writing room, which is also home to his extraordinary collection of thousands of books. Our conversation touches on why he prefers not to think too much about the structure of his books before he starts writing them; how he goes about writing daily cricket match reports for The Australian each summer; how he has managed to avoid becoming cynical about cricket, despite writing about it for decades; how he decides which writing projects to pursue as a freelancer with several sources of income; and how he found himself occupying a sort of public service role in late 2014 as the nation came to terms with the shock death of a young Australian cricketer. The conversation begins, however, with a small discussion about the purpose of this podcast.
    Gideon Haigh has been a journalist for more than three decades. He has contributed to more than a hundred newspapers and magazines, published thirty-two books, and edited seven others. He has been writing about sport and business for more than 22 years. His best-known books are Mystery Spinner, The Big Ship, The Summer Game, Game for Anything: Writings On Cricket and A Fair Field and No Favour: The Ashes 2005. His 2012 book The Office: A Hardworking History won the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Non-Fiction; On Warne was shortlisted for the Melbourne Prize for Literature; and Certain Admissions won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for True Crime. His latest book is Stroke of Genius: Victor Trumper and the Shot that Changed Cricket. Gideon lives in Melbourne with his wife and daughter. Nobody has played more games for his cricket club – nor, perhaps, wanted to.
    Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-40-gideon-haigh/
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
    penmanshippodcast.com

    • 1 hr 50 min
    Episode 39: Sarah Elks

    Episode 39: Sarah Elks

    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: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-39-sarah-elks/
    Sarah Elks on Twitter: @SarahElks
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
    penmanshippodcast.com

    • 1 hr 31 min
    Episode 38: Marcus Teague

    Episode 38: Marcus Teague

    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: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-38-marcus-teague/
    Marcus Teague on Twitter: @MarcusTeague
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
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    • 1 hr 49 min
    Episode 37: Richard Guilliatt

    Episode 37: Richard Guilliatt

    Richard Guilliatt is an author and staff writer at The Weekend Australian Magazine.
    When it comes to the art of writing magazine feature stories, Richard is among Australia's masters of the form. He has been writing magazine-length articles for more than two decades, and has won a couple of Walkley Awards along the way. His subject matter and profiles are diverse, which he admits is part of the job description when writing for a general interest publication like The Weekend Australian Magazine, where he has been a staff writer since 2006. He has also written two books about vastly different topics, which we explore in some detail in this episode.
    I have a close relationship with Richard. Soon after we met for the first time at an investigative journalism conference in 2011, I asked if he would be my mentor. During those six years, his advice has been enormously helpful as I learned how to pitch, structure and write magazine features under his guidance. For the first few years, I would send him drafts of my work before filing to my editors, and his feedback always improved my writing. Richard has been one of the most significant influences in my career as a freelance journalist, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a generous and wise ally in my corner. We don't discuss his mentorship during this episode, but I think it's important to note here at the beginning.
    In March, I visited Richard at his home in Sydney, and our conversation touches on how he comes up with ideas for magazine stories while juggling his own interests and his editor's suggestions; how an editor at The Age pushed Richard out of his comfort zone as a young journalist, in order to improve his reporting and writing; how he worked as a freelance writer based in New York City for seven years; how he co-wrote a book about a German warship whose mission was to create panic among the Australian public during World War I; and how he became interested in writing about controversial subjects such as repressed memory, and more recently, the deception of public figures such as cancer hoaxer Belle Gibson. 
    Richard Guilliatt started his journalistic career in 1978 as a cadet reporter on The Truth newspaper, where he excelled at stories about disgraced pop stars and misbehaving headmasters. From 1980-86 he worked at The Australian and The Age newspapers, initially as a news reporter and then as a feature writer and section-editor. In 1986, he moved to New York and freelanced for seven years, writing features for newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Independent, New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. In 1993, he returned to Australia and joined The Sydney Morning Herald as a feature writer, primarily at Good Weekend magazine. Since 2006, he has been a staff writer at The Weekend Australian Magazine. In 2000, he won the Walkley Award for Best Magazine Feature, for a story in Good Weekend about the Stolen Generations debate. In 2004, his profile of David Gulpilil was included in The Best Australian Profiles (Black Inc). In 2012, his feature on concussion in sports won the Walkley Award for Sports Journalism, and he was shortlisted for Scoop Of The Year in the 2015 Walkley Awards for a series of stories in The Australian which exposed the cancer hoaxer Belle Gibson. Richard is the author of Talk Of The Devil (Text, 1996), a book about the ‘repressed memory’ phenomenon. He is co-author (with Peter Hohnen) of The Wolf (Heinemann, 2009), a work of historical non-fiction which won the Mountbatten Maritime Award in Britain and was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
    Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-37-richard-guilliatt/
    Richard Guilliatt on Twitter: @RMGuilliatt
    Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
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    • 1 hr 38 min

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