Working with Words: Brodie Lancaster

Brodie Lancaster is a Melbourne-based editor and writer. She is a staff writer at Rookie and the founding editor of Filmme Fatales. Her writing has been featured in magazines, books and websites including New York Magazine, The Pitchfork Review, Jezebel and Smith Journal. During the week, Brodie is an editor at Melbourne writing studio The Good Copy, where she works on projects including Rooftop Cinema and the annual Independent Photography Festival.

We talk to her about writing stories about Hanson (when she was six), Imposter Syndrome, working for Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie, and getting her writing advice from The Good Copy’s Penny Modra.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

I wrote a short story when I was six for a school writing competition. The theme of our class’s stories was ‘the stars’, and while everyone else set their stories in the solar system, mine was about my class taking a trip to Hollywood to be in a movie. (On the last page I met Hanson.) I printed my story on that paper that had perforations between each page and ran through the printer on spools, I drew the pictures and my family coloured the pages for me the day before it was due. It won me a voucher at the book fair. Crushed it.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my day job – as an editor at The Good Copy – is seeing my projects go from being ideas to actual things. When you work on something really closely for ages, it can be hard to see the wood from the trees, or the nice stuff from the annoying emails. It’s also really great to work alongside funny, nice, talented, silly people every day.

What’s the worst part of your job?

ADMIN. Were those capital letters all-caps-y enough to express how little fun spreadsheets and budgets and briefs and invoices are?

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing and editing career so far?

It’s a tie between being hired by Penny Modra to work at The Good Copy and when Tavi Gevinson asked me to join the Rookie staff (both of which happened on the same, excellent day). Both of those things – and, in some way, everything I’ve written/edited/done in the past two years – can be traced back to the work I do making Filmme Fatales, though, so that would easily be the most significant thing I’ve ever made happen for myself.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing or editing?

Penny gives me great advice constantly, and usually when she doesn’t know she’s doing it. I think the most useful piece of advice she’s given is to never write a word that I wouldn’t say aloud. If I’m too embarrassed to say ‘archetypal’ in conversation, or am not confident enough in its meaning to use ‘solipsism’ in a sentence, I shouldn’t be writing them.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?

For a really long time, I was surprised anytime anyone said they liked my work, or that they thought I was a good writer. It’s honestly a wonder I get anything done considering how relentless my case of Imposter Syndrome can be.

If you weren’t making your living by working with words, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

In another life I might’ve been a photographer or a filmmaker. I always wanted to do those things, but was never dedicated enough to commit to them for more than a few minutes at a time.

There’s much debate on whether writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I think it’s definitely possible to give people the tools to be better writers, and that no matter how much natural talent somebody has, they can always be taught more. I also think that anyone – whether they think they can or not – is able to write. Often my favourite things to read are by people who are convinced they can’t write, because there’s a lack of pretension in their writing that you don’t get when a writer expects you to think or feel something because of their work. So I’m going to sit on the fence with this one, and say that maybe writing shouldn’t be taught, because it’s so great when people don’t realise they’re doing it really well, and learning to do it ‘properly’ might cancel out all that natural greatness.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer or editor?

The more you talk about writing, the less writing you’re actually doing. Shut up, and do the work. (Says the girl who’s just written 600 words about writing.) Also, Ira Glass’s advice http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/309485-nobody-tells-this-to-people-who-are-beginners-i-wish for getting over those initial creative hurdles when your aims and reality are so totally out of sync should be engraved on your brain forever.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Both!

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? And what would you talk about?

Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls. We’d discuss tips for maintaining voluminous hair, the pros and cons of self-publishing and the plans for our impending wedding.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Sara Marcus’s chronicle of the riot grrrl movement, Girls to the Front, is a perfect blend of narrative, archive and interview. It reminded me that the best music writing isn’t actually about the music itself, but the people it affected.

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