Working with Words: Brigid Delaney
Brigid Delaney is a journalist and novelist whose work has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Vogue, the Spectator, the Saturday Paper and many more. She’s a senior writer at Guardian Australia and the author of This Restless Life and Wild Things. She spoke to us about travel, Holden Caulfield and why readers aren’t mugs.
What was the first piece of writing you had published?
A piece for the Age, on the op-ed page in 1996.
What’s the best part of your job?
Travel (particularly to Indigenous parts of Australia), freedom, meeting people, working in a newsroom with great colleagues, being part of the awesome mission that is Guardian Australia – and being able to swing between journalism and books.
What’s the worst part of your job?
It used to be 5am starts when I was news editing online. Now it’s work bleeding into nights and weekends.
What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?
Getting a traineeship at the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001. It opened so many doors for me, and completely changed my life. Harper Collins publishing my novel, Wild Things, was also significant. It was the realising of a long-held dream.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?
I’ve been lucky to have had lots of mentors over the years. My first mentor, Martin Flanagan, used to say that readers aren’t mugs – they know when you are being authentic when you write or if you are bullshitting.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?
A review in the Australian Financial Review for my first book, This Restless Life, said I should have just had therapy instead of writing the book. That made me laugh.
If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Working in politics or activism. I’ve had a stint working as an adviser, which was fun – and have been involved in anti-death penalty activism, which has been stressful but rewarding.
There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?
I studied law – not creative writing – so have not had much experience as a student of creative writing. But it can provide a good discipline and structure to what is essentially a lonely, risky job.
What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?
Keep a journal or diary.
Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?
If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Holden Caulfield. My first love.
What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?
Joan Didion’s essays. Her cadence and rhythm is magnficient. I read her not for content – but for style.
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