On writing: Konrad Marshall

I recently emailed the editor of SMH Good Weekend to commend Konrad Marshall’s story titled ‘Pieces of You’ about a box of treasures he found in kerbside collection.

She kindly passed on my email to Konrad and I was fortunate enough to have the chance to chat to him a little bit.

It’s not every day you get to email one of Australia’s top feature writers so I thought I would ask him how he came to be so good.

Here’s what he said:

‘I guess I honed my writing over a number of years. I never studied journalism. I did a bachelor of arts (mainly philosophy and psych), then did a grad dip in PR, then a masters in communications and media. But really I learned to write on the job, first in comms roles and then at a little newspaper in upstate NY (where my wife is from). I spent five years there, covering small towns and ferreting out stories from strange little mountain communities. I worked in US newspapers for almost a decade, in fact, in New York and Florida and Indiana. Then I came home, did more comms work, and eventually got a job at Fairfax with a monthly magazine, then at The Age proper. I was really REALLY lucky to snare an open position at Good Weekend almost two years ago exactly, and you’re dead right, it’s the dream job. I have no idea how long such a gig can last, given the way print media is going, so I’m just going to enjoy the ride as long as I can.

‘If there’s one thing I’ve learned about great writing, it’s that it comes from reading. When I was finding my voice as a journo I was pretty exclusively reading great narrative journalism in magazines: Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, New York, etc. I became obsessed with Gary Smith, David Grann, Tom Junod, William Langewiesche, Susan Orlean, Zadie Smith. I think the more we read the guns of the craft, the more we aspire to write like them, and learn their tricks, and develop our own. I do have one rule I tend to write by, however. It’s something I heard from a hero of mine [*Tom French] at a writers workshop in Connecticut almost a decade ago: “Always get the name of the dog, the brand of the beer, and the title of the song that was playing as the car careened off the road.” I reckon they’re words to write by.’

To read more of Konrad’s work, visit his website or read the Good Weekend.

*Tom French won a Pulitzer for this amazing serial narrative that Konrad says is well worth curling up with if you want a truly special piece of long form crime writing.

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