Benjamin Law is a frequent contributor to frankie, The Monthly, Qweekend and Good Weekend. He has written for over 50 Australian and international publications (including The Australian Financial Review, The Big Issue, Smith Journal, Sunday Life and Crikey) and has been anthologised in The Best Australian Essays twice. He is the author of The Family Law and Gaysia.
How did you get started with narrative journalism?
Work experience. Originally, I wanted to be a music journalist, so as a teenager, I shot off emails and letters to every editor of magazines that were edited and published within a 100km radius of my crappy sharehouse. I started doing work experience for a street press once a week, which led to paid work, which boosted my confidence in doing interviews, and soon I was writing for metropolitan newspapers and glossy magazines, as well as editing my university’s student newspaper.
What articles have you had the most fun writing? Have any surprised you?
There was a year where I was writing a lot of stories that involved getting my kit off for Fairfax – nude yoga lessons, nude art gallery tours. (Looking back, it’s entirely possible my editor at the time was sexually harassing me, but eh – he paid well.) But the most surprising and satisfying stories are the ones where seemingly ‘ordinary’ people have the most extraordinary stories. It’s a cliché, but there’s no such thing as an ordinary person.
What’s your secret for winning over an editor?
One part charm, and about 90,395,598 parts professionalism. It’s about pitching well, being mindful and respectful of editors’ needs, and seeing them as collaborators who’ve got your back, as well as your boss.
Join Benjamin for an in-depth workshop, Facts More Compelling Than Fiction: Writing Narrative Journalism, on Saturday 4 June, 10am-4pm at the NSW Writers’ Centre.