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Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Melinda Williams, Freelance Producer

20 March, 2024

This week, Medianet is joined by Producer and Author, Melinda Williams. Here, Melinda shares her experience and practice when engaging with real stories that need to be told. 


MelindaWilliamsCan you tell me a bit about your initial experience in the industry? Have you always wanted to work within the literary/book industry?

My earliest foray into print was producing a regular union newsletter in the airline industry. At the same time, studying a double major in media studies and literature at RMIT cemented my obsession with books and writing. I also worked out that while I love to read fiction, I have absolutely no aptitude in that department.

While working as a producer at 3AW, mainly on Mornings and special projects, any serious writing was confined to producing research. My intro to publishing was working as a researcher on Neil Mitchell’s Second Chance as well as Mariam Issa’s A Resilient Life: One Woman’s Refugee Journey. Both books are nonfiction accounts of real lives.


As the Author and Producer of REMARKABLE: The Courage, Commitment and Contribution of Australia’s National Living Treasures, what stories and perspectives are you most interested in writing and reading about?

For me, it’s getting to the essence of a story about someone’s life, or events that actually happened, that brings me to my desk. Half the joy for me is in the research. 

I decided to write REMARKABLE after coming across the list of Australia’s National Living Treasures. Like many, I had heard the term used to describe a number of prominent or newsworthy Australians, but I hadn’t realised that an official list existed. Compiled through a public campaign in the late 1990’s by the National Trust, I realised as I read it that while I knew many of the 119 names on the list, there were many I did not. This was a temptation too great to resist and so the idea of compiling each of those stories into one volume was born.


In what ways have you seen the literary industry change? What were some of your greatest challenges in overcoming or adapting to these changes?

I’m certainly no expert on the literary industry and only have my own experience to draw on. Rejection of your ideas or manuscript is an inevitable factor as is the need to rely on other means of financial survival.

After a number of dead ends, I was fortunate to find Kirsten Abbott and her editing and design team at Thames and Hudson who completely understood the vision and offered great support throughout the publishing process. And challenges abound in that process! From design decisions that affect word lengths, to budget constraints and politics - expect it all. In the case of REMARKABLE, a new printer in Malaysia had to be found at the very last minute after the contracted printer in China refused to go ahead because of a five-word passing reference to the Dalai Lama in the text! Flexibility and any ego left at the door is always a good plan.


As the former Producer for The Book Pod, in what ways are podcasts - as a medium - unique within the media landscape? 

I love podcasts although I find it’s impossible to listen to everything I want to. Working on The Book Pod was a delight. Just listening to incredible writers talk about their work and their processes is so revealing. 

The great thing about being present for these usually very relaxed conversations is that there are always surprises and insights. While there might be a general structure to the schedule of questions and topics there’s no telling where a podcast conversation will head. Sometimes the outcome is so rich, editing it can be like killing your darlings!

You’ve been a Writer, Researcher, Author and Producer thus far. Where else would you like your work to take you/what are some upcoming projects of yours that we should be looking out for?

Hah! The sixty-four-dollar question! Another book is a possibility. Covid put paid to early plans but never say never. For me, it’s about finding the right story, in the right context, at the right time.

In the meantime, I'm heavily involved in the Sorrento Writers Festival which was founded in 2023 by Corrie Perkin. It’s Victoria’s biggest and best gathering of writers, journalists and commentators in the perfect seaside setting of Sorrento, from April 25-28. 


And lastly, what do you look for in content pitching?

Pitching is tricky territory for everyone, for those writing it and for those inundated by it! My advice would be to pick your audience carefully. Blanket emails are annoyingly obvious. Take the time to know who your target is and what they are looking for. Write clearly, concisely and aim to stand out. Make the recipient want to read past the headline.

Medianet is the ultimate PR platform connecting you with media contacts and outlets to get your story told.

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