Conference Connector

Q&A with Rachael McGuirk

The national conference allowed me the space and time to be inspired.

Rachael McGuirk who works for Overland magazine, is a non-fiction writer, and publicist for other writers and their work. She attended the 2019 national conference under the Connector program.

Tell us about where you work?

I work at Overland literary journal, a progressive platform for excellent fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art since 1954. The magazine has published some of Australia’s most iconic writers and continues to give space to underrepresented voices and brand-new literary talent every single day. We publish quarterly in print and online every single day.

What is your typical day?

There isn’t really a ‘typical day’ and that’s one thing I love about my job. One day I might be representing or publicising one of our writers at a literary event or managing a writing prize, and the next I could be editing pieces for the online magazine or working on a longer piece for publication in the print magazine. One of the joys of a smaller team is that you gain skills across a diverse range of areas.

How often do you connect with other women in media and how important is that to you?

I’m fortunate in that I work in a team of passionate women. My editor and manager are fierce, talented women and I’ve really gained so much from them. Managing publicity at Overland means that I work with a lot of women all of the country helping promote and support their work. Only when I did shorter media contract work in a male-dominated environment did I realise the stark contrast – it’s now something I don’t take for granted and it’s important to me to help foster a supportive and collaborative environment.

Why did you apply for the Connector Program?

For me, as a large part of my work is representing others in their creativity and journalism, the program offered a chance for me to return to myself as a writer – something I don’t get to do as often as I would like. The conference really did do that for me – it allowed me the space and time I needed in order to be inspired and map out some new projects.

A peek inside Rachael McGuirk’s workplace at Overland magazine. Photo: Supplied

How would you describe the national conference?

It’s a celebration of women and their work. It is the coming together of women writers, journalists and media professionals from all around the country (and beyond!) to exchange skills and experience in an environment that’s judgement-free, collaborative and supportive. It’s a showcase of talent in a transferable, inspiring way and it’s also a lot of fun.

What are your mind-blowing moments from the national conference?

I really loved the podcast workshop! I’ve avoided audio and radio for most of my career as I had somehow along the way labelled it as ‘my least favourite thing to do’ – but this workshop really altered my perception of this and allowed me to let go of this notion. I’ve been thinking about one particular project that would lend itself perfectly to the podcasting space, and after this workshop, I’m feeling really confident that this is something I’ll pursue.

What did you learn that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?

That it’s okay to take detours and switch things up and that life and work doesn’t necessarily take calculated steps on a ladder upward. If the women speaking at this conference taught me anything, it’s that if you follow your interest and your curiosity that you will most likely succeed in ways you didn’t originally think about or plan for. I wasted a lot of time thinking about where I should be – instead of getting the most out of where I was.

What did you learn that will help you at work in the future?

Having met and heard from so many women that had ideas and from that stage, developed their work into feature articles, podcasts, novels etc, it was a real reminder to act on my ideas and to take risks. I also took away a lot of practical advice, everything from what equipment to use on the ground and how to ask better questions. Soaked up so much info that’s applicable to both my personal and professional life!

Was there a stand out idea or piece of advice from the conference you think everyone should know?

I think one of the main things I took away was a notion of vulnerability. Each of these amazing women at some stage of their life felt extreme fear and overcame it. Many of these women were introverted and I appreciated their honesty – and collectively you could feel and sense that both the other panel members and the audience had similar experiences, that sense of solidarity is priceless.

Would you recommend the national conference to a friend?

Yes, of course. It was great to meet so many students and young people who are just embarking on their professional journey and I believe this type of conference would be particularly valuable for them, as it offers so much insight into the industry and provides strategies to overcome the inevitable challenges they may face.

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