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Always Take Notes

Media & Entertainment Podcasts

Always Take Notes is a fortnightly podcast from London for and about writers and writing. Hosts Simon Akam and Rachel Lloyd speak to a diverse range of people in the industry on a variety of topics, from the mysteries of slush piles and per-word rates, to how data are changing the ways newspapers do business and how to pitch a book.

Always Take Notes is a fortnightly podcast from London for and about writers and writing. Hosts Simon Akam and Rachel Lloyd speak to a diverse range of people in the industry on a variety of topics, from the mysteries of slush piles and per-word rates, to how data are changing the ways newspapers do business and how to pitch a book.


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Always Take Notes is a fortnightly podcast from London for and about writers and writing. Hosts Simon Akam and Rachel Lloyd speak to a diverse range of people in the industry on a variety of topics, from the mysteries of slush piles and per-word rates, to how data are changing the ways newspapers do business and how to pitch a book.




#93: Phoebe Hurst, managing editor, Vice UK

Simon and Rachel speak with Phoebe Hurst. As the managing editor of Vice UK, Phoebe is responsible for commissioning and editing stories with a youth-focused lens; she has also written about topics as varied as mental health, plastic waste, and the rise of Pret A Manger. Before that, she was the editor of Munchies, Vice's food channel, and has freelanced for publications including Wired, the Guardian and Dazed. We spoke to Phoebe about getting started in journalism, the joys of a good editor...


#92: Alexander McCall Smith, novelist

Rachel and Simon speak with prolific novelist Alexander McCall Smith. Alexander was a professor of Medical Law, before turning his hand to writing fiction. His first book, “The White Hippo”, a children’s title, was published in 1980. But it wasn’t until the appearance of the highly successful “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series that Alexander became a household name. The series has now sold over twenty million copies in English alone. Alexander’s various series of books have been...


#91: Linda Grant, writer and novelist

Simon speaks with the writer and novelist Linda Grant. She began her career as a journalist, writing for the Guardian and the Independent on Sunday, before publishing “The Cast Iron Shore”, her first novel, in 1996. Her subsequent books include “Remind Me Who I Am, Again” (1998), “When I Lived in Modern Times” (2000), “Still Here” (2000), “The People on the Street” (2005) and “The Clothes on their Backs” (2008). Her work has variously won or been nominated for a clutch of prizes, including...


#90: Geoff Dyer, author

Rachel and Simon speak with the prolific and genre-bending author Geoff Dyer. Geoff’s many books include the novel “Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi,” “But Beautiful” (about jazz), “Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It,” “Zona” (about Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker”) and, most recently, “Broadsword Calling Danny Boy” (on the film “Where Eagles Dare”). His books have been translated into twenty-four languages and he currently lives in Los Angeles where he is Writer in Residence...


#89: Amanda Craig, novelist

Rachel and Simon speak with the novelist Amanda Craig. After a brief spell in advertising and PR, Amanda became a journalist—writing for the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Telegraph and the Independent—and went on to win the Young Journalist of the Year and the Catherine Pakenham Award. Amanda is now a full-time novelist and her latest book, “The Golden Rule”, was published in June. We talked to Amanda about writing interconnected stories, the economics of the publishing industry and her...


#88: Toby Young, journalist and author

Simon and Rachel speak with journalist and author Toby Young. He has written for the Times, the Sun on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and has been a columnist at the Spectator since 1998. His book, “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People”, about his stint at Vanity Fair, became a bestseller and was adapted into a film starring Simon Pegg. Toby co-founded the West London Free School and is the chief executive of the Free Speech Union. We talked to Toby about his entry into...


#87: Anne Enright, novelist

Rachel and Simon speak with the author Anne Enright. Anne has written two collections of stories, one book of non-fiction and six novels. “The Gathering”, which was published in 2007, won the Booker Prize; Anne has also received the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. In 2015 she was appointed the first Laureate for Irish Fiction and in 2018 she received the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature. We spoke to Anne...


#86: Matthew Syed, author and journalist

Rachel and Simon speak with Matthew Syed, an author and journalist who writes about the practices and techniques that underpin high performance. He has written six books on the subject - including the best-sellers "Bounce" and "Black Box Thinking" - and has worked as a consultant with many leading organisations. He is also a journalist for The Times and a regular contributor to television and radio. In his previous career, Matthew was the England table tennis number one for almost a decade....


#85: Louise Doughty, novelist

Rachel and Simon speak with Louise Doughty. Louise is the author of nine novels, including “Apple Tree Yard”, a number-one bestseller which was adapted as a four-part series by the BBC. Her sixth novel, “Whatever You Love”, was nominated for the Costa Novel Award and Orange Prize for Fiction; her eighth novel, “Black Water”, was chosen by the New York Times as one of their Notable Books of the Year. Her work has been translated into 30 languages. We spoke to Louise about creative writing...


#84: Guy Stagg, travel writer

Simon speaks with the travel writer Guy Stagg. In 2013 Guy, who had grown up in Paris, Heidelberg, Yorkshire and London, walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem. "The Crossway," an account of this journey, was published by Picador in 2018. The book won an Edward Stanford Travel Award and was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Deborah Rogers Foundation Award. We spoke to Guy about travel writing in the age of Tripadvisor, his...


#83: Hadley Freeman, journalist and author

Rachel and Simon speak with the journalist Hadley Freeman. She has been a staff writer at the Guardian since 2000, working in London and the US on the fashion desk, as a features writer and as a columnist. She has contributed to other publications including the British and American editions of Vogue, and written several books. We spoke to Hadley about fashion journalism, the challenges of column writing and her family memoir, “House of Glass”....


#82: Colum McCann, novelist

Simon and Rachel speak with Colum McCann, who is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. His novel, "TransAtlantic", was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, and his previous novel, "Let the Great World Spin", won the National Book Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a New York Times bestseller. His work has been published in 40 languages and he teaches on the MFA program at Hunter College in New York. We spoke with Colum, who was born in...


#81: Alysoun Owen, editor of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook

Simon and Rachel speak with Alysoun Owen, editor of the “Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook” and the “Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook”, and the author of the “Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to Getting Published”. She has worked in the publishing industry, both in Britain and overseas, for more than 25 years; in 2012 she established her own consultancy. Alysoun talked about the history of the yearbook, first published in 1906, as well as how its content - and how the industry at large - has...


#80: Tim Rice, lyricist

Rachel and Simon speak with lyricist Tim Rice, who has worked in music, theatre and films since 1965. In collaboration with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim wrote song lyrics for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita.” He has since worked with other distinguished popular composers such as Elton John (“The Lion King,” “Aida”) and Alan Menken (“Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast”). His awards include three Oscars, four Tonys, five Grammys and one...


#79: Sophie Elmhirst, magazine writer

Rachel and Simon speak with magazine writer Sophie Elmhirst, a freelance journalist. As well as writing regularly for the Guardian Long Read and The Economist’s 1843 Magazine, on subjects ranging from millennial culture to the inner workings of the tampon business, Sophie is a contributing editor at The Gentlewoman and Harper’s Bazaar. She talked about her decision to enter, leave, and re-enter journalism, producing longform features and how she manages multiple commissions at once....


#78: Simon Lancaster, speechwriter

Simon speaks with Simon Lancaster, who runs Bespoke Speechwriting Services and has written speeches for top politicians and the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the world, including Unilever, Rio Tinto, and Nestle. Simon is the author of “Speechwriting: The Expert Guide” and “Winning Minds: Secrets from the Language of Leadership.” He is a fellow at Henley Business School, lectures at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and regularly appears as a media pundit on oratory. Simon told us...


#77: Kiley Reid, novelist

Simon and Rachel speak with Kiley Reid, the bestselling author of “Such a Fun Age”. A recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, “Such a Fun Age” is her debut novel. The book was the subject of a 10-way bidding war while the television and film were acquired by Lena Waithe, an Emmy-award winning writer and producer, ahead of its publication. Kiley talked about how her experiences informed the book’s plot, the process of workshopping a novel and what it’s like to...


#76: Giles Hattersley, features director, British Vogue

Rachel and Simon speak with Giles Hattersley, the features director of the British edition of Vogue magazine. Giles studied English at Warwick University and completed an MA in fashion journalism before joining the Sunday Times in 2003. Working his way up from an intern on the Style section, he joined the News Review later that year and went on to become the paper's youngest ever chief interviewer, aged 25, writing profiles of everyone from Beyonce to Richard Dawkins. In 2007, he briefly...


#75: Lisa Taddeo, author and journalist

Rachel speaks with Lisa Taddeo, the bestselling author of “Three Women”, a non-fiction book exploring love and longing in America. Her journalism has appeared in Esquire, Playboy and New York magazine, and her short stories have won two Pushcart prizes. Lisa is currently working on a novel, due to be released in 2020. Lisa talked about the process of writing “Three Women”, imagining the last days of Heath Ledger for Esquire and the best time to get in touch with an editor....


#74: Jay Rayner, restaurant critic, the Observer

Simon and Rachel speak with Jay Rayner, the restaurant critic of the Observer. After studying politics at Leeds University, where he edited the student newspaper, Jay entered national newspaper journalism, winning Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards in 1992. The restaurant critic of the Observer since 1999, Jay has also worked extensively in television, including as a judge on Masterchef, and written several books. Jay talked about how, in his view, there is no such...