publisher, editor, writer, teacher, host, prize judge, etc



Photo credit: Shannyn Higgins

Sam Cooney runs the not-for-profit independent publishing organisation that produces the quarterly literary magazine The Lifted Brow, publishes books under its Brow Books imprint, posts new pieces of commentary and criticism online every day or two, stages events, awards writing prizes, and does a whole lot more. He is most interested in acts of publishing that are artistically daring and culturally critical – especially works produced by those from the literary and/or demographic margins whose views and viewpoints can and do add greatly to the broader conversation of who we are and why.

He is the official Publisher-in-Residence at RMIT University, assisting various faculty members and students throughout the university with an assortment of publishing activities. As a sessional lecturer and tutor he teaches creative writing and publishing subjects  at RMIT and the University of Melbourne. In the past he has taught at Deakin University and Victoria University. He holds a bachelor's degree in writing from Deakin University and a master's degree in creative writing and cultural practice from Western Sydney University.

Sam is a freelance writer and critic, with past work appearing in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Saturday Paper, Meanjin, Island, Going Down Swinging, Seizure, Australian Book ReviewThe Rumpus, a Sleepers Almanac, and as a founding member of the McSweeney’s Silent History geofiction project. He is a freelance editor, having commissioned and/or edited work for a variety of other Australian publishing houses and publications in the past, including journals Overland and Griffith Review and Australian publishers Giramondo, Sleepers Publishing and Momentum Books. 

Sam sits on a couple of editorial advisory boards, chairs the RMIT Creative Writing Program Advisory Committee, and undertook a residency with McSweeney's Publishing in San Francisco in 2014. He sometimes has the absolute pleasure of helping kids make literary magazines at 100 Story Building in Footscray. He has hosted events and chaired panels at the Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Emerging, National Young, and Ubud writers’ festivals, as well as at The Wheeler Centre and at various writers' centres around the country. He has been a judge of the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Prize, the Victorian Premier’s Non-Fiction Prize,  the Walkley's Young Journalist of the Year Awards, and twice for the Lord Mayor’s Narrative Non-Fiction Prize.

He will be forever in huge debt to Voiceworks magazine and Express Media for revealing to him a path, and he loves that he gets to continue working with Express Media to this day. He's also deeply beholden to others who gave him tremendous opportunities to progress, including Ronnie Scott (founder of The Lifted Brow), Kalinda Ashton at Overland (for allowing him to guest-edit fiction for an issue of the journal way back when), Ivor Indyk at Giramondo, Louise Swinn and Zoe Dattner at Sleepers Publishing, among so so so many others. 

In 2017 he took part in the Small Press Network’s inaugural mentorship program, appeared at the NonfictioNow conference in Reykjavik, and spent the year immersed in the Australia Council's 'Future Leaders' professional development program.

In 2018 Sam oversaw the publication of eight more Brow Books titles and four issues of The Lifted Brow, visited India as part of the Australia Council's India Literature Exploratory Delegation, and undertook a secondment at Graywolf Press in Minneapolis. He also researched not-for-profit trade publishing models by meeting with presses in the US, UK, and Europe, and he participated in the inaugural Foundry658 Accelerator bootcamp program run by the State Library of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) as part of the Victorian Government’s Creative State strategy.

In 2019 he is a member of the UNESCO Melbourne City of Literature’s Strategic Planning Group, and he will continue to publish books and editions of the magazine, with the help of the AMP Foundation ‘Tomorrow Maker’ fund. He is an Australian Book Industry Awards finalist in the ‘Rising Star’ category.

Photo credit: Shannyn Higgins