Penelope Layland has lived most of her life in Canberra. She gained a BA while working in the Public Service. During the 1980s-1990s Layland wrote regular columns for the Canberra Times, and she has worked for the newsapper as Associate Editor. Layland has been engaged as a speechwriter for the Minister for Arts and Communications. She has also served on the editorial board of Pandanus Books, established 2001, a scholarly and literary imprint within the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS), Australian National University.