2014 columns, Books

Giving voice to a silent profession

by Carody Culver , June 11, 2014Leave a comment

editing

 

Some would say that behind every good book is a good editor; and while this might not always be the case, the role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world – whether it’s from new or established writers – is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. So when this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival program included an entire day devoted to the editing profession, those of us who spend much of our working time detecting and correcting inconsistencies in written work engaged in some silent fist-pumping: finally, a chance to discuss the intricacies of what happens on the other side of the page or screen and spend time with people who legitimately enjoy discussing things like the Oxford comma.

It’s not that editors necessarily crave more explicit acknowledgment – few of those wishing to enter the profession are doing so for glory and accolades, and anyone who does won’t be labouring under that particular misapprehension for long. However, beyond postgraduate university courses, there are relatively few opportunities for new or aspiring editors to network with existing professionals or get a leg up in an increasingly tough industry.

‘Editing as a profession has traditionally been an apprenticeship relationship, and these days people have to be extremely generous with their time to work with emerging editors and give feedback on your editing outside of a formal educational environment,’ says Emerging Editors Coordinator Fiona Dunne. It seems that it’s becoming harder and harder to earn a decent living from editing (or writing, for that matter), as publishing houses tighten their belts, the government slashes arts funding and growing numbers of students enrol in university editing courses only to graduate and end up competing for a handful of jobs.

But the conversations had at Emerging Editors – where panels covered topics such as how editors discover writers, the world of online editing and how editors shape cultural and political debate – indicated that this kind of negative attitude isn’t entirely warranted. No, editors won’t be sleeping on beds of money anytime soon (‘no one gets into editing for the big bucks,’ observed Affirm Press’s Aviva Tuffield, one of the day’s panellists), but that doesn’t mean anyone wanting to become an editor faces insurmountable obstacles.

It’s still likely to be a tough journey – the ‘Going Solo with Start-up Publications’ panel, in particular, which featured Robert Skinner of The Canary Press, Amy Middleton of Archer Magazine and Mitchell Oakley-Smith of Manuscript, made it evident just how tight profit margins are for those wanting to strike out on their own, even if – as with all three panellists – they’re making sales and establishing strong reputations. Nonetheless, there was also a real sense that Australia is producing some damn fine writing, and editors have a huge part to play in discovering new voices, fostering existing talent and helping shape a constantly evolving – but still robust – publishing landscape.

Dunne feels that Emerging Editors was ‘quite a strong day overall, and I’m extremely glad that [EWF Director Sam Twyford-Moore] recognised the need for highlighting the work of editors and publishers in the community/industry. It’s incredibly important to invest in talented writers, but to have a healthy literary community, it’s just as vital to strengthen the skills and networks of editors, designers, publishers and everyone that contributes to the publication and surrounding debate of Australian work’.

And as recognition for editors and their work grows, so too will professional opportunities for those starting out: last year, for the first time, Seizure – a self-described ‘launchpad for Australian writing’ – opened its annual Viva la Novella competition to editors as well as writers, offering a fantastic career milestone opportunity to four editors, myself included. The winning writers were revealed at EWF last week at ‘Night of the Living Novellas’, during which Sam Twyford-Moore took the opportunity to (wisely) suggest that someone should start a #paytheeditors hashtag – as Kill Your Darlings’ own Emily Laidlaw remarked during the festival, ‘the #paythewriters discussion often seems to forget that a lot of editors are working voluntarily too’.

Could we soon see this change? The success of Viva la Novella and EWF’s Emerging Editors day can, at the very least, make people more aware of what editors do and give some much-needed hope to those wanting to wield the red pen for a living. And while that doesn’t mean that anyone’s getting a pay rise just yet, creating further professional development opportunities for editors (notwithstanding any further lacerations to our federal arts budget) is arguably just as important. Emily Stewart, another one of Viva la Novella’s four winning editors, noted during EWF that the fates of writers and editors are ‘twinned’ – and for the sake of the publishing industry’s survival, we’d do well to keep that in mind.

Carody Culver is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, editor and part-time bookseller. 

ACO logo




9781925266115

S.A. Jones

Light and Shade: Myfanwy Jones’ Leap

Grief, like depression, is potentially difficult material for a novelist to handle. To feel real, the reader has to be close enough to feel the raw, howling pain. But the reader needs reprieve too. It’s a balance of light and shade that Myfanwy Jones pulls off in her second novel, Leap. Read more »

the-story-of-the-lost-child

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their August picks

Looking for a book recommendation? After a busy month dominated by the Melbourne Writers Festival’s huge range of events, staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading. Read more »

daniel-handler

Kate Harper

‘I think about terrible things happening’: An interview with Daniel Handler

Given the current age of acute media-fuelled panic over childhood trauma and accidentally fucking them up, Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemony Snicket) dastardly depictions of children fighting to survive can be read as tales of wonder. Kate Harper chats to Handler ahead of his upcoming Melbourne appearances. Read more »

One-Direction

Rebecca Shaw

Right Direction: The value of fandom

I have a pop-culture confession to make to you, Internet. It isn’t something I’ve been trying to keep hidden for fear of seeming uncool, because that ship sailed long ago. But it is something I haven’t opened up about until this point. I, Rebecca Shaw, have become a One Direction fan. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1

Anwen Crawford

Memorable Chills: Edgerton’s Gift

The Gift is Australian actor Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut — he also wrote, produced, and stars in it — and it bodes well for Edgerton’s directing career. A psychological thriller, The Gift is efficiently and quite memorably chilling, at least for the first half. Read more »

wolfpack-1024

Joanna Di Mattia

Escaping The Wolfpack: Inside and outside the screen

The Wolfpack introduces us to the six Angulo brothers, who were kept virtual prisoners for 14 years in their Lower East Side apartment. More than a captivity narrative, this is a film about the influence of cameras and screens, and the transfixing, liberating power of cinema. Read more »

f9a2809e-97eb-400d-b491-b4b6a6f09930-2060x1236

Clem Bastow

Telling Stories: Women screenwriters and the obligation to represent

There is something in the recent call to arms for female writers and directors to ‘tell your story’ that leaves me feeling bereft, not vindicated. The idea that As A Woman I must write about women first and foremost is a special kind of hell. Read more »

actf_rtt2_hero

Alexis Drevikovsky

Have You Ever Felt Like This: Going Round the Twist again

Working from home one day, I took my lunchbreak away from my laptop and flicked idly through the TV channels, hoping for a midday movie with Reese Witherspoon or, even better, an old episode of Cheers. What I found was beyond my wildest dreams. I excitedly texted my mate Alison: Round the Twist is on ABC3! Read more »

golden-age-of-television

Jane Hone

How the Golden Age of Television Brought Us Back Together

I recently heard someone say that it used to be that at 6pm, everyone would sit down to watch The Cosby Show. It seemed at once a quaint and almost sci-fi notion ­– millions of people watching the same show at the same time. How things have changed. Read more »

glitch abc tv

Stephanie Van Schilt

A Glitch in the System: The ABC’s undead gamble

In one gasping breath, Glitch shows that the ABC is stumbling towards something beloved by TV audiences the world over, but that regularly eludes the Australian and film and TV industry: genre. And not just any genre, but the ‘return-from-the-dead’ zombie-style genre. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Edinburgh

Jane Howard

The Impenetrable City: Getting lost at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I just saw a one-on-one performance piece that ended in my bursting into tears and the artist sitting with me and holding my hands in hers for maybe ten, maybe fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. We had a shared piece of history, and her work was delicate and took me by surprise, and I have a cold, and I am homesick, and I don’t know why I’m in Edinburgh, and I’ve cried a lot, and now I’m in a gallery because I couldn’t face another show. Read more »

Resized__863

Jane Howard

A Mess of a Brain: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In some ways it seems like an impossible task to take Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing and translate it to any other art form. How to find a life for a book that is so internal, so unrelenting, in anything other than the pure words of its narrator as they appear on the page? Read more »

Keith - photo Shane Reid

Jane Howard

Local Courage, Global Reach: The National Play Festival

There is something to be gained from observing any collection of works in close proximity, and in these readings you could see the way Australian playwrights are reaching out into the world. Together, these works show the minds of our playwrights in robust health, with works that are itching to find their audience. Read more »