Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Littlest Birds

I've only just discovered The Be Good Tanyas. I want to go for a walk in this film clip.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who wants to be an editor when they grow up?

A friend's sister who has a small baby recently asked me about editing, wondering if she should pay for an expensive course in order to become qualified. In particular I think she was wondering about whether or not it would be a family friendly job. Since I wrote quite a long response and a few people have asked me about this, I've edited my response to put it up here. I should start off by saying when I was studying editing and writing, every bad sister and her stepmother came to RMIT to tell us that we'd never get to go to the ball get a job and if we did we'd all starve to death because of the low pay. I guess those with doubts or who wanted to make bundles of dosh were then deterred and those like me who think $30K a year is a goodly sum perfectly adequate Grown Up Money keep boffinning away because frankly what else are we going to do? Become accountants? Ha ha ha ha ha.

In terms of study: I am not very familiar with non-Victorian based courses. I would usually recommend a Tafe over a uni if it's an option because Tafe is cheaper and they tend to be very in touch with industry and very career focused. I did the Prof Writing and Editing course at RMIT and a lot of the people I deal with now in publishing were there with me. The Masters that I'm doing at Melbourne Uni is very academic in focus and very separate from the industry. So I'd be wary of their publishing courses, I'd want to know what hands on experience they offer, what opportunities there are for work experience, if there are lots of guest speakers/tutors who are actively employed in the industry and what industry-based background the course tutors and co-ordinators have. Also I'd be curious how old the course is and what the employment rate was of past students (doubtful anyone can give you figures, but I'd want one of the teachers or co-ordinators to be able to say off the top of their head a few students who'd found jobs and where they were working). The other thing would be to bite the bullet and contact (via email or phone) some local publishers about courses near you - if they've heard of them, if they recommend them, if there's another they'd particularly recommend. If you're polite and cheerful and friendly and keep it relatively brief, most receptionists or junior editors will be happy to at least do a strawpoll of whoever's walking past the office at that moment about what courses the staff have done to get into the field.

As far as career prospects go, you will never get especially rich being an editor. Starting wages were mid or low twenties just a few years ago, I doubt it's changed much. Commissioning Editors (it would take most people about ten years, give or take a few years, to work up to that stage, assuming the opportunities were available) earn somewhere in the 40s I think...this is for a job with long hours and high expectations. When teachers make a fuss about money (rightly so, considering the discrepancies between teaching and most other fields and the fact that I want my children's teachers to be happy and fulfilled in life rather than embittered and inwardly seething) I laugh quietly into my sleeve because compared to editors, they're riding the Gravox Express.

The reward though is most people love what they do, and work place culture tends to be good (despite the highly stressful periods with lots of competing deadlines and the swathes of guilt inducing manuscripts heaped in every corner). You also get lots of free books. The downside of all this lovin' is that there's lots of competition for jobs and once you get into a good company (especially in fiction) it can be hard to move up because no one ever leaves. However there has been a bit of expansion in the field, just recently I've noticed a few more openings have come up. Having said that I think publishers can be a bit bottom some point some of these young 'uns are going to have trouble moving up.

However, that's all in trade book publishing, and specifically in my experience the kid's lit and fiction world. I would imagine there are more opportunities in educational publishing and editors can also find work in places like the public service and the private sector. A friend of mine earned about $45 an hour editing some very dry material for a law firm. I worked for editing their online content. There is heaps around, you just have to be lucky and flexible and have a back up if the work dries up for a while and be willing to do stuff that doesn't necessarily inspire you. A lot of really good editors get satisfaction out of the nuts and bolts and nitty gritty and don't mind what they work on (to a point).

I tend to only write structural reports for fiction. Editing is one string to my bow, I've had to diversify in my career, and of course writing is my number one. I've never managed to get a full time job as an editor (which I don't mind) because I am not one of those editors who gets deeply passionate about punctuation. I don't proofread or copyedit. I've been lucky enough to get into a position where I only really do what I love. But I only earn about $8000 a year from editing, probably a bit less since I've had kids. I charge about $350 for a 80-100,000 word manuscript, which is about 10 hours work.

I mostly work for Allen & Unwin, and I started there as a work experience student (which is the same for a few of the people working there - once they find someone they like they kind of adopt them into the fold, and if they wait around long enough a job is often found for them). Most publishers will take work experience students, but A&U (for example) book up a year ahead. So you need to be really proactive and persuasive and get in early. It's good to be passionate about where you're going and show some understanding of the company, and in some ways you might be better approaching a big educational publisher where you're more likely to get work after graduating.

To be honest if you're looking for a family-friendly job with a reasonable income I am not sure that editing is necessarily compatible. It takes a while to set up as a freelancer and you usually need to have some inhouse experience to do that. In terms of in-house, the hours can be long and you'll take a lot of work home with you, and while the offices tend to be mostly women, there's still a lack of flexibility in terms of career editing (moving up the chain) and parenting, most publishers I know have older or adult children. The income isn't brilliant in terms of relocating for a job (It's a lot to ask of someone to relocate for a 30K a year job, which I think is what you'd be looking at as an entry level editor) and the industry isn't huge so there's no guarantee of jobs. When they do come up there's a lot of competition, especially with the recent growth in editing and publishing courses.

But if you're passionate and patient, flexible and you just really desperately want to do it, then it's a great job with heaps of rewards. I used to tell people 'I get paid to read in bed.' I love it. Working in-house is especially dynamic and interesting. The passionate exchange of ideas is addictive, especially if you luck into working with a publisher with a really great list like I did. And I haven't even mentioned some of the great books I've worked on. It's Good Work, putting wonderful things out in the world. It feels valuable and worthwile. That counts for a lot, especially when your work is taking you away from your kids.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger

I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it now. Death sucks. And the untimely death of Heath Ledger at just 28 (actually I'm surprised how young he is) is no exception. I'm with Margaret Pomeranz, it always seemed to me that Heath Ledger was a talented actor with a good soul, who chose intelligent, diverse and demanding roles. Kinda like Johnny Depp.

There's already plenty of scandal and salacious gossip around his death, of course no sense in waiting for the real story before reporting pills scattered around his bed (oops, they're saying now, no pills actually scattered. Of course they're not saying sorry for making up a big whopping lie.)

Anyway, I don't know him, or know who he was away from the cameras. But I think it's sad, I think it's a terrible loss.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


It's a new look for a new year. The photo in the header was taken from our front garden at the bush across the road one misty morning. The black and white might bore us all senseless but at the moment I'm going with elegant and understated.

It's raining in our bush at the moment, a gentle, constant, truly soaking rain. I went out walking in it yesterday afternoon on my own and unplugged my ipod so I could listen to it fall softly on the leaves. The rain is a presence in the bush, everything shivers around you with the weight of water. A kangaroo slow-hopped through the rain. Butterflies flickered between drops and birds crashed about in the trees. There was a mood of celebration, of reprieve. We drank it in, me and the kangas and the birds.

Today we all went out in it, me and Mart and Una and Fred, down to the school grounds for a play, trying to be okay with Una sitting down in muddy puddles and got soaked through to her core and Fred filling her boots with water and sloshing around. On the way home two black cockatoos flew overhead. We have white ones all the time, heaps of them, raucous bogans that they are. But the black ones are special. The thing I love about cockatoos is that they really really dig the fact that they can fly. You can see them on windy days, playing with eddies in the air, hanging upside down, just mucking around, flying in a gang, making as much noise as'd swear they're doing blockies.

Unfortunately in the process of rejiggering my blog (that's a technical term) all my links have disappeared (oops). It seems awfully antisocial to have a blog with no blogroll but secretly I am quite liking the look of it being so clean and uncluttered and simple. Maybe I will be antisocial for a while longer (or am I secretly lazy?).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The year ahead

Oops, I forgot to blog for a few weeks. Tassie was great. Go here why don't you? For less than $1000 a week you get your own beach access (which involves crossing the dearest little bridge), all the toys you could want, your own park with two swings, a walk to the best fish and chips you will ever have (from the Blowhole caravan) and a really, really comfortable little house with all the things you could possibly hanker after in a beach house.

So anyway, goodbye 2007, already forgotten. Hello 2000 and what now? 8? Jeepers creepers. Remember when the 21st century was this strange far away place with flying cars and aliens living among us and everybody wore silver PVC jumpsuits? Now it's just, well, this. And I'mm33. Pah. I am unsettled by odd numbers.

So this year I will:
*Have three (or four) books to write.
*Do a backroads tour in the Wimmera region in March for about four days, as well as judging a short story competition, which makes me a VPP (very powerful person). If you want to win you can try sending cash and chocolate to me through the mail. I can't guarantee anything, but hey, it certainly won't hurt your chances.
*Have to get my license. Yes. I am about to join the ranks of the driving. Do you think it's terribly lame that I got to 32 without getting my license? I first got my Learner's permit in 1991, when I was sixteen. So that means I've been learning to drive for about 17 years. On and off. But I've never needed a car before now. I always walked, rode or PTed everywhere I wanted to go. I moved out of home around my 18th birthday, and just about everyone I knew lived within a fifteen minute walk of my house. Besides, considering I've never really had a proper job, I couldn't afford a car.
*Drive Fred to her new kinder. The kinder is in Panton Hill and is about a 5km drive away. Walking is kinda out of the question unfortunately. We actually could have sent her to school this year but we're doing what everyone seems to be doing and waiting another year. The cut off date is 30 April and Fred's birthday is the 21st, so she would have been very little. And I don't think she's particularly ready for school. In fact she's not. At all. There's a little light in Fred, a sort of strangeness, that needs to get stronger before she goes to school or it might fizzle out. I don't want her strangeness to go away.
*Finish my masters...I finished my thesis this year, but I still have one subject to do, called writing for the unconscious, where they knock you out with a blunt instrument, drug you, put a pen in your hand and give you little electric shocks to reanimate your hand. Nah...I think it's all Freud and Lacan and penises and mothers and stuff. Which you know, might have been handy to do BEFORE I wrote my thesis on Freud and Lacan and penises and mothers and stuff.
*Lose weight, get fit, go somewhere.