September 2019 Q&A: Bridget Caldwell

by Jane Fitzpatrick AE

Bridget Caldwell is a Jingili Mudburra writer and editor currently based in Narrm/Birraranga/Melbourne. She works as co-editor for Archer Magazine as well as commissioning editor for literary journal The Lifted Brow. She will be one of three presenters at Editors Victoria’s forthcoming training seminar, Diverse Voices, to be held Saturday 12 October at the Wheeler Centre (details elsewhere in this newsletter).

What inspired you to build a career in the arts?

I think my main inspiration definitely comes from those who have come before. There are so many great black women artists, writers, performers etc. in this country who have paved the way for young people like me to be able to have the career that I do now. I do believe that the arts and writing in particular has the power to influence and transform in ways that other platforms cannot, which is something that has always appealed to me.

What were your favourite or most influential reading experiences as a child?

My parents were always very encouraging of us kids’ solo reading time and I have some really nice memories of reading in my childhood garden with my mum and my nanna. My mum was always into crime novels and I remember the day I was allowed to read one, it was as if I was being initiated into adulthood in some way. I don’t read any crime novels now though, whatever that means.

Tell us a bit about the experience of editing Blak Brow, the blak edition of literary quarterly, Lifted Brow. What were the challenges?

That edition was a really beautiful collaborative project. I got to work with a myriad of talented black women (and Tony Birch) and it is definitely an experience that will never be forgotten. Being my first role as managing editor, there were definite challenges to the whole process of making a publication, but the beauty of it being a collective project meant we could all do it together in our own ways of working, which was really special. The project really helped me to start a career and was instrumental in gaining the experience and skills to be able to get given the opportunities I have today.

How does your experience as a Jingili Mudburra woman shape your writing and editing work?

I think being it helps to shape all aspects of my life. I definitely feel a different sense of responsibility when I edit the work of other Aboriginal writers. We all have the right to share our stories in our own way and there are so many wonderful people I get to work with, it really makes my job easy!

You’re not only an editor, but a writer, too. How have you found the experience of being edited?

I’ve been really lucky to have been edited by gentle, respectful and friendly editors who have mostly been editors of colour. This has made a profound difference in the experience and process of writing. There is this feeling of safety and a sense that your work is being handled and read through understanding and respectful eyes when working with editors of colour.

With so many different interests, you might not be able to answer this – how do you spend your typical working week?

I guess I don’t really have a typical working week but rather a few key routine things I like to stick to. For example, I like to dedicate one day a week in each office for both publications. Mostly working from home with a young child though requires some serious time management and planning skills. I’ll often have quite a few (hundred) sticky notes on my laptop screen and A LOT of trello boards. My week consists of a lot of replying to emails on my phone and late night laptop commitment.

We’re looking forward to having you speak at our Diverse Voices seminar in October. Any sneak previews of the strategies you’ll be sharing?

I am really looking forward to meeting everyone and sharing our collective stories and knowledge. I am amongst an incredible panel of people who will all be sharing invaluable experience. Those who attend are going to be very lucky.

Thank you so much, Bridget, for sharing your story and career with us.

Jane Fitzpatrick is a freelance editor who dabbles in writing, is a member of the Professional Development subcommittee, and can be found at janeefitzpatrick@wordpress.com