March Dinner Meeting Report

The subject of immigration has been grabbing more than a fair share of Australian headlines recently so the topic of this month's meeting, the recently published book titled Joyful Strains, is particularly relevant. Edited by Kent MacCarter and Ali Lemer, Joyful Strains is an anthology of 27 memoirs from writers describing their immigration to Australia. Editors Victoria president Trischa Mann interviewed Kent and Ali on their roles in making the book happen.

Trischa Mann, Ali Lemer and Kent MacCarter

When asked how their collaboration came about, and the idea for the book, Ali reminded the audience that both she and Kent are expats and they have many friends who are also expats, who happen to write. So, from a casual discussion at a party about an anthology on being an expat, to an anthology about expat authors, to the final incarnation bringing in PEN Melbourne, the book took shape over several years.

'Putting together the diversity [of authors, gender, age, range of countries, reasons why they immigrated and where they live now] was probably one of the hardest things about the book,' said Kent. 'It was much, much more intricate to pull off than I actually had planned.'

And what about their own contribution, did they consider writing their own essays to include in the book?

'We didn't need two more Yanks,' said Ali, both she and Kent being from America.

Another complicating factor was language. Although the native English speakers took less 'heavy lifting' to edit than the non-native speakers, the authors tended to submit the type of text they were used to writing. 'The people who were academics handed in ... very academic stuff to start with because that's just how they are used to writing. And then Danny Katz ... writes a newspaper column, so what he handed in was very newspaper prose.

When asked if any of the authors got toey during the editing process, Kent said, '... a very small minority. Most people were very cool about it and very gracious and accepting of edits, which took me a little bit by surprise.'

The title, Joyful Strains, came from Affirm Press. 'The title has grown on me. I know the [Australian national] anthem, I can sing it,' Ali said. 'I've even read the second and the third verses!'

When asked about funding, Ali and Kent's replies suggest that the money side was fairly complex and included two failed grant applications. Ali said, 'We both had full-time jobs. This was literally a labour of love we were doing at night.'

Both editors agree that the project would never have happened without the support of PEN Melbourne, the local chapter of PEN International that campaigns on behalf of authors and editors who are persecuted, imprisoned, harassed and even killed for what they have written or published. Profits from the books will go to support the work of PEN Melbourne.

As Trischa turned the conversation from the question of funding for the project, she wondered about the book's relevance to current immigration issues in Australia and worldwide. Kent summed up their conversation on immigration with this thought: 'People mixing together can't fail or not. It just happens.'

As for any particular difficulties they found, being expats and editing an Australian book about expats, Ali quipped, 'If I can just figure out what “strewth” means, I'll be fine.'

In other news, nine new IPEd accredited editors received their certificates at the dinner meeting. Congratulations to Alicia Cheah, Amanda Martin, Ann Bolch, Anne Gugger, Helen Bradwell, Helen Willoughby, Joanna Tayler, Kym Logan and Maryanne Park.

The IPEd Prize for 2012 was presented to Kate Manton during the meeting for her essay titled 'The scope of editing in the twenty-first century', which was written as part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Editing at Macquarie University. Her essay will be published on the IPEd website soon for all to read.

Lastly, dates for REDACT 2013 have been set, 10-11 August, in Hepburn Springs near Daylesford. The three subject streams are fiction editing, project management and e?publishing. Booking details are elsewhere in this newsletter.

Joely Taylor