Saturday, November 12, 2011

Editing BIG Kids Magazine

As an editor, I must be quite methodical. As a parent, I must be organised and practical. But as a writer and illustrator, I love being swept up in a creative storm where there are no boundaries. (Karen Comer)

The 'First Flight' edition of BIG Kids Magazine in September this year was our first experience of publishing a magazine. Lilly and I have authored published papers, produced limited edition artist-books and directed full length dance and theatre works - we are obsessed with the 'process' aspect of creative practice and used to drafting and re-drafting. However, when it comes down to the wire of copy editing, we could read through our work 50 times and still not see the missing 'i' in Imagination (Oh yes, it happened, MORE than once!) 

Once you are so close to something it harder to see it with any distance or indeed, perspective. And here is where Karen Comer came in. She acts as copy editor, and increasingly as advocate and friend. Based in Melbourne (I know - you'd think we could at least get ONE of our team members in the same city as one of us!), Karen is brilliant at her job and her incredible generosity helped to get us over the BIG line on numerous occasions. We asked her a few questions and here she shares insights - no doubt she will read and want to edit this post, but again she generously gave us range to edit HER words and so we have enjoyed the play ;) Thanks Karen, we LOVE having you on the BIG team!

Can you explain the role of an editor?

An editor’s job involves asking lots of questions to the author.

My job as an editor – regardless of the subject I am editing – is to help the author communicate with their readers. It is that simple! I want to ensure that there is nothing that will distract or confuse the readers. So spelling, punctuation and grammar must be correct. This does mean I am slightly pedantic at times but I couldn’t bear for a reader to put down a fabulous book or magazine because one sentence did not make perfect sense! Whatever the message or idea or theme or information the author wants to share, I want the audience to receive that message or story presented in its very best form.

The relationship between the illustrations or photos or diagrams and the accompanying text is very important. When I edited a nursery rhyme book for Hinkler books a few years ago, I checked an illustration for the rhyme – ‘Hector Protector was dressed all in green.’ The illustrator had used red for poor Hector Protector! I became particular about precise illustrations as a languages publisher for Jacaranda, John Wiley and Sons. If you are learning the French word for donkey and your only clue is a picture, it is imperative that your donkey does not look like a horse!

Can you paint a picture window of what your day was like as a full-time editor and as it is now as a freelance editor and mother?

When I worked full-time for an educational publisher, I loved all the big-picture projects. Starting with a blank piece of paper and a subject, then finishing up two or three years later with a tangible book. I loved the collaboration with authors, copy editors, designers, sales consultants, illustrators, subject consultants, multimedia specialists …

How did having children impact your work life?

Now, with three small kids, my editing life is quite different! I work in carefully planned but snatched hours, often first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and often in my pyjamas! I work while my oldest son is at school, my daughter is at kinder and my youngest son sleeps in the afternoon. I carve out hours on the weekend, when my husband takes the kids to footy practice or in between kid birthday parties, family events and grocery shopping.

I have swapped my office with the window overlooking a pub for a home study with bits of lego and colouring pages on the floor. My projects are not of the big picture variety any more – there is no time for that expansive, spacious kind of thinking so I usually do the detailed copyediting part of the project after most of the decisions have been made.

My work as a freelance editor ebbs and flows. I love having a project – it teaches me new skills, I learn something new, have the chance to work with creative people and it pays the bills. I also love not working – it gives me the chance to spend time on my own writing and illustrating projects!

What drives you to create worlds for kids in the stories you are currently working on?

Being at home with my kids means I have permission to read all day – well, nearly all day! And so I started my blog – Earthly Joyride – to share all the amazing picture books we like to read and the things we make and do in response to what we have read. And then I started to do a few courses on writing and illustrating for children. And now I write and illustrate my own stories and hope that eventually there will be a tangible book with my name  on it, just as I always imagined as a child.

As an editor, I must be quite methodical. As a parent, I must be organised and practical. But as a writer and illustrator, I love being swept up in a creative storm where there are no boundaries. Most of my stories are sparked by tiny ideas – a fragment of a sentence, half a story from a friend, a photo, a scrap of material, something one of my kids said. 

It takes me a long time to write a picture book. Perhaps 18 drafts over 7 months. Perhaps half a story written on holidays, then finished 8 months later, reworked for the next three months. The process goes on and on. Mostly enjoyable, sometimes frustrating.

There are times when my timetabled life infuriates me – school and kinder pick-up times, editing deadlines, Monday’s swimming lesson. But it does provide a sturdy frame for everything to hang on and within that there is the space to create. Not always enough time, but it is a starting point. And once you start to create, there is no choice but to hang on for the ride!

Turquoise tailed peacocks
From a picture book Karen is working on

1 comment:

We love reading your BIG thoughts and really appreciate your comments, thank you!

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