Author. Editor. I tried coming up with a portmanteau for what I do, but the best I could manage was ‘authditor’ (given that 'auditor' was already taken). Somehow this unholy Vulcan-mind-meld of roles has not so far completely done my head in. Then again, maybe I’m not the best judge of these things. Being both an author and an editor means you sympathise with parties on each side of the brilliant-writing divide. You know how hard it is to crank out a draft, but you also know the groaning horror of facing trite, clichéd, poorly spelled, and even more poorly punctuated slop from overly sensitive and precious wordsmiths. Being an authditor is like being a swinging voter, except you’re not necessarily also a bogan.
So in late October, my collaboration with Sean Sennett on an anthology of Australian music street press will be marching inexorably through the landscape in what I hope will be plague proportions. Like any good anthology, it will be big and fat and absolutely chock-a-block with references to Iggy’s Fun House record. It even has the word ‘boner’ a few times for good measure.
To create the book, Sean and I trawled (really there’s no other word for it) through more than 1,300 issues of Time Off. A conservative average of three interviews per issue still comes up with around 4,000 stories to consider. We had to reduce that to under a hundred. It was a wild ride. Digital files exist only for articles published since around 1997. Everything before that had to be eyeballed. Neck pain, eyestrain and inky fingers were standard fare. It was fun, though. Prominent advertisements for massage parlours jostled with exhortations about how AM Stereo was going to transform Australia’s radio landscape. I took photos. When you’re locked in the world of your subject, strange things happen. I almost wet my pants when I saw a 1984 interview with Johnny Marr. Then I almost threw the computer through the window when I Googled the quotes and realised the story was rehashed from a contemporary article in The Face.
To help us deal with the volume, we identified early on a core list of artists we thought should get a jersey. That list ran to about two-hundred. Each of those artists might have featured anywhere from a single interview to ten or more. We had to decide not just on artist, but the era (was that period interesting for the artist?) and author (did the piece take an interesting angle?).
We were working with previously published pieces, but pieces composed in a very different environment to ours. A few people pulling together pages and pages of articles, information and ads every single week. As an editor, when I came across a rough patch of prose, I mostly sided with the authors. Spelling howlers? Blame the lack of resources or the deadline. Change the text, shrug, and move on to the next sentence. As an editor, it was easy to take a withering approach. As an authditor, the feelings were mixed. Still, the results are exciting.
There was a point to this article when I started. Now I'm just in need of a good editor. Know any?