It’s nice, I think, that I get to begin the new year by celebrating an accomplishment in the old. (It’s also far more interesting than talking about my pain or my depression or the challenges of the holiday season.)
Last year for my Publishing Studio class, I was part of a team of students that produced the student anthology and edition 15 of a literary (or anti-literary) magazine, Platform.
Today, I get to bring to you the digital fruit of our labours, downloadable in PDF format: Platform 15.
This issue features the poetry, fiction and non fiction talents of many of my classmates (and an amazing teacher of mine) and my first submitted-for-publication creative non fiction piece/personal essay on writing, ‘Writing the right reasons’.
Platform is a pretty special publication. It’s sponsored by Victoria University, commissioned by VU staff, created by VU students, and features the writings of a range of local Melbournian/Victorian writers, often with a taste of what life is like in Melbourne’s western suburbs. It gives Professional Writing and Editing Diploma students what is often their first chance at working on a real-life publication – at taking the skills they’ve learned in the classroom to management, production, editing, proofreading and design-liaising problems and challenges. More than that, Platform is about providing a voice (or a platform) for the words and stories of a diverse range of people from all cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and skill levels. Platform is not a magazine built around showcasing the works of the talented and the renowned writers of Melbourne, or the talented up-and-coming Professional Writing students. It’s a publication where community, student and professional writers of all ages, publication credits and backgrounds, all educational and skill levels, proudly share the pages together. Knowns and unknowns, people who will go on to write a hundred articles and people who may never write again, are printed side-by-side.
(I don’t know if I can convey the context to an international audience, but Melbourne’s western suburbs are the under-funded, under-supported, oft-overlooked region of the city … in large part due to a huge non-white and/or working-class and/or immigrant population.)
Platform is, I think, what writing should be about – giving voice, regardless of how well-polished that voice might be. It’s a wonderful, powerful declaration of the value of story, and the reminder that there are no words without value. As someone who has to balance the editorial part of me that is forever judging the written word (and to some extent, the person who wrote it) for crimes against the craft I’ve spent so much time learning, against the oppressed warrior-creative who believes that no-one has the right to dismiss someone’s story as worthless (and the problem with the world is the very fact that the important stories go unheard), I think Platform encapsulates this balance.
It’s not about what sells or what’s well-written or what’s political or popular. It’s just people telling stories … and the power these stories contain to transform the author, the reader, and in fact everybody who ever touched the publication in its journey from submission to magazine. It’s a statement that no story is without meaning, every writer has something important and vital to say, and no story is undeserving of an audience.
It’s a message I hope to remember as I journey out into becoming a publishing professional, because it’s so easy for an editor to get caught up in judgement and worth, and that’s not what the job of helping people tell stories should ever be about.
Platform has worked its transformative magic on me. I started this journey as nothing more than a student with classroom experience; I’ve now worked on or am working on six different publications. In less than six months I’ve gone from someone whose sum industry experience involved testing e-books to someone who’ll be listed as co-managing editor on an upcoming issue. My fellow students and I have now copy-edited, proofread, managed, organised, timetabled, scheduled, discussed, designed, liaised, emailed and, above all, created. For several, Platform 15 was the first time we submitted a piece for publication, or designed a cover, or liaised with a designer, or created a flat plan. It’s our first production credit, our first baby, and like most first-time parents, we’ve discovered a great deal about ourselves along the way.
I’m proud of our work. There’s been days and nights of emails, stress, the endless-seeming rounds of proofreading, the communication and managerial challenges, and the hard-learned reality of what it is to work in the profession … but damn, do we have something to show for it.
I don’t know who’d I be if I hadn’t had the opportunity to journey with this publication. I hope I can soon look back on it as the first step towards something quite amazing.
A much-deserved shout-out goes to Melanie Hart, designer of our fantastic cover; Bruno Lettieri, the ever-enthusiastic and supportive commissioning editor; Susanna Bryceson, the ever-educational and advising commissioning editor; Andrew McKenna, Pub Studio teacher and advisor; and Beata Cranswick, lead/managing designer, and her team. An equally-deserved shout-out goes to the production team of Melanie Hart, Danielle Higgins, Rose Moebus, Samantha Vroom, Simone Murcutt, Amila Hussain, Jean Kerwin and Chantelle Langanke for all their hard work in making this publication happen.
Lastly – my piece, ‘Writing the right reasons’, could not have been written without the kind and generous assistance of Chantelle Langanke, Bronwyn Cran, Dylan Marshall and Jonathan Rivas. It was also inspired and influenced by the words and time of Peter Dewar and Janet Stapleton, whose interviews had to be cut for space reasons, and improved by the editing of Marilyn Bowler. Your time, patience, honesty and willingness to share of yourselves with me is something I’ll treasure. Thank you.