Currently, editor Catherine Noske is representing Westerly in Melbourne. Last week, she was visiting the offices of the Australian Book Review.
I have had the enormous privilege this last week of being a fly on the wall in the busy office of ABR.
Watching the work of editor Peter Rose and his team – deputy editor Amy Baillieu, development consultant Christopher Menz, business manager Grace Chang and assistance editor Dilan Gunawardana – I have been offered an insight into the mechanisms of a monthly publication and much larger organisation than Westerly. This has been a fantastic experience for me! ABR might function on a larger scale than we do at the moment, but we have some big plans for the future. It is great to begin to understand how some of these ideas might be developed…
ABR‘s wonderful range of podcasts, for example, have offered a lesson in how multimedia material can function within a magazine’s activities. Their three series are being listened to by avid literary fans right across the globe. The scope of publication is constantly expanding with the development of digital technologies. The challenge is in finding ways to make sure this material reciprocates with the traditional print form, and doesn’t lose its literary heart. ABR‘s ‘States of Poetry‘ series, for example, supports the work of both established and emerging writers right across the country, and thus uses the digital form to celebrate Australian literature and encourage a reading culture. (The WA States of Poetry selection was edited by Westerly‘s own Lucy Dougan!)
In experiencing publishing initiatives like this, my time here has been instrumental in helping develop a much more nuanced understanding of the possibilities in publication. With the release of our first Online Special Issue earlier this year, we started down this path. But we will be looking now to expand in the range of multimedia we embrace, and draw new material more directly into relation with our traditional print publication. You can look out for a Westerly podcast coming in the future! After a crash course in Soundcloud, Westerly officially has its own account, and some exciting ideas for material to come.
On a more general level, simply experiencing the structures behind a magazine like ABR has been wonderful. The magazine engages with a widespread community of readers and supporters. Developing audience is crucial for literature in Australia, allowing publications to better support the work of our wonderful writers. Getting more people reading is one of Westerly‘s key goals. In encouraging readers, ABR have managed to increase their standard rate of pay to writers by 150% since 2013. This is something for us to aspire to. Offering more for publication would be a great support to emerging writers in particular.
So I am enormously grateful to the ABR team. It has been a lot of fun, as well as an educational experience! This week my Melbourne learning curve continues. I’ll be with David Ryding at Melbourne’s City of Literature office, so watch this space. My thanks to the Australia Council for this opportunity.
Australian Book Review have just released their annual Fiction issue, including within the shortlisted stories from the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize.