I love Twitter. It’s so addictive. There’s so much going on, and at such a speed that the more folks you follow, the more tweets you will miss, but there’s always one you’re so glad you caught. (Just as there’s always one glitch even that inevitably escapes the proofreader.)
Like Holly Robinson’s recent blog post that is a glowing tribute to editors. We’re not your extrovert Alpha-personality types so we don’t get a lot of limelight, and a kind word is like a little ray of sunshine. Holly — writer and red dirt rambler — calls editors ‘the unsung heroes of publishing’, and so much more in that vein that I’m reaching for my sunglasses. If you’re an editor, or that equally indispensable species, a writer, do read her article, at authorhollyrobinson.com, and the many appreciative comments.
While we’re talking of treasured editors, let me introduce you to one who is honoured with an annual award in recognition of her skill: Barbara Mary Ramsden (1903–1971). In the days when Ramsden was wielding the red pen, editing was very much a man’s world; not so today, as you might discover if you’re booked in for the Editors Victoria dinner meeting this week.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002, records that in 1941 Ramsden was formally appointed assistant-reader with Melbourne University Press. Her legacy was seen in the growth of M.U.P., in the generation of editors whom she trained, and in the high standard she set by her meticulous editing. Her biographer, Ros Moye, wrote in 1988* that she was a formidable editor, both in expertise and in manner, providing much of the stability and authority in scholarship that M.U.P. enjoyed.
Ramsden was honorary treasurer of the Victorian branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the brightest stars in Melbourne’s literary firmament. Her death in 1971 prompted the FAW to establish an award in her name, presented to the author and editor of a book that reflects credit on them both. This year, the annual Barbara Ramsden Award will be sponsored by Penguin Random House, a publishing partnership that recognises the importance of the editor’s indispensable contribution.
Entries are now open, and guidelines for the award, which applies to any professionally edited manuscript, are available from the FAW at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning Lynn Smailes on 0407 868 814.
If you are a writer who has had a joyous and enlightening collaboration with a hitherto unsung editor who has known intimately every one of your 70,000 words — if you’re happy and you know it, sing their praise!
* R. Moye, ‘The ”Legendary” Barbara Ramsden, Book Editor’, in Melbourne University Mosaic (Melb, 1998).