Our Unsung Heroes

Here’s a blog that’s going to talk about the unsung heroes at Busybird.

You’d know about our staff, especially if you’ve come to a Busybird function like Open Mic Night, read our About Us, or seen our Facebook page. And if you know anything about us, or retained a manuscript assessment or an edit, you’d know that we train a pod of editors whom we subcontract as needed.

So, who else is there then?

Our interns!

Our interns usually emerge from some tertiary writing and publishing course, bright-eyed and optimistic, brimming with energy and unsure what to expect in the publishing world. One intern recently confided to us her nervousness when first coming to Busybird, and how she expected us to be all formal and corporate. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth: we’re relaxed, easygoing, and love our bad jokes.

When prospective interns first come to interview to see how they’d fit at Busybird, we give them an editing exercise and a proofreading exercise to perform, just so we can get an understanding what their baseline is, and to give them an idea of what they’d be tackling. We’re also curious as to how they interact because we pride ourselves on our friendliness and approachability. It’s also a good demonstration of how they might deal with authors.

Interns who do then go ahead to intern for us come in one day a week, intern 4–6 months, and are given real responsibilities. That same intern who was worried about us being corporate was also worried she’d be assigned menial duties, like constantly making tea for everybody. Well, yes, there are some menial duties, like spreadsheet maintenance, making lists of vendors, and research. But that’s balanced by duties that involve reading and appraisal, proofreading, and occasionally they’ll be asked to edit something (that will usually be also edited by somebody on staff).

Now it’s important to pause here. Often, graduates from tertiary courses expect the publishing world to be glamorous, like they’re going to discover and help shape the next Harry Potter. Working in publishing involves lots of reading. Lots. If you pick up a book to read recreationally and don’t like it, you can speed-read it, or you can ditch it. Not if you work in publishing: you have to finish it. If you’re assessing it or editing it, you not only have to read it, but connect with it, and be analytical and diplomatic with your editing and feedback.

This makes publishing sound dreary and draining. It’s not. It is exciting to watch a book take shape, and gratifying to see an author hold the finished product in their hands. But this involves hard, unglamorous work – this is the reality of anybody who works in editing. You can’t skimp. If you have an edit that’s going to take one hour, it’s going to take one hour – if you try to race through it, you’re likely to miss things. You won’t be able to chat with somebody while you’re working, you won’t be able to have the television on in the background. It requires a singular focus.

At Busybird, we also like to give an intern a major project to either oversee, or contribute to. An intern put together The Australian Writer’s Companion 2017. The Anzac anthology, Fine Spirit and Pluck (which we worked on in conjunction with Yarra Plenty Regional Library), was co-edited by two interns (and our chief editor). So the interns are getting real experience that they can put on their CV, and those who show an aptitude in editing and dealing with authors later will get (paid) editing work.

So, as we embark on a new year, a big thank you to all the interns who’ve passed through Busybird.

If you’re interesting in interning at Busybird, you can find more information here or contact us through email or by giving us a call on (03) 9434 6365.

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