The launch of Centenary production, ‘The Invisible Thread’ is just around the corner — the details of which are resting at the foot of this post. Before you speed-scroll to snap up the details of this free event, take a stroll through this lovely email we conducted with Invisible Thread Editor, Irma Gold, as she talks about balancing editing and writing, the kind of editing involved in collating a book like this, and what the invisible thread is.
ACT Writers Centre: Tell us a little about your most recent project, The Invisible Thread...
Irma Gold: The Invisible Thread is an anthology of 100 years of fiction, nonfiction and poetry from the Canberra region. It’s obvious to us as Canberrans what an incredible wealth of literary talent we have, but I don’t believe it has been adequately recognised at a national level. Author Nigel Featherstone wrote to me that he sees the publication of The Invisible Thread as a ‘watershed moment’ when ‘people realise the contribution this small part of the world has made’. I do hope he’s right. Some of the incredible writers included in the anthology are Miles Franklin, AD Hope, Judith Wright, Roger McDonald, Manning Clark, Omar Musa, Jackie French, CEW Bean, Marion Halligan, Humphrey McQueen, David Campbell, Kate Grenville, Robin Wallace-Crabbe, and others whose local connections might surprise, like Les Murray and Alex Miller.
It wasn’t possible to include all the wonderful writers that this region has nurtured and so I have also been developing the ACT Writers Showcase website which aims to provide a comprehensive guide to this city’s writers. In honour of the centenary we are launching with 100 writers, but the site will no doubt grow over time. It goes live on 29 November.
ACTWC: James Bradley edited the Penguin Book of the Ocean, Cate Kennedy edited Best Australian Stories 2011/12 — these collections involve a different kind of approach to editing; working with outstanding writers whose work has been published prior. What has your role as Editor of a similar publication involved?
IG: In some ways it has been quite different to either James’ or Cate’s experience because to begin with I didn’t work alone. I was part of an Advisory Committee of respected local authors and literary experts who read through the work of over 150 writers and decided on a list of recommendations. From that list I then made final decisions about content. One thing that I was always clear about was that this anthology was never going to be an exhaustive catalogue of Canberra writers. In my preface to the anthology I quote art critic Peter Campbell who once described a comprehensive exhibition of 1930s art as misconceived because its ‘attempt at total recall’ reduced the works to ‘the status of evidence’. I didn’t want to create a lifeless historical record, I wanted to create a lyrical work that existed as a conversation between the past, the present and the future. In making selections and structuring the anthology I was looking for connections between the works, for how pieces complimented or challenged or illuminated each other. Readers often dip in and out of anthologies but I would encourage people to read the book from beginning to end because The Invisible Thread is greater than the sum of its parts.
ACTWC: You’ve been interviewing a number of the authors who feature in The Invisible Thread, who have you been most nervous or excited about sitting down with? (To watch these interviews, simply click on this link)
IG: That’s such a tough question because in all honesty I have felt excited (not nervous) about every interview. Having an excuse to chat with my colleagues in depth about the works that I selected for The Invisible Thread and about writing in general has just been a joy. All the authors have surprised or delighted or intrigued me in ways I could never have predicted. I tried to keep the questions to a minimum so the interviews weren’t too lengthy but I found limiting myself difficult; there was always more I wanted to ask. The only part I haven’t enjoyed is seeing myself played back (the interviews have all been filmed). That has been excruciating.
ACTWC: How do you balance your love of writing with your skill for editing? Do they have to take up different spaces in your office, on your desk, or in your head?
IG: That’s such an interesting question and I’ve not thought about it in quite those terms before. I was about to say ‘no’ to all of the above because I’m pretty flexible but actually I realised that I have unconsciously marked out a preference for different spaces for my writing and editing work. I work from home at a rather messy desk surrounded by journals and books and it’s perfect for editing, but I find for writing that I need to be away from email and internet access. It’s just too distracting and I lose focus. Cafes are perfect. I find that libraries are a great place to work on editing a manuscript, but for my writing they are deadening. There’s something about the vibrancy and life of cafes that facilitates my writing. As for balancing the two, this year The Invisible Thread has completely taken over my life and I’ve had very little time for writing. Being the Project Manager as well as the Editor means that I’m all over everything! While it has been an incredible privilege to work on this book, I’m looking forward to regaining some balance next year.
ACTWC: Most importantly, what is the invisible thread?
IG: The title comes from a line in an AD Hope poem, Death of a Bird, and Judy Horacek’s illustrations make subtle reference to its origin, but it takes on a different meaning in the context of the anthology. For me, it’s about the invisible thread that binds and connects us all as individuals who have been shaped by this city. And in structuring the anthology and making connections between the 75 works included I have offered the reader a thread to discover and follow through the anthology.
A public launch of The Invisible Thread: One Hundred Years of Words will be held on Thursday 29 November at 5.45 pm for 6 pm in the NewActon Courtyard. Everyone is welcome but please RSVP to the ACT Writers Centre by Friday 23 November on 6262 9191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The anthology is available from all Canberra bookshops and from shops nation-wide.