Rosie Award Recognises ‘Alchemy’ of Editing

RosieAward crop

(L-R) Marion Halligan, Rosie Award recipient Jacqueline Blanchard, IPEd Chair Kerry Davies. Photo: Christine Atkinson

Australian editors are being recognised for their contribution to the national culture through a new award from the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd).

IPEd Chair and award founder Kerry Davies said the Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Award, known as the Rosie, recognises excellence in editing and was launched in honour of Rosanne Fitzgibbon, a Distinguished Editor (DE) and former editor at the University of Queensland Press (UQP). The award was formed after Ms Davies attended the Queensland Literary Awards in 2013, where very few winners acknowledged the contribution of their editors.

‘The Rosie is a vital step towards greater recognition of editors and the value they bring to the written word', Ms Davies said.

‘It also seeks to recognise and champion the traits of a good editor: diplomacy, management skills, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, research and writing skills, and professionalism and ethics.’

Jacqueline Blanchard, Managing Editor at UQP, is the inaugural winner of the Rosie for her editorial work on Matthew Condon’s All Fall Down. Blanchard sliced 50,000 words from Condon’s 215,000-word manuscript, the third in his non-fiction trilogy about police corruption in Queensland from the 1950s.

‘It is extremely validating to win an award that broadly recognises the unique skill set that book editors bring to the projects they work on, and publicly acknowledges and rewards that contribution’, Ms Blanchard said.

‘In the Australian publishing industry it is often remarked that one of the hallmarks of a good edit, and therefore a good editor, is that their work is invisible on the page. The problem for those of us doing this invisible work is that it is hard to put a value on something you cannot see. For book editors, the Rosie is an opportunity to address this imbalance.’

The Rosie Award recognises the important relationship between writer and editor. Author Matthew Condon, who was also edited by Rosie Fitzgibbon, acknowledged the impact a good editor has had on his books.

‘I have always believed in the benefits of a “tough” edit and learned very early on that good editors, without exception, improved my work’, Mr Condon said.

‘Jacqueline performed a complicated edit that required losing a lot of extraneous material. Her work was so seamless that I barely recognised the cuts. To me, that’s a great and dedicated editor; it’s all in the alchemy of the hidden carpentry.’

Rosanne Fitzgibbon DE was a Queensland editor, and a founding member of the then Society of Editors (Queensland), who shepherded many well-known authors through the publication process. Her authors included Kate Grenville, Peter Carey, Janette Turner Hospital, Lily Brett and Thea Astley.

During her 40 years in publishing, Rosie spent 16 years at UQP as fiction editor, where she was known as a generous and passionate advocate of the books and authors she encountered. Her time with UQP also included editing poetry and literary non-fiction.

Rosie was the inaugural Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellow, and subsequently studied publishing in New York. After leaving UQP, she taught masterclasses; lectured on writing, editing and publishing; and judged short story competitions for the State Library of Queensland. Sadly, Rosie lost her life to cancer in 2012. Her contribution to Australian writing, though, will continue to be remembered through the biennial award.

The award was presented by Rosie’s sister Marion Halligan, herself a former UQP author. The other finalists for the inaugural Rosie Award were Susan Pierotti and Denise O’Hagan.

Pierotti carved a final 95,000 words out of what was originally a wide-ranging 400,000-word theatre memoir, City Kid, by actress Lola Russell (Palmer Higgs 2015, Creative Text Solutions 2016). The result is a highly readable memoir providing a unique perspective on a fascinating period of Australian history. Pierotti helped refine the focus to Lola’s career and experiences in Melbourne, undertook extensive fact-checking and selected photographs from the author’s private archives to include.

Denise O’Hagan fulfilled the demanding roles of both editor and publisher very professionally for her late mother, Joan O’Hagan. The historical novel Jerome & His Women (Black Quill Press), set in fourth-century Rome, explores the life of the saint and the talented ascetic women who helped him translate the Bible into Latin. The editor’s role ranged from the all-important choice of whether to write a history or a novel, to fact-checking in a period of which there are contradictory accounts.

The inaugural Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Award was presented at the 8th IPEd National Editors Conference in Brisbane in September. The judges were author Marion Halligan and two of Rosie’s former colleagues, editors Craig Munro and Leonie Tyle.

Chief Executive Officer of IPEd Karen Lee said the award is a reminder of the vital role editors play in a changing communication landscape and the importance of adaptability in the profession.

‘Our members are spread across a variety of roles throughout the public and private sectors, from in-house editors to public relations, marketing and communications staff, and part-time freelancers whose day jobs are unrelated to publishing’, Ms Lee said.

‘Editors can add value to any form of communication, from bookmarks to novels, websites, videos and reports.’

The Rosie will be awarded every second year, at the IPEd conference, alternating with the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship, which is awarded by the Australian Publishers Association.

Christine Atkinson
Editors Queensland