Post by Adriana Alvarez.
Our Summer guest editor and talented wordsmith, Stephanie Lightfoot, has graced us with her quiet, calm demeanour this issue. Stephanie is a recent graduate who has joined us this season to edit and write articles for the hillscene. She has worked with other hills’ publications so she understands our local community’s fondness for showcasing stories that are like little hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here she shares her experiences of editing, writing and her passion for words.
Why did you want to become an editor?
I’ve been an avid reader from the tender age of four, at which I convinced myself (but not my parents) that I had learnt to read the picture book ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell – as many kids do, I had simply memorised the tale, word for word. This appetite continued – albeit slightly less fraudulently – into primary school, when I would consume the material on the back of milk cartons and Vegemite jars along with my breakfast. In my teen years, I became enamoured of the dictionary, and would look up and transcribe the meaning of any word I encountered that I did not know. By this time, I had also reached peak spelling confidence and would inappropriately point out teachers’ errors on the whiteboard. I took this voracity into an English degree, and then an interim period of volunteering to proofread friends’ essays and theses. But it was writing for fellow hills publication, The Local Voice, and the experience of working with and being edited by the wonderful Gülsen Öser, that led me to give writing and editing a real crack. I enrolled in the Master of Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne, which I’ve just completed. Editing, for me, is the perfect marriage of building and navigating relationships and immersion in the written word and world.
Tell us a little bit about your writing journey?
I’ve had several flirtations with writing, however, find that I am much more comfortable with the role and responsibilities of editing – not least because it is necessarily collaborative. Reflecting on my writing last year, I realised the joy that I find in the medium of cultural criticism and other nonfiction. Most recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to this issue of the hillscene, and interview a number of impressive people: CJ Baxter, Jordan Crook, Pia Nesvara and our cover artist, Georgia Steele. Hearing from or talking to and writing about these locals and their work was an absolute pleasure.
What is an editor’s role in this era of fake news and alternative facts?
The opportunities for publishing are increasingly wide and accessible, and on many counts, this is a good thing – certainly, barriers to entry are often there for less-than-just reasons. The role of the editor is shifting, and sometimes out of the equation altogether, in tandem with sensationalist, fast-paced production schedules. I see an editor’s role as ensuring that truth and impact are given equal weight. Though easy to proliferate, words are extremely powerful, and should be handled with care.
How did you become involved with the hillscene?
The opportunity to guest-edit an issue of the hillscene was passed onto me by my friend, Gareth Hart. Having written for The Local Voice a couple of years ago, as well as being generally charmed with the hills’ cultural scene and community, I felt compelled to throw my hat in the ring. I’m beyond appreciative to Adriana and the team at Burrinja, as well as Amelia, for their support, mentorship and encouragement as we put the issue together. It’s been a team effort through and through, and a privilege to work with such passionate people. I’m especially grateful to have worked closely with Amelia on this issue. and am really proud of what we’ve achieved together.
In what ways, if any, do you engage with the hills community?
For now, my engagement with the hills community is twofold: social, and creative, and I hope that the friendships and connections I have fostered at the hillscene can continue to thrive.
What do you wish you knew about being a writer/editor before you got started?
Every single writing and editing experience is different. Whatever the genre, whether you’re dealing with fiction or nonfiction, it’s always ultimately a creative and human process and your ability to navigate relationships is key. This year has dealt me a number of diverse, steep learning curves – and all of them have reinforced the importance of communicating kindly and respectfully.
Who are your creative heros?
A couple of years ago, hearing from one of the Stella Prize founders, Aviva Tuffield, I resolved to read more writing by women or non-binary folk. Growing up, my favourite writers were probably Charles Dickens and Haruki Murakami, and a good look at my bookshelf and high school and undergraduate reading lists was sobering. I’m infatuated with Isabel Allende, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Mel Campbell, Nayuka Gorrie, Eileen Myles, Alexis Wright, Fiona Wright … the list goes on!
What do you enjoy about living in the Dandenong Ranges?
For now, I live in Coburg, in Melbourne’s north, but I dream of one day settling down in the hills.
What are your plans for the future (immediate or long term)?
Having just finished my degree, the future is suddenly somewhat of an overwhelming concept. At the moment, I’m working in community engagement. In the not-too-distant future I hope to find work in editorial, hopefully in-house, and ideally at one of Melbourne’s small or mid-sized independent publishers. In the longer term, I have my sights set on literary agenting – that’s the dream!