Clare Millar interviews Jasmin McGaughey, Junior Editor at black&write!
What did you study?
When I finished high school (which seems like it was a long time ago now), I studied a dual degree of Psychology and Justice. It was extremely interesting, but I really didn’t see myself working in either industry. So, I began a Graduate Certificate in Creative and Professional writing and then a Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing at The University of Queensland. Now, I’m in the middle of a Master of Philosophy (in Creative Writing) looking at First Nations perspectives in YA speculative fiction in Australia.
What is the most useful skill you learned in your degrees? And what was the most enjoyable part of your studies?
I’ve learnt many useful things in my studies and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying (I can’t seem to stop!). Learning the basics of how to plot and structure a novel has been helpful in both my writing and editing goals. I also enjoyed getting to hear from real Aussie writers, editors, agents and booksellers through my courses. One of the most useful things I’ve learnt, and that I still have to force myself to remember, is that feedback is a good thing and I can’t be too frightened of sending my work to others who can provide valuable critiques.
What does a typical day look like for you as a junior editor at black&write!/Kill Your Darlings? What skills make you successful in doing that?
At the moment, we’re heading towards the end of the 2020 Fellowship and getting ready to open the 2021 Fellowship. So, I’ve been able to focus on a bit of editing and then some preparing for next year! The Kill Your Darlings editing experience has given me the opportunity to work on shorter pieces. I’ve been able to open submissions throughout the year and see multiple pitches or I’ll go directly to a writer and ask if they’re interested in writing a piece.
As this is a junior role, and you’ve progressed from being a black&write! intern, how do you feel supported in your growth as an editor?
The internship last year was designed to give me a deep understanding of the editor’s role with hands-on experience with a manuscript. Having a First Nations mentor—the black&write! Editor Grace—was the most supportive and encouraging part of the experience. The internship last year taught me so much about editing in general and specifically in regard to First Nations work. It gave me confidence to trust my gut feelings and to ask for help when needed. I believe it’s also helped my writing improve! As a junior editor, I’ve been lucky to be part of the new partnership black&write! has with Kill Your Darlings. This has allowed me to get a new understanding of how to commission and edit shorter works—something that is so different to editing a full-length fiction manuscript.
Tell us about a frustrating experience you’ve had at work or in your career generally.
I’ve seen only some of the wide range of beautiful and exciting work by First Nations writers in Australia. The only frustrating thing is that I know there are more writers and stories out there that could be published! I would have been over the moon to read a book, as a teenager, with a Torres Strait Islander protagonist! To see someone of my own background and experiences reflected in the books I loved could have made me realise that writing and editing were also an opportunity for someone like me earlier on.
What are most proud of in your career so far?
So far, it’s been getting the black&write! internship and now a junior editor role—I believe the experience I’m gaining here is invaluable and unique. I’m also proud that I was lucky enough to receive a 2019 Next Chapter fellowship.
How was the Next Chapter fellowship beneficial to your practice as a writer and editor?
I couldn’t believe that I’d won one of the fellowships! It took a few days for that news to sink in and for me to believe it was true. It’s taught me to always apply to things (e.g. competitions, call outs, fellowships, grants) because you never know. I’m so incredibly grateful. It has given me support from a First Nations mentor, the wonderful Aunty Melissa Lucashenko, and the confidence to keep writing my manuscript. It’s also helped put me in the “shoes of a writer” which is a helpful perspective to have when editing others.
How does it feel being in Brisbane working in publishing?
Well, I can’t really compare it to anywhere else as Brisbane is the only place I’ve worked in publishing. But we do have a beautiful community of writers, readers and editors that support one another. I’m very lucky to be working as an editor here, because I know there aren’t as many opportunities in Brisbane when compared to Melbourne or Sydney.
And what are you hopeful for or excited about?
You don’t know what you don’t know! I’m most excited to learn new things within the publishing world. That’s what I’ve loved just in the few years I’ve been part of the industry, there’s always more to learn. And, of course, I’m excited to read new books by First Nations writers (especially those that enter into the black&write! Fellowship)!