Adolfo Aranjuez is the editor of Metro, subeditor of Screen Education magazine and a freelance writer/speaker. His novella Amadeo: Changing Latitudes — a fictionalised account of his first year in Melbourne, after migrating here at 15 — was released in 2014. Adolfo Aranjuez is one of MWF’s 30 Under 30. Find him online at adolfoaranjuez.com and @adolfo_ae.
There exists an imagined disjuncture between writing and editing. Yet many don’t often understand what it is that editors do – is it just nefarious nitpicking, or errant-apostrophe-finding, or self-gratifying gatekeeping?
I feel this apparent disconnect on a daily basis. I work primarily as an editor, and it’s true that, at its core, editing is about tearing writing apart – breaking ideas, paragraphs, sentences, clauses down into their constituent parts – and suturing it back together into a clearer, punchier form. Writing is unadulterated creation, while editing seems more akin to assembling words using Scrabble tiles. Even MWF (and its 30 Under 30 initiative, which I’m part of) betrays, by its very name, its stronger allegiance to the sources of literary works than to those figures scribbling, with red pen, on pages upon pages of double-spaced type.
I’ve had my thoughts about migrant identity, bilingualism, grammar and/or philosophy appear in publications across Australia. Despite this, I sometimes find my words less exciting than those of others – so I tend to refer to myself, not as a ‘writer’ per se, but as an ‘editor who writes’. The thing is, editing requires not just a specific skillset but also a specific mindset. It’s less about bravery and more about resilience – not so much having the courage to take on a topic, but rather to tackle a tricky wording or give a discussion more nuance. It’s less about being intrepid, personally pushing on into the unknown, and more about becoming intoxicated by the words and worlds woven together by somebody else.
Throughout my career, I’ve encountered an amazing array of writings. At Voiceworks, I edited pieces on the gentrification of Durham, North Carolina; on food and the Hispanic diaspora; on the ethical murkiness of a friend owning stolen human bones; on ‘un-spaces’, ‘bitch faces’, stem cells and modern-day apartheid. At Melbourne Books, I worked on manuscripts about a neglected modernist artist, about ‘glamping’, about circus in Australia, and about a Greek family’s treasured recipes. In Award Winning Australian Writing, I’ve showcased stories and poems about possum skulls, mother tongues, monstrous organs, ‘passing’ as white, and the salacious secrecy of a telephone-order tryst.
More recently, at Metro, I’ve published articles on Indigeneity and Aboriginal filmmaking; women in the national mythology; The Babadook and the pangs of motherhood; Gen Y homosexuality in Please Like Me; Drown’s depiction of toxic bloke culture; Nigerian–Australian cinematic ties; and boganism in local TV series. Looking forward, I’m putting together an issue that will shine a spotlight on recent Australian queer films, with the forthcoming adaptation of Timothy Conigrave’s Holding the Man as the centrepiece.
I couldn’t have written on these topics myself, but I did play a part in making these pieces a reality. The editor’s work may not be as romantic or revelatory as that of the writer, but it is integral to the journey to publication. In this way, perhaps I, too, can stake a claim for the act of creation that lies at the heart of writing. Maybe the chasm isn’t that vast after all.