I’d like to tell a short story now to help illustrate the role an editor can play in the writing process and how I’d like to help my customers in my business. It is true, it was something I experienced a couple of weeks ago. For those overseas who may not know, the kookaburra is a native Australian bird famous for its extraordinarily expressive call.
I live in Brisbane, Australia in a rented house next to my landlord’s family home. The property is on acreage, full of native wildlife, as well as horses, goats, ducks, dogs and chickens. On this particular morning, I was going about my household chores.
As I walked past the chicken coop that morning on the way to pick up some tools, I noticed something strange. The two dogs were crowding around the edge of the coop under which a kookaburra was caught. Preoccupied by my tasks, I thought little of it other than, ‘That’s strange’. However, as the minutes ticked by, I began to feel anxious for this bird, still stuck at the coop.
I noticed he (or she) was inside the coop and was trying to fly out. There was only a small space in which to do this and she (or he) was flying in the wrong direction. Evidently, he had been enticed in to the coop by the vegetables left for the chickens, but was now almost enclosed by the wire fences in front of and behind her. Not only that, the dogs, quite possibly only curious and wanting to help but also quite possibly hungry for a kill, were frightening the kookaburra.
I notified my landlord and here’s what he did. He tied up the two dogs back at the house away from the coop. He then quietly entered the garden area where the kookaburra was trapped and with minimal movement caught the bird in his hands. Making a soft ‘coo-ing’ sound, he walked out of the enclosed area towards a wide open space in his yard. Quietly placing the kookaburra on the ground in front of him, he let go.
The kookaburra flew off, released, on to a nearby gum tree. He had not been injured by the incident, perhaps only shocked. I could see her shaking out her coat checking all was intact. The reason I tell this story is I see an analogy here.
The kookaburra is like a writer. Going for some food, for their livelihood, but becoming trapped in a situation, whether it be mildly annoying or shockingly life threatening, hemmed in by threatening circumstances, unable to fly out of the obstacle.
The part I played was similar to that of a publisher or communications manager, perceiving the situation, respecting the work of the kookaburra and hiring an editor to assist.
My landlord acted like an editor. Quietly going about his business in a non-threatening manner. Supporting the kookaburra, understanding his plight. Gently but persuasively, with knowledge, leading the bird out to a space where she was free from the entrapment and could resume her flight.
We all need to be able to express ourselves in a manner that supports our livelihood, whatever it is we do. An editor is a professional who assists writers to do that, to overcome any obstacle they may be experiencing and making sure their writing achieves its purpose.