The companion to Tasmanian History
I was given the job of editing this. It took three years, working with a small and excellent committee. I made an initial list of articles, and the committee and I extended it and suggested authors. It was my job to contact the authors with a flattering letter – we think you’re the best person to write this article – and if not, find another author; collect the articles; and edit them. We also had some 5000-word articles on major themes (e.g. Britishness) which gave the Companion higher academic standing, and qualified us for the grant which paid for the project.
This sounds quite straightforward, but it was often difficult to find authors; people sent articles in late; they were almost always too long (the worst was 2500 words when 500 had been requested). However, shortening them was a chance for me to correct grammar and facts if this was needed, so it was quite handy. I sent them back saying this was a suggested version and the author was of course free to change it at will, and we went from there – I was not going to be a high-handed editor changing articles without the author’s consent, as I hate this happening to me. We ended up with 1075 articles by 105 authors.
The committee as well as a handful of other, very generous, volunteers, read all the articles for accuracy. This resulted in a very accurate volume, and with very few complaints of mistakes.
We couldn’t find authors for many articles, so Wendy Rimon was engaged as an assistant. She was wonderful, and great to work with. Both she and I wrote about a hundred articles each about such topics, many of which had never had their histories looked at. Bakeries, for example (Wendy), and bus travel (me). I used to lie in bed wondering what I’d omitted. But I haven[t had a complaint that anything was left out, so it was worth it.
Fortunately email had been invented; if this had all been by post I don’t think it would have been feasible me to edit it alone. But finally it was done. I collected some illustrations and appendices, compiled an index, and it was published. It went well, and many people praised it. I then prepared an on-line version, an extremely tedious job where I had to put in a huge number of hyperlinks.