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In 2023, Camha Pham was awarded the IPEd Scholarship for the Australian Publishers Association’s 2024 Residential Editorial Program (REP), a week-long mentorship opportunity for mid-career editors.

A self-described “generalist”, Camha took what she calls the “traditional pathway” into publishing, completing a postgraduate degree in publishing and editing, before landing a role in educational publishing at Oxford University Press. A move across the country saw her embrace freelance editing and, while she’s now back on the east coast of Australia, the variety of work and different kinds of challenges in her work keep her happily freelancing.

Camha has worked on everything from literary fiction to memoir to commercial non-fiction to textbooks, for both small and large trade publishers throughout her 10-year career. Alongside editing, Camha also does manuscript assessments and mentoring.

We caught up with Camha after she attended REP in late April to discuss the value of professional development, her takeaways from the program and her advice to anyone thinking of applying.

It’s been a few weeks now since REP wrapped up. What are you still thinking about?

Aside from the ghosts that reputedly haunt the beautiful grounds of the Q Station, I am still thinking about the brilliant, passionate people who work in publishing. It was lovely to finally put faces to names and to have the opportunity to engage in such open, generous and stimulating conversations during the week.

Why did you apply for REP?

There are so few professional development opportunities for editors in Australia, and I knew that this was something I wanted to do after hearing great things about the program. I applied in 2019 but the program got cancelled due to the pandemic and then I had a newborn in 2022, so I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to be involved in this year’s REP. I was also just curious to learn more about other editors’ processes, and to share best practice and exchange ideas with fellow book people.

As part of REP you worked on an unpublished manuscript. Can you tell us about that experience?

Participants were expected to have read the unpublished manuscript and completed a short structural report before the program. Once there, we were divided into three groups, each led by a mentor, in order to discuss and workshop the manuscript. I was grouped with the inimitable Grace Lucas-Pennington, and we spent our sessions discussing broader structural elements of theme, plot, characterisation and pacing, and what feedback to relay back to the author.

At the week’s end, we then heard from the in-house editor who worked on the manuscript to see how they approached the edit and what changes were actually made. Being able to work on the manuscript in a group setting was an invaluable experience, and it drilled home for me how there truly is no one way to edit or approach a manuscript. It was also incredibly liberating (not to mention, fun!) to be able to work on a manuscript with no real-world, commercial consequences.

There were also several presentations from a range of experts. Can you tell us about them? What were the highlights?

My highlights were Grace Lucas-Pennington’s session on culturally sensitive editing, which I think should be mandatory for anyone who works within publishing. I always love hearing from Rachel Bin Salleh and the great work being done at Magabala Books to support and empower First Nations creators. I learned many practical tips from Ali Lavau’s session on structural editing: Ali was generous enough to share examples from her own structural reports. The author–editor talks between Elfy Scott and Tom Langshaw, and Gary Lonesborough and Sophie Splatt, were also incredibly insightful and demonstrated how crucial establishing trust is to developing a fruitful author–editor relationship.

“Being able to work on the manuscript in a group setting was an invaluable experience, and it drilled home for me how there truly is no one way to edit or approach a manuscript.”

When we announced your scholarship late last year, you talked about “exploring how freelance editors and in-house editors can better work together to improve outcomes for everyone in the publishing pipeline”. What knowledge did you gain from REP around the relationship?

While this might sound simplistic, the main takeaway for me is that we all need to communicate better on both sides to cultivate stronger relationships between freelance editors and in-house editors. This might be through asking clarifying questions, offering constructive feedback or providing comprehensive project information from the outset. At the end of the day, everyone is working towards the same goal in terms of wanting to deliver the best book possible within the existing constraints of the commercial publishing environment.

What were your major takeaways from REP?

  • While editing is primarily a solitary practice, we become more enriched when we share our existing knowledge and actively seek to learn from others.
  • Trust and communication are integral in facilitating successful author–editor and even editor­–editor relationships.
  • While editors can sometimes get caught up in the deadlines and the details, we also need to show compassion and remember that there is a person on the other side of the edits.
  • It is super fun nerding out with other editors!

Do you think taking part in REP has influenced your editing practice? If so, can you tell us about that influence?

I think there can sometimes be a danger of becoming too embedded within your own editorial processes – particularly as a freelance editor where you do work in a more siloed environment – and so I am always conscious that I need to constantly challenge and question my own practice to ensure that I am continually delivering a positive and valuable editorial experience for authors/clients. REP has undoubtedly influenced my editing practice in terms of exposing me to other ways of thinking and doing things.

Any words of wisdom for those considering applying for REP?

Apply! REP is one of the best things I’ve done on a professional level, and I left the program feeling inspired and reinvigorated (if not a little exhausted!). To be in the room with other editors and to hear and learn from those in the industry was such an enriching experience. I really feel that the program is something that every editor should do and I am only disappointed that I won’t be able to do it again. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank IPEd for providing me with a scholarship which enabled me to partake in the program, the outstanding mentors and speakers, and the REP board members who put together a fantastic program this year.

Any other reflections on REP, your experience, what you learned, and how you’ll take this new knowledge into your editing practice?

I would love to see more professional development opportunities available for editors in a local context as I think there is a real hunger from editors to continually learn and upskill. Despite most of us being introverts, I think editors love any opportunity to be in a room together!


Read more about the 2024 REP.