Notes on Being an Editor

This post is by Alessandro M. Rubin.

Alessandro M. is a second-year art historian from Jesus College. Like any HoA, he is an art freak who enjoys staring at convoluted pictures. His main interests are Mannerism, Baroque, and early-Modern European art. He has a soft spot for 19th-century prose and Murakami’s novels.

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Back in high school, my curriculum featured a broad variety of literary subjects, including Italian, English, Latin, and Greek. I enjoyed the analytical aspect of writing and I enjoyed learning about the many devices one can use to create an engaging text. I was fascinated by classical rhetoric and whenever I consider critically the work of somebody else I remind myself of the Ciceronian triad: docere, delectare, and movere. In other words, the writer should be able to communicate, entertain, and move his readers. When I joined the team of Notes in Lent 2017, I was surprised by the quality of the works that our magazine manages to attract every two weeks and every editorial meeting is a new surprise in the lively creative milieu of Cambridge.

Being an editor is a multiform experience. Deciding what to publish and what to reject is only a step in the process of putting together a publication. Contributors need to be encouraged, supported, and followed in the creative process. At Notes, we take care of this aspect through extensive feedback which we provide for each submission. Whether we decide to accept a text or not, we are going to write back a reasoned paragraph about how it can be improved, its positive aspects, and more comments we may see fit. It is so rewarding and stimulating to see contributors writing back and trying to implement our suggestions. As editors, we pride ourselves on empowering a community of creatives and I believe that this is truly the core of our work.

Beyond the editorial sessions, editors tailor the image of the magazine by sourcing collaborations and determining the theme of each issue. Generally, we prefer to leave this open rather than set a specific topic, even though this may happen on special occasions. For instance, we have recently reached an important goal with our 50th issue, which was launched this week. Eager to celebrate this important moment in the history of the magazine, which has been around for a few years now, we have set “celebration” as the issue’s theme. Even so though, we left people free to interpret this concept and develop it in any possible direction. In fact, we always try to publish a range of different works and the diversity of the editorial group makes it a winning combination.

Personally, I am more inclined toward prose. In fact, my personal writing preferences do not influence much the editorial process since Notes relies completely on external contributions. On the other hand, I would say that this tendency of mine reflects my attention to the structure of texts. I enjoy pieces of writing which show a consistent form and are able to convey a defined character without resorting to hyperbolic structures. The longer one writes, the higher the risk of being redundant. This is something that I remind myself of continuously when writing and I think this is also a suggestion I would give to every perspective contributor: be clear about what you are trying to communicate.

Looking back at my past year as editor, I hope Notes will continue growing and providing an open platform for everybody to share their writing and ideas. Following a successful experimentation earlier last term, I hope to introduce writing workshops on top of our usual fortnightly publication. As editor, this is my personal goal for the year to come. This said, I am happy to work in a solid and experienced team and I am sure that Notes is only at the beginning of an even longer and successful journey.

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