Category Archives: Conference

The makings of a successful conference

By Margaret Hunter

Birmingham city centreWell, the SfEP 2016 conference is over. Editors and proofreaders across the land (and beyond) are catching up on sleep, trying to remember what’s on their to-do lists and enthusiastically writing up reports on their blogs. We’re striking while the iron’s hot and putting some of that learning into practice by writing five-year plans, testing out some new macros and even trying to get better at ‘selling’ ourselves and developing positive self-worth.

It was a really great conference this year! What made it so good? Other members of the SfEP have already praised the excellent session presenters and keynote speakers, the great venue and food at Aston University, and importantly each other for being open to sharing and discussing and generally being lovely people.

I’d like to give a shout out too – and a big thank you – to our sponsors, exhibitors and raffle prize donors. Let’s face it, how many of us usually take any notice at all of the list of sponsors printed on the back of our conference folder, or the various flyers tucked inside? It’s easy to go into automatic ad-blocking mode. Occasionally some offer or useful resource might catch our eye but sometimes they don’t seem to be all that relevant or interesting.

The thing is, at this year’s conference delegates DID notice – and appreciate – our sponsors and exhibitors, which is fantastic, and as it should be.

I lost count of the number of times I heard people say that PerfectIt is one of their essential editing tools. If you don’t know what it is, get someone in your local SfEP group to give a demo. You won’t look back!

The lovely people from Out of House Publishing not only sponsored us but also ran a well-received session on the current state of educational publishing and how editors and proofreaders fit into the process. Did they panic when half of the intended panel couldn’t make it at the last minute? Not visibly – they just got on with it, adjusted their presentation and gave us all lots of food for thought.

One organisation doing great work that some of you may not have come across is the Book Trade Charity. It exists to help anyone who has worked in the book trade in times of need. Kat Trail says she had a lovely chat about the charity’s work with its chief executive. For example, the BTBS can assist people who have been made redundant from publishing firms or are otherwise struggling financially, such as helping with deposits for flats, grants for training and so on. It also has its own housing complex, The Retreat, for ex-book trade folks. Well worth supporting!

A constant plea heard on the SfEP forums is ‘How can I get my first paying jobs?’ If you want clients to find you then you need to be findable. Our friends at Freelancers in the UK offer members of the SfEP a generous third-off discount on a listing in their online directory. For £20 a year it’s a no-brainer – get yourself listed!

A familiar face at SfEP conferences, Ann Kingdom represented our sister organisation the Society of Indexers. A common message in many conference sessions was about reaching beyond your comfort zone, challenging yourself to expand your business and move into new areas beyond core proofreading and editing. Indexing is a skill that would suit many of us, and it’s a professional skill that we want to see thrive and survive. Could that be your next challenge?

We’re all used to raffles where the prizes seem to be the unwanted items won at the donor’s last Christmas party. But not so the SfEP raffle! Every prize was fantastic, including books by keynote speakers David Crystal, Lynne Murphy and Susan Greenberg, books by session leaders, a copy of PerfectIt, and a fabulous prize of a two-day InDesign course donated by Certitec. Wow!

As if that weren’t enough, what really got people talking was the AMAZING goody bag from Cult Pens (‘The Widest Range of Pens on the Planet!’ – and I think we had a fair selection of those in the bag!). Just check out the Twitter feed mentioning @cultpens! Said one (normally entirely sensible) experienced editor:

This fab goody bag makes up completely for the hours I have spent every August in Asda, WH Smith and other venues spending loads of money on pens for CHILDREN. These are MY PENS.

Cult Pens goodby bag at SfEP conference 2016Some free pens and books may seem like a trifling thing, but our sponsors’ generosity made people feel good. And that all added up to make this one of the best SfEP conferences yet. Roll on 16–18 September 2017 at Wyboston Lakes – put the date in your diary now!

Margaret HunterPosted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Macros for editing? SfEP conference session preview

By Paul Beverley

The upcoming SfEP conference (Sept 10–12) offers an excellent range of learning opportunities, but unusually this year it offers a total of four hours of training on macros. Can one really justify spending four hours learning about macros?

Well, it depends what you think a (Word) macro is. If you research this via the internet, you will find various definitions such as, “A macro is a way to create a shortcut for a task that you do a lot.”

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The implication of all the definitions I looked at was:

(a task I already do) + (a macro) = (the same task done faster)

If that were all that macros could do, then those four hours would indeed be excessive.

However, I think that you get a better idea of what a (Word) macro is, if you say that it’s an app used to handle Word files. But what does an app do? The answer is, almost anything. So if a macro can do ‘almost anything’ with the contents of a Word file (or indeed a set of Word files), then they can provide the editor with a whole new set of tools.

Indeed, starting to use these new programmed macros (as opposed to just recorded macros) is akin to giving a sewing machine to someone who has only ever done hand sewing. Their hand sewing might be immaculate, and those techniques are still very valuable, but they will end up manufacturing garments much more quickly than before, and those garments can be of finer quality because of the consistency that a sewing machine is capable of – but they will need to learn new ways of working.

You might think this an overstatement, but hopefully the session on ‘Macros for editors’ will begin to open new horizons. Everyone will be able to benefit from finding a few new macros that will speed up the way they work, but for those willing to be more radical and learn new techniques over the next few years, you can expect considerable increases in earning rates.

Paul_Beverley1Paul Beverley has been an editor and proofreader of technical documents for over 10 years. He’s partly retired now, but doesn’t want to stop altogether because he enjoys his work far too much! He writes macros for editors and proofreaders to increase their speed and consistency, and makes them available free via his website.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

photo credit: 2014-08 – Grand Lake via photopin (license)

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Talking about fiction: Why bother? SfEP conference preview

By Gale Winskill

At the time of writing there are almost eight weeks to go before my 2016 SfEP conference session: Let’s talk about text. As editors we deal with text on a daily basis but we don’t necessarily talk about it. We might mutter exasperatedly to ourselves in the confines of our working space, communicate our thoughts diplomatically (or not) on paper or in emails … but in these days of remote working we rarely discuss the nitty-gritty of a text face to face with another person.

So, much to my surprise, I find that at some point I seem to have agreed to lead a group discussion, masquerading as a live editing session on fiction. Currently in the midst of trying to choose/tweak/finalise my materials for said event, part of me wishes that I hadn’t agreed to talk about anything to do with any sort of text. After all, most of the time not talking about text seems to work just fine, doesn’t it?

conversation-1468159_640And what on earth am I supposed to talk about with regard to editing fiction anyway? After all, it’s a construct, a conceit, a deception. There’s no truth to it, so there’s certainly no benefit in discussing it, is there?

Like the five stages of ‘panic-buying’ – something to do with the financial world apparently – my preparations for the live editing session have gone through similar degrees of doubt and anxiety:

  1. Denial: Agree to do live editing session on fiction and then promptly blank all recollection of this fact from my mind. After all, September is ages away, so there’s no need to worry about it.
  2. Anger: Receive polite request to deliver the session summary during a particularly intense work crisis, wonder why on earth I agreed to do this and get cross with myself for not saying ‘no’. Write something vaguely pertinent together with my fellow group leaders, then bury myself in work and revert to denial.
  3. Bargaining: Eventually read the live editing brief properly and try to convince myself that I can use one text for all three parts of the session, as surely that will be easier! Stare blindly at my author folders and bookshelves for inspiration. None is forthcoming.
  4. Depression: Decide that the subject of fiction is far too large to squeeze into an hour-and-a-half session. Book a last-minute holiday two weeks before my children’s school term finishes at the end of June and flee the country. (I’m just back!)
  5. Acceptance: While away, and on receipt of another gently worded reminder that session materials need to be delivered by a certain date, acknowledge that all of the above is utterly self-indulgent, it’s too late to back out and that working through these various stages is actually my natural default setting. In addition, (most of) my authors are wonderful, generous people who might just grant me permission to do all sorts of unspeakable things to their text without asking too many questions.

So, with another conference deadline looming – one that theoretically means I now have a rough idea of what I might talk about in my session – I have rediscovered three things: that panic, especially when interrupted by a two-week holiday and a pile of good books, is ultimately a great enabler; that the patience and good humour of the conference director are seemingly endless; and that text – even fiction – really does merit talking about.

And how did this final epiphany emerge? Well, the longer I stared at my selected text options, the more I swithered about what ought to be altered, left or queried. And on further study, I found other things that could potentially be marked or considered. Then, on comparing these musings with what I had actually marked on the texts when I edited them properly – years ago in some cases – I discovered that some of my thoughts were now ever so slightly different.

So, does that mean I was wrong back then, or that I am wrong now? What’s the right answer? And if I don’t know, what hope is there for my live editing group? Will they agree or disagree with me, or with one another? Will they even glean the same approximate understanding of the texts?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter. As I have said on many previous occasions, fiction has no one right answer … and the myriad possible interpretations of any fictional text are, therefore, definitely worth talking about for no other reason than they are endlessly fascinating and a great starting point for an interesting blether!

photo_Gale WinskillGale Winskill is an Advanced Professional member of the SfEP who enjoys a challenge. She leaves it up to the reader to decide whether there is any truth or merit to the above text, but admits that there may be a large chunk of fiction in there somewhere … or not. Discuss (preferably in her live editing fiction session).

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.
Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

‘No’ your way to a better business: SfEP conference session preview

By Laura Poole

As I write this, I’m nearly deluged in paid work. I said ‘yes!’ to clients about three times more than I should have. My bank account will be very happy in about six weeks, but in the meantime I’m getting up early, squeezing in work everywhere, skipping exercise, deferring personal appointments, and drinking extra coffee.

In the 20 years I have been freelancing, I have noticed that it is very hard to say no. I’ve noticed it with colleagues, too, and my theory is this: as freelancers, we train ourselves to say yes because yes = paycheck. When we started out, we probably said yes to everything because we were desperate for work, eager to expand our client base, excited to learn new things, and appreciative of the income. Publishing seems to be a woman-dominated field (at least in editorial), and women often tend to be people pleasers, which can lead to a yes when a no would be better.

hand-no
When we say yes a lot, it can feel good! Gratification: we made someone happy. Security: work is coming in, money will be earned. Pride: look how much I got done! Too many yeses lead to a feast of work, with concomitant stress. Our bodies, our schedules, our families, and even our friends suffer when we do nothing but work. A feast portion is all too often followed by a famine portion. We’re briefly grateful for a break, a rest, some recovery, but then we start to panic about lack of work… so we start drumming up more business, saying yes to lots more things, and then we’re back in the feast portion again.

The problem is, these vicious circles of stress and panic are not healthy, and they are not sustainable in the long run. For full-time freelancers, this is almost certainly not the lifestyle you envisioned.

There are many steps, tools, and techniques for reclaiming your life and business. In this post, I offer a key one: start saying no. It may seem counterintuitive, and it may feel almost physically uncomfortable to get the words out, but it’s the simplest thing you can do.

Check your instinct to immediately say yes to everything and everyone (and that includes personal requests, like tea with friends or dinner out). Give each request – appointment, social event, client project – some careful thought. Is it coming at a time when you already have plenty of work? Are you already overloaded, or will the schedule free up? Is it work that you truly want to do, or something that’s not quite in your core skills and interests (e.g. proofreading when you really do developmental editing). Think about what you truly want in your life – are you missing time for hobbies, time with family, or even just relaxing? Haven’t taken a vacation in a long time? Reclaim your sanity by saying no as needed.

The tough part is saying no without feeling guilty, without softening it with a lengthy apology or explanation. Remember: ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Loyal clients will know they can come back to you and may even ask when you are available.

When you say no to the things that don’t serve you – that overload your schedule, that aren’t in your core business, that are just a chore and not an opportunity – you will free up time and energy for the things that do serve you. That alone can shape your business in exciting new ways, opening more doors than you ever thought possible.

Start now: what can you start saying no to?

My session at the SfEP conference is ‘Taking charge of your freelance life’ (Monday 9–11am).

laurapoole resized Laura Poole (Twitter: @lepoole) started her full-time freelance business in 1997. She edits exclusively for scholarly university presses. She started training editors in 2009 with privately run workshops. In 2015, she joined with Erin Brenner to become the co-owner of Copyediting, for which she is also the Director of Training. She loves Jelly Babies.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Pricing editorial work – SfEP conference session preview

By Liz Jones

Booking for our 2016 conference, ‘Let’s Talk About Text’, closes on Friday 8 July. At the time of writing there are only a handful of non-resident places left, so if you don’t want to miss out, book now!

I’ve been invited to present in a ‘Speed start-up: what newbies need to know’ session at the SfEP conference in September on the subject of pricing work, alongside Sue Littleford (Numbers for word people) and Louise Harnby (Banishing the marketing heebie-jeebies). Here’s a taster of my section of the session.

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Pricing editorial work comes up time and again in discussion between editors. In the session I’m going to look at the basic process of quoting for work, which can be applied across a range of situations. The same principles can also be used to work out if a fixed fee offered by a client is fair.

  1. Assess the information provided about the work

The client should provide you with the project parameters, including extent or word count, schedule, level of editing required, and so on. They might suggest a price, or they might ask you to quote.

  1. Ask for more information if you need it

You can’t accurately price work without adequate information and a sample of the text. If the client will not provide the information you need to price the work, proceed with caution!

  1. Work out what your work is worth

To work out a price for the work, you can take the hourly rate you need/want to earn, multiply it by the length of time you estimate the job will take, and add on contingency to arrive at a total fee. Alternatively you can quote what you think the work is worth to the client. Other factors can influence the figure, such as the particular market, or the time frame allowed for the work.

  1. Use data from previous projects/colleagues to help you

To enable you to estimate how long a job will take, it is essential to keep records of work you do. If you are asked to quote for work unlike anything you have done, you can ask colleagues for advice – for example, in the SfEP forums.

  1. Prepare a quote, making clear what it covers

When you provide a price, you should also indicate what this price includes. For many publishers, this will be fairly straightforward, as they are likely to be commissioning you for a commonly understood part of the process such as copy-editing or proofreading. For a non-publisher, you will need to ensure they know precisely what they are getting for their money, and importantly what is not included.

  1. Prepare to negotiate

If your client suggests a price, don’t be afraid to ask for more if you think the work warrants it; equally, if you suggest a price, be prepared for the client trying to negotiate down.

  1. Agree terms with the client, and start work

Make sure you have the agreed price and the scope of work in writing before you start work. If anything changes that might affect the price, raise this with your client as soon as possible.

In the session I’ll be looking in more detail at each of the stages – with particular focus on working out what the job is worth – and taking questions. There will also be a handout with further information and links to resources to help you at each stage of the process.

Sue, Louise and I will be presenting on Monday, 12 September 2016, between 1.30 and 2.30 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Liz Jones Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, and full-time freelance since 2008; she is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. She specialises in trade non-fiction, fiction and educational publishing, but also works with a range of business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

A survival guide for introverts networking at the SfEP conference

By Abi Saffrey with contributions from Julia Sandford-Cooke and Melanie Thompson

There are loads of blog posts about how to cope with attending a conference if you’re an introvert – just search for ‘introvert conference’ and you’ll find lots of bedtime reading.

We’ve had a look through some of those blog posts, relived our own introvert experiences and racked our own brains to put together this networking guide for introverts: surviving the SfEP conference – this year’s is fast approaching and preparation can be the key for those of us who find large work and social occasions a somewhat overwhelming prospect.

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What’s an introvert?

It’s a characteristic/personality label that some people adopt.

  • One description doesn’t fit all.
  • The common contemporary definition is someone who gets energy from within rather than from other people.
  • It does not equate to shyness, though some introverts are also shy.

Extroverts can find conferences overwhelming too – they’re intense events. Meeting new people and having to make conversation with strangers can be intimidating for anyone.

Who’s an introvert?

Somewhere between a third and a half of the general population. Probably more than that among editors and proofreaders, particularly those of us who have opted for the freelance lifestyle.

Why would an introvert want to go to the SfEP conference?

For the same reasons as extroverts – to learn new skills, to be inspired, to hear about the latest developments in publishing and, yes, to meet other editors and proofreaders. Where else can you laugh with someone who understands about having to remove double spaces after full stops after the revisions have come back from the author for the third time?

Things to do before the conference

  • Think about what you want to get from the conference – and how you’re going to get it.
  • See who else is attending and if there are one, two, three people in particular you’d like to talk to, or at least make an initial connection with. Perhaps you’ve read their blog or been helped by their advice on the SfEP forums. Maybe you’ve seen their pithy comments on Facebook editorial discussions and just think you’d get on with them.
  • Pre-break the ice. Make contact with those people in advance – the groundwork can be done in a thought-out email rather than having to do a big face-to-face introduction.
  • Research the speakers and their topics to give you conversation starters.
  • Prepare some opening lines or questions [For example: Favourite part so far? Which bit are you most looking forward to? Which sessions are you going to today/tomorrow? What brings you here? Will you come again? What’s your favourite aspect of your work? Are you hoping to learn something in particular while you’re here?]
  • Think about how you may answer those questions.
  • Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk about the power of introverts.
  • Look at the schedule – where are you going to slot in the wind-down time? Are there sessions you may be able to miss if you need a break?
  • Think about what kind of things will make the conference more stressful. Sharing a taxi with strangers? Not knowing anyone on your table at dinnertime? Do what preparation you can to lessen those stresses – make contacts, budget for a taxi on your own.
  • Take things with you that help you feel comfortable – fluffy slippers, a new notebook, a photo of your dog, something that reminds you of home or another happy place.
  • Stick to your normal morning routine, as much as you can. Bring your own teabags or coffee, or whatever you need for you to start the day in the normal way.

Things to do during the conference

The main thing is to make the conference work for you.

  • Before walking into a social situation or a session, stand tall, roll your shoulders back and take a deep breath (or several) – do the power pose.
  • Make time for breaks – in whatever form recharges you. Sit in the sun, read a book, go for a walk.
  • Use your downtime to consolidate what you have learnt so far and plan for what’s coming next. Or just stare at a wall.
  • It’s okay to go off on your own, or to stare at a wall.
  • Be who you are – there is no ideal conference attendee mould that you have to fit into.
  • It’s okay to be a quiet participant. Listen. Say only as much as you are comfortable saying. There is no minimum or maximum contribution.
  • Recharge during a session (not necessarily dozing off…). Arrive just before a session is about to start, don’t sit too close to the front, Tweet.
  • Ask someone you know to introduce you to someone else.
  • Preserve your energy for when you need it most – some sessions are more important than others.
  • If you’ve had enough, miss a session. You can always track down the speaker’s notes or slides later, or (gasp) ask another attendee about the main points covered.
  • Use your skills to your advantage – listen, think, listen, ask perceptive questions, listen, ask why and listen carefully to the response.
  • Don’t talk to everyone – you don’t have to and it’ll just wear you out.
  • Don’t wear new shoes – sore feet can be really distracting.
  • Don’t fixate on what you’ve said or done afterwards. You might be mortified that you got that person’s name wrong or forgot you’d met before, but they probably took it in their stride. They might even be worrying about having done the same thing.

Things to do after the conference

  • Schedule some downtime in the following week.
  • Plan some time to go through your notes and decide on some action points (not just for introverts).
  • Make plans to go again next year – each time you’ll know more people, you’ll know the way things work, you’ll be a bit more comfortable.
  • Get in touch with anyone you wanted to talk to at the conference but didn’t have time to.

Let us know if you have any other good tips for surviving ‘big events’.

Abi Saffrey, Julia Sandford-Cooke and Melanie Thompson are all introverts and will be at this year’s SfEP conference. Don’t be offended if they want to be alone.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey is an advanced professional member of the SfEP. She specialises in copy-editing and proofreading economics and social policy content, and anything within the wider social sciences realm. Abi is a social introvert with two young children, and slight addictions to bootcamps and tea.

 

Blog posts I visited while writing this post

How introverts can make the most of conferences

How to survive big conferences as an introvert

An introverts guide to getting the most from a conference

Six ways introverts can avoid feeling shy at conferences

Should introverts go to conferences?

The introvert’s guide to surviving an in-person conference

An introvert’s guide to conference networking

Introverts: how to make friends and network at conferences

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

The hidden art of editing – the 2016 Whitcombe lecture

By Susan Greenberg

When I was first invited to give the keynote Whitcombe lecture at this year’s SfEP conference, they told me about the theme for this year – ‘Let’s talk about text’ – and explained: ‘Our members’ work is very varied, but we are all in the business of improving text.’

I feel a deep affinity with this approach. I have spent the greater part of my life thinking about what it means to improve texts; first as a practitioner, then as an academic.

When I started a PhD to go with this new career, about 10 years ago, I wanted to choose a subject that connected these two different lives. And I chose editing in particular because – like other behind-the-scenes work – it is mostly invisible; a hidden art. It would be interesting to bring it more fully into view.

Right from the start, my instinct was to look at the subject in the round. The analysis had to be comparative; it had to take the long view, and it had to include the insights of practitioners. The comparative aspect is crucial, because we already know how the different kinds of editorial work are different; why not ask how they might be similar?

Z_EditorsCoverSo far, one book has already come out of this research, and work on a second is advanced. In the first book, a set of interviews, we get to hear conversations on a human level about what people do when they are editing and what they think about it. This does three main things:

  1. It teases out the shared concerns of different kinds of editors.
  2. It gives a rough shape of a possible ‘best practice’.
  3. It underlines the extent to which good communication is hard; and so the extent to which people need help.

The second book is based on the idea that to bring this invisible practice into full view, we need not just description and definition, but also a really good theory.

We think of ‘theory’ as something high-minded and abstract, but it can and does affect everyday life. Compared to other cultural practices, publishing is very under-theorised. And this can end up undermining its value or status. The reason is that people need a framework in which they can fit random discoveries; otherwise the things they encounter are not fully noticed or remembered.

So, one needs a theory, but the type of theory makes a difference to visibility as well. Until now, the theorisation of editing often comes under the heading of ‘social constructivism’ and often uses the language of ‘gatekeeping’. This is a useful metaphor, but it can struggle to fit all sizes. And it sometimes makes too many assumptions about its subject. The assumption in the case of editing is usually that the ‘gatekeeper’ is always bad, and is always found only in whatever part of the media that the researcher does not like.

That is why I feel there is a need to define principles for textual work that make more allowances for the messiness of human practice.

Dr Susan Greenberg

Dr Susan Greenberg

Dr Susan L. Greenberg is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton [1], following a long career as journalist and editor. She teaches and offers doctoral supervision in her specialist areas of narrative nonfiction, and publishing. Susan is also the Publisher of the department’s in-house imprint, Fincham Press [2]. Publications include Editors talk about editing: insights for readers, writers and publishers (Peter Lang, 2015) [3]. Visit her blog at Oddfish [4] or follow her on Twitter at @sgediting. [5]

The new girl and the SfEP conference

By Karen White

My name is Karen, and I’ve been a member of the SfEP for about six weeks. I’m officially the New Girl.

I’m not used to being that new girl. I’ve been in publishing since 1997, working my way from Editor to Publishing Manager in an in-house role, and as a freelance editor, project manager and trainer since 2008. I specialise in ELT (English Language Teaching) and work with various international publishers on multi-level, multi-component print and digital products. And until six weeks ago I’d been functioning very happily without the SfEP, thank you very much.

In 2015 a colleague and I organised an Awayday for other ELT freelancers. We’d realised that there are quite a number of us, mostly working from home, and we’d like an opportunity to network, learn new skills and find out what’s happening in our industry. Freelancers don’t get sent on training courses, market visits or to conferences, and 100 people signed up for the event. One of those was Sarah Patey, who went away wondering why so few ELT freelancers are SfEP members. We organised another Awayday in January this year and Sarah offered to come back and tell us more about the organisation and how it could benefit us. Denise Cowle also came and added her voice, and since then Sarah and Denise have set up an SfEP ELT forum. I was convinced and signed up. I’m now the proud owner of an Advanced Professional Member badge and an entry in the database.

So do I need to spend over £400 going to the conference? I’ve got plenty of work, a good network to turn to for help and support, I already know about new trends in ELT methodology, and it looks like a big chunk of money to spend. In an attempt to find out what more I might get out of the experience, I contacted a couple of other SfEP members who are local to me. We met up for coffee and had a great chat for a couple of hours about editing, life as a freelancer, rates of pay, and how to use PerfectIt. One of them had been to the conference several times and raved about it, particularly the gala dinner in Exeter when there was a spectacular sunset. She still had the photos on her phone!

I left our meeting and had a think. I have no idea about PerfectIt, but do enjoy networking with other editors and learning new skills. Looking at the conference programme, I’m initially most curious about Richard Hutchinson’s session on LaTeX. New trends in comfy clothes for freelancers? That’s a must-see. [In case you’re wondering if the SfEP has gone a bit risqué, it’s LaTeX the typesetting sytem – Ed.] But there are lots more sessions of interest to me – managing and mentoring others, business skills and software sessions in particular. And the Tweetup! @KarenWhiteInk WLTM @LouiseHarnby, @espirian, @ljedit and the rest of the gang. I might also get some ideas for next year’s ELT freelancers’ Awayday. Breaking the cost down, it’s about £165 per day, including all sessions, meals and accommodation, which is actually pretty good value.

So, as a new member of the SfEP who’s keen to find out more about the organisation, an editor who loves talking about work, meeting new people and discovering new tips and tricks, and a huge advocator of networking, I’ll be there, walking the talk. And if latex trousers are as comfy as my current preferred slouchy brand, I might even bring a pair home!

If you see the new girl in the corner of the playground, please come and say hi.

Karen White
Karen White

Karen White is a freelance project manager, editor and trainer specialising in ELT publishing. She runs a Facebook page where ELT editors can chat and share information, and blogs about editorial issues at White Ink Limited. If you’re a Twitter user, you can find her @KarenWhiteInk.

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

SfEP conference newbie? Take the plunge and seed your brain!

With bookings for the 2016 SfEP conference opening soon, Katherine Trail tells us what it was like to pluck up the courage to go for the first time last year, and why she is glad she did.

seed

I took a deep breath, held my head up high and strode into the group of fellow editors and proofreaders milling around on the campus of York University. ‘Hi, I’m Kat. Nice to meet you,’ I said, the tremor in my voice no doubt betraying me as a nervous first-timer.

From subsequent discussions with fellow newcomers (and even conference stalwarts) over that conference weekend, I wasn’t the only one who felt a bit nervous about spending several days with a group of relative strangers. It seems that we editors are often quite an introverted bunch and would rather wrestle with three pages of incorrectly formatted references than say hello to a group of people we’ve never met. If you’re reading this in the grip of a similar terror, let me reassure you: Getting up the courage to say those seven words was the bravest I had to be all weekend.

I had only been an SfEP member for around three or four months by the time conference rolled around, and my decision to go was a last-minute one, helped by those devils on my shoulders on the SfEP forum. I’d been an avid forum user since I had joined, finding the blend of camaraderie and unrivalled knowledge of huge benefit to someone just starting out on their own. My use of the forums also had a very practical result, as I was able to put faces to names from afar. From seeing SfEP members’ photos online, I could spot internet director John Espirian at twenty paces across the crowded coffee room, nod sagely to myself when Rod Cuff spoke so eloquently at the AGM, saying, Ah yes, he touched on that on his forum post the other day, and recognise Sara Donaldson (green hair, that must be her).

I was very relieved to find that everybody I met was extremely friendly and eager to meet me too. From the conversations we had at breakfast, lunch and dinner (and the slightly more garbled conversations towards the end of the gala dinner), I learned a huge amount about others’ career paths and processes and was also relieved to find that ‘imposter syndrome’ was something shared among many of my colleagues. Phew, not just me then!

Going into conference weekend, I had so far in my solo career been doing a bit of everything: fiction, non-fiction, the odd thesis or dissertation, newspaper work as a hangover from my journalism career, etc. I felt like I was drifting a little bit without direction or a destination in mind, lacking the confidence or focus to pull out a map and draw a big X on it where I wanted to be. There just seemed to be so many opportunities, and so many great editors already doing each thing, that I wondered if there was a place for me in there.

I’d approached the SfEP programme of events with a military-like precision, honing in on the workshops and talks that I thought would give me the most benefit as I tried to figure out a path for myself. There was a lot of choice, and I had to miss some sessions as they clashed with others, but finally I had plotted out my master plan. Without fail, every one of those sessions gave me something to think about. As the weekend wore on, and I spoke to more colleagues and the experts who were giving the talks, a little seed at the back of my brain started to sprout leaves. By the time I was on the train home on Monday, it had blossomed into a flower. I had finally found the confidence and focus I was looking for. I was going to specialise in fiction.

Now, I might have told a little lie at the start; the one about how saying hello was the bravest thing I had to do. You see, I’d been gently persuaded into giving a lightning talk on the first full day of conference. ‘It’s just five minutes,’ they told me. ‘Hardly any time at all.’ I will grudgingly admit that the adrenaline from actually getting up in front of a (scarily large) group of people and talking for five minutes just about made up for almost having a panic attack during the session beforehand. And I felt immensely proud of myself. It gave me some of the confidence I had been lacking, and made me feel that I do indeed have a place in the editing world.

Back home, exhausted but happy, I bored my friends and family for days with conference tales. It seemed like my Facebook friends list doubled in the days following, and I’m still reaping the benefits months later, with people I met at conference referring clients and opportunities to me and vice versa. And I’m still on the path it gave me the confidence to follow; since conference, I’ve done three courses on fiction editing, I’ve totally revamped my website to reflect my new focus, I’ve joined the SfEP social media team, and I’ve signed up for the fiction professional development day in June, and I can’t wait to see some old friends and make some new ones. And I’m still on the forum and SfEP social media sites every day, and still amazed by the knowledge of other members and their unflagging willingness to share it with others.

Booking for this year’s conference opens on 7 March. Details can be found on the conference page of the SfEP website. Non-members welcome.

Katherine TrailKatherine Trail is a former newspaper chief sub-editor who nows specialises in fiction. She lives in Aberdeen and when she isn’t editing she can usually be found tramping through the wilderness with her spaniel, Daisy.
http://www.sfep.org.uk/directory/kt-editing-services-katherine-trail
http://www.ktediting.com/

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Conferences can be for oldies too

By Rod Cuff

I have a couple of vivid memories of the first time I went to a conference of what was then in 2000 the SFEP (capital F for ‘[of] Freelance’, as distinct from today’s lower case f for … well, ‘for’). The previous afternoon’s AGM had been dull for a newcomer, everyone seemed to know everyone else and no one had spoken to me, so I was pretty apprehensive as I waited for the conference to start.

But then the chief organiser, John Woodruff, positively bounced onto the stage wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Daily sex Dyslexia rules OK!’ I just might enjoy this, I thought.

Soon I was sitting in a big circle of chairs for my first workshop, on time management and ways of becoming more efficient. As others responded to the workshop leader’s questions, my height shrank by a few inches per minute until I had almost disappeared from sight. But finally, a question I could answer: is there one thing you could do that you know would improve your productivity? ‘Yes!’ I squeaked. A thousand eyes turned on me and glared. ‘I could delete Solitaire from my PC.’

Suddenly, twenty beaming, laughing faces turned to me. ‘We love you!’ they chorused. ‘Please be our friend!’ I drew myself up to six foot one again. I was in.

Some of that may be slightly exaggerated, but what is true is that speaking truth to power (well, the facilitator) turned a key for me, and I learned that, to get the best out of anything, it helps to put in something in the first place.

But, a dozen or so conferences later, I was feeling uneasy about what York 2015 might be like. Old hands tend to fade away from the conference scene eventually because in previous years we’ve done something similar to all the workshops likely to be on offer this time around. The pull then tends to be people rather than learning – meeting up with old friends and contacts, striking up conversations with new people, propping up the bar, singing in the Linnets, enjoying the conference dinner.

I’m no different, but very much to my surprise I found that this year’s conference turned out to be full of delightfully informative events. Three workshops/sessions, all short ones, are likely to have a direct bearing on how I work, whether on the few paid jobs I still do or for voluntary or recreational projects such as editing the concert programmes for a choir:

  1. practical uses of corpora for checking when particular words, phrases or spellings began to be used or go out of fashion in various kinds of media context
  2. a bracing critique of various ‘rules’ of grammar, which has made me rethink my approach to style guides
  3. a long list of software tools useful for editors, bound to improve my time at the computer in all sorts of ways.

But (sentences in unimpeachable English literature have begun with ‘But’ for centuries – thank you, workshop 2) the really memorable sessions were quite unexpected:

  • the Whitcombe Lecture by John Thompson was the most thought-provoking one I’ve heard for years
  • a hands-on session on simple paper-book making and paper engineering was just a total delight (you rarely see so many happy faces at a workshop)
  • a two-hour run through the development of typefaces and methods of printing made a whole lot of past evolution, practices and technologies clear to me for the first time.

paper-book making at the 2015 SfEP conference

The lesson for me from all this is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and moreover you can rejuvenate the old dog in the process. Needy spirit Serendipity rules OK!

Rod CuffRod Cuff took up proofreading and editing as a second career after a maths degree, thirty years in computer software development and a lifetime interest in astronomy. Naturally, he spent most of his time copy-editing books on the history of ballet and the maintenance of Swedish reservoirs. He is the SfEP’s Judith Butcher Award winner for 2015.

 

Proofread by Karen Pickavance.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.