British Library Study Day: Fairy Tales

By Tor Hegedus

Once upon a time, on a not-so-Grimm Saturday in January, a group of fairy-tale enthusiasts gathered at the British Library for a sold-out study day. Thanks to a post on the SfEP forums highlighting the event, I was lucky enough to be among them.

I’ve always loved fairy tales – the magic, the feeling that anything could happen and the dark little corners found in even the most child-friendly retellings – so the library’s promise that I would ‘discover stories I’d never heard before’ was a temptation I couldn’t resist. Also, as a children’s specialist who has worked on numerous fairy-tale retellings and collections, I was curious to learn more about the history of these traditional tales and see if there were any takeaways to be found for editing them.

Arrival

Upon arrival, we were treated to tea, fancy biscuits and goody bags (!) containing a copy of the programme, as well as a beautiful British Library notebook and pencil. The programme had been updated at the last minute due to a dropout, but the replacement lecture by Dr Erica Gillingham sounded promising … if anything, I was more excited than before. And I didn’t have long to wait. Soon enough, we were invited to take our seats in the library’s Knowledge Centre Theatre for the morning session.

The morning session

The day was kicked off by Michelle Anya Anjirbag from the University of Cambridge. Michelle’s talk, ‘Unlocking the Cabinet of Stories: Fairy tales, subversion and representation’, touched upon our understanding of fairy tales – our expectations and the biases those expectations reveal. She also talked about the issues surrounding representation and diversity in fairy tales, both historically and in modern-day retellings.

Michelle was followed by Jane Suzanne Carroll from Trinity College, Dublin, who talked on the subject of landscape within fairy tales. Her lecture, ‘Into the Woods: Spaces and places in fairy tales’, explored the familiar spaces within European fairy tales and explained why the same spaces occur again and again. It also examined the ways that stories have become embedded in real landscapes, using Irish and Welsh examples.

The late addition to the programme, Dr Erica Gillingham, closed off the morning with her talk ‘Cinderella and the Huntress: A lesbian retelling of Cinderella in Malinda Lo’s Ash’ – a lecture that not only spoke to the twisting of tropes in Lo’s Ash, but also offered a wider perspective on LGBTQ+ representation in YA fairy tales.

The afternoon session

After lunch, the afternoon opened with a thrill – Lucy Evans, a British Library curator, took us on a fascinating journey through the library’s collection of fairy tales. We were able to see examples of printed materials from the archives – from theatre posters and chapbooks to beautifully illustrated fairy-tale collections and even original manuscripts!

Next was Gillian Lathey, an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Roehampton, with her talk, ‘The Princess and the Multiple Peas: The translation and transformation of fairy tales’. In this lecture, Gillian discussed how the choices and personal styles of translators (and editors!) have impacted familiar tales over time.

Finally, author and publisher Dr Tamara Pizzoli took the stage for her talk, ‘The Tooth Fairy is a Black Woman and Other True Tales: A modern griot’s quest to rewrite history one fairy tale at a time’. In this talk, Dr Pizzoli opened up about the founding of her publishing company, The English Schoolhouse, as well as her journey as an author and what inspires her to continue writing both diverse retellings of existing fairy tales (such as The Ghanaian Goldilocks) and original stories (like Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO).

Highlights

All of the speakers were engaging, knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen topic. With such a high-quality line-up, it’s no surprise that there were plenty of memorable moments throughout the day. Some of the most fascinating content for me included:

  • Michelle Anya Anjirbag discussing representation and diversity in Disney’s fairy tale adaptations – their history, the steps they’ve taken and the steps they still need to take.
  • Jane Suzanne Carroll presenting a map tracking the geographical origins of Irish selkie stories. During this segment, it was pointed out that certain Irish surnames hold links to selkie folklore … leaving one surprised audience member checking themselves for webbed toes during the break!
  • Lucy Evans sharing an image of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. (I’m not ashamed to say I let out a squeak of excitement – The Bloody Chamber is a long-loved favourite of mine!) Lucy also shared this – a chapbook with a subtitle I still can’t quite shake!
  • Gillian Lathey discussing the changes made in one translation in the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea’. The translator, who felt it unrealistic that a single pea would be felt under so many mattresses, took it upon themselves to add multiple peas – a change that can still be found in subsequent versions today.
  • Learning that in early instances, Goldilocks was not as we know her today. In fact, early versions of the story had her as an old woman with silver hair!

Into the sunset

With a hot chocolate and my notes to keep me company on the train home, I found myself reflecting on the day. Overall, it was a fantastic experience – well worth the price of admission. It would have been beneficial to have a few more breaks dotted about … the seats were comfortable, but two and a half hours is a long time to be sitting in one place without a break!

The only (VERY minor) disappointment I had related to additional materials provided after the day. While I did take my own notes, we were told we would receive additional materials from the speakers via email in the following week. I was looking forward to a more comprehensive memory jog from these, but for the most part they lacked the depth I was hoping for.

For anybody interested in attending a future event at the British Library, you can browse here to discover what’s on.

Tor Hegedus is a writer, editor and Professional Member of the SfEP. Formerly an in-house copyeditor at a well-known children’s publisher, Tor ditched the commute to fully embrace freelance life – pyjamas and all. When she’s not wrestling commas, she can be found slurping tea and reading picture books to her cats.

 

 


Photo credits: open book Natalia Y; woods – Donald Giannatti, both on Unsplash.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Scammy editors, cautious editors, and the clients in between

By Kia Thomas

Recently, I received an email from the client whose manuscript I was working on. It said: ‘Just touching base to see if we are still on track for delivery of my manuscript by xx?’

I had given the author no reason to believe we wouldn’t be, so I could have, were I the type to take things overly personally, bristled at the implied questioning of my professionalism. But I hadn’t been in contact for a while (she’d sent the manuscript well before Christmas, but I wasn’t due to start until January), and I knew the author was on a tight schedule, so I sent a quick message back to say yes, still on track, and if I got done a few days early I’d send it back immediately.

I received another email straight away: ‘Wonderful. Thanks for the update. With the last editor, I sent a similar message and never heard back. It was a relief to even just see your name pop up.’ Then I remembered – the reason this client came to me was because they had been horribly let down by another editor, who had just disappeared on them after taking payment.

Editors like this exist, unfortunately. Outright scammers, or just unreliable people who have no idea how to act in a professional manner. They can be found in every profession, and ours is no exception.

Most of the online editorial circles I move in are filled with people who would never dream of taking advantage of a client. They would be ashamed of doing a half-arsed job. They could never imagine ignoring a client for weeks on end. This kind of behaviour is so far from their own experience of being an editor that I think many of them don’t quite understand just how often this happens to unsuspecting authors, and how devastating it can be. So when they start working with a client who questions all their procedures and ways of working, or who bombards them with emails and requests for progress reports, those editors can see these things as signs of an overbearing client. To be fair, that’s sometimes exactly what they are. But sometimes they’re the sign of someone who’s been badly burned. Every editor, and every business owner, for that matter, should remember that not all clients are approaching the relationship with the same expectations and baggage.

I think that as editors we could sometimes do better when it comes to understanding our clients’ concerns. There are people out there doing great damage to the reputation of our profession, in the indie world at least, and there’s a lot we can do to undo some of that damage and restore our collective good name.

Freelancing is full of risk. Good business owners do what they can to protect themselves from those risks. But we need to be aware of the effect this might have on our potential clients. For example, you could ask the question ‘Should an author pay an editor in full before receiving the edited manuscript?’ in an editors’ group and a writers’ group, and you’d get two different sets of answers. Editors would lean towards ‘Always get payment first’, backed up with horror stories of being ripped off by clients. Authors would lean towards ‘Never pay first’, backed up with stories of being ripped off by editors. Both things happen. Both sets of concerns are legitimate.

The problem comes, then, when we start seeing the expression of these concerns as red flags, when they might be nothing of the sort. An editor might be the perfect person for an author’s work, but if both have been cheated with regard to payment in the past, and so the editor refuses to release the edits before payment, and the author refuses to pay before seeing the edits, they’re at an impasse. A potentially brilliant working relationship could be lost before it’s even begun.

I think the solution lies, as it so often does, in empathy, honesty and communication. Our clients are investing sometimes huge sums of money with us, and handing over a piece of work that could have taken them years. That’s a lot to trust a total stranger with, so we should respect that. Where we have developed practices to protect our businesses from risks, perhaps we could be better at explaining to clients why. We don’t have to, of course – we are entirely free to run our businesses as we see fit and only work with clients who accept that unquestioningly. But honesty and openness are generally good things, and we could be opening up great opportunities for ourselves by bringing more of those things into our interactions with potential clients.

And perhaps there is also room for compromise. Again, no one has to compromise on anything if they don’t want to. But are there ways we can protect ourselves while also allowing our clients to protect themselves? For example, I have recently decided to move to asking for payment before delivery of the full edited manuscript. But I recognise that this might make some new clients nervous, so I offer to send an edited chapter on request, any chapter of the client’s choosing, so they can be reassured I have actually done the work.

It can be a difficult thing, to give people the benefit of the doubt when the stakes are high. A non-paying client, or one who oversteps boundaries, can cause huge problems for an editor. But we aren’t the only party who has something to lose. I wrote once about editing with kindness. We can do business with kindness too.

 

Kia ThomasKia Thomas spent 11 years in the arts before becoming a freelance fiction editor at the beginning of 2016. She specialises in contemporary romance and is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. Kia lives in South Tyneside, and she can often be found networking with her colleagues in online spaces (ie spending too much time on Twitter).

 

This article was originally published on Kia’s blog on 4 February 2020. Many thanks to Kia for granting permission to amend and republish it.


Photo credits: notebook Kiwihug, baggage – Waldemar Brandt, both on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

From terrified to trainer

By Cathy Tingle

I never planned to be a trainer. I hate speaking in public. My voice is soft and I’m prone to saying ‘um’ and ‘er’ as I struggle to articulate my thoughts. When I get going, I trip over my words. I certainly don’t have what you would call the gift of the gab.

As part of my job, I’d run a couple of courses years ago, fuelled by youth and, I don’t know, luck. Since then, I’d been made redundant, moved city, had kids, and lost confidence the way you do when you’re at home all day interacting with small children and a screen.

So imagine my feelings when I received an email in August 2018 from Margaret Aherne suggesting I take over two of her copyediting courses.

If you’ve not been on one, Margaret’s courses are a treat. Her Publishing Scotland ‘Welcome to’ and ‘Further’ courses in copyediting and proofreading were exactly what I needed as I started out in editing in 2014. She was clearly an expert, vastly experienced, but hilarious with an endearing nerdy slant (keen on steam trains, bus shelters, that sort of thing). Her exercises were masterful – thought through and clever. I signed up for all her Edinburgh courses. Afterwards, we kept in touch by email, and I was secretly hoping she’d write a new course I could attend.

Taking up the mantle

But it wasn’t to be. Family and health stuff meant that Margaret couldn’t make the trip (always by her beloved train) from Bristol to Edinburgh any more. So, did I fancy taking on her Publishing Scotland copyediting courses? Denise Cowle would be running the proofreading ones.

Me? She must have confused me with someone else, or mistaken my shiny-eyed interest (I was a bit of a Margaret groupie) for training ability. But … what an opportunity. I replied with an update on my work and what training I’d run before, adding: ‘I do feel very green and inexperienced compared to you!’ It didn’t seem to put her off and we arranged a meeting.

In the meantime, I almost bottled it. One evening it became crystal clear. What I was I thinking? I could barely string a sentence together with my own family, let alone a set of delegates. I’d never manage Denise’s capable, clear and confident delivery (for I had checked her out on YouTube talking about semicolons). I’d email Margaret and tell her I couldn’t do it. And I did. She was incredibly understanding but gave me the night to think about it and the chance to confirm my decision in the morning.

In the morning, I felt … OK. Still a bit scared, but all right. So it was on again, and I met Margaret a few weeks later in Glasgow, where she talked me through the content of the course and assured me she’d give me advice and guidance whenever I needed it. I hugged her goodbye. It felt like I had been anointed.

Five steps

And so began the long countdown (of around six months) to delivering my first day-long course. What did I do to prepare? Here are my tips for going from terrified to trainer.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the content. Nothing makes you confident like knowing your stuff. So I made sure I was completely au fait with everything in the course. I looked out for extra examples and other material that could augment the learning points. Becoming familiar with the content also involves anticipating questions. The course included a section on grammar and punctuation. What if the delegates asked hard questions at that point? Time to raise my game. When the opportunity arose, I volunteered to take over ‘A Finer Point’ in Editing Matters from Luke Finley.
  2. Read a book. Sounds like a cop-out, doesn’t it? But it will give you a chance to get your thoughts in order. It will also make you realise that your situation is far from unique. I read How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop, which contains case studies of well-known women speaking in public. The book told me: ‘You can’t get around fear. You can only go through it. And the way to go through it is to speak in public and get more used to it.’ Argh. Was there no other way?
  3. Talk to an experienced trainer. I went to see someone my sister knew who had decades of training experience. He gave me some great ideas for icebreakers and tips for dealing with questions. He also pointed out that nerves are a bit of vanity, aren’t they? The day’s not about you. Above all, though, he listened to my concerns, was encouraging, and told me the story of when he found himself dry heaving from nerves in the toilets of No 10 Downing Street before running a training session. So.
  4. Practise. Viv Groskop said it. The best way to feel better about the whole thing was to do it, or a version of it. So I put myself on the rota of people that give the welcome and notices at church, to get used to being confronted with expectant faces and hearing the sound of my own voice. The most useful experience was when I didn’t realise I was down for one Sunday, turned up as the service started and was told: ‘Thank goodness you’re here! We didn’t think you were coming!’ So I had to get a lightning brief and just go out there and do it. My slightly breathless delivery, some of it on the verge of giggles, was complimented. Coming across as human obviously worked.
  5. Make the takeaways good. I wasn’t kidding myself that the delegates would hold on to my every word, and I wanted to relieve a little of the pressure on my performance, so I made sure that there was an exhaustive resources list and prepared a ‘keep in touch’ sheet so I could email everyone with the presentation. This would also be useful as a vehicle for answering any questions that completely stumped me. I could say, ‘I can’t answer that now, but I’ll look it up and let you all know’.

And that was all I could do in the time I had. I was still nervous on the day. I always am. I’ve done three training courses now – two whole days and a half (with Denise running the other half) – but the more training I do, the more I enjoy it. After coming home from the first day-long course I had to have a lie down; the second time I went out in the evening. So it must be getting easier. Comments from the delegates have been positive. One made me laugh: ‘Cathy is nice and quite funny’. Only ‘quite’! Looks like I still have a way to go before I’m a Margaret.

Cathy TingleCathy Tingle is an SfEP Advanced Professional Member, based in Edinburgh. Her business, DocEditor, specialises in non-fiction editing. She runs ‘Introduction to Copy-editing’ and the copyediting section of ‘Further Copy-editing and Proofreading’ for Publishing Scotland. Like Denise Cowle’s ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ course for Publishing Scotland, both courses attract three SfEP upgrade points and are offered at a discounted rate for SfEP members.


In March 2020, the SfEP will become the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), and the CIEP’s first annual conference will take place at Kents Hill Park, a purpose-built conference and training centre in Milton Keynes, on 12–14 September.

The provisional programme will be released before booking opens in March, and will feature a mix of high-quality workshops and seminars on various aspects of editing and proofreading, as well as running your own business and developments in the publishing world. If you would like to suggest a topic or speaker (it could even be you!), contact the conference director as soon as possible (conference@sfep.org.uk).


Photo credits: laptop on table Patrick Robert Doyle; chairs and flipchart Kovah, both on Unsplash.

Proofread by Alice McBrearty, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

Coping with criticism

By Liz Jones

One of the most exciting things about freelancing, but also one of the hardest, is that feeling that the buck stops with you. You’re in control of the work you do, keeping the business going. You’re entirely responsible. On a good day, this can be exhilarating. It’s a buzz to win a new contract or client. There’s nothing quite like sending off a massive invoice for a job well done – a direct and tangible result of your efforts. And it’s a real kick to be praised for excellent work.

The flip side of this is that we also need to be prepared for feedback that isn’t so good. We’re all human, and sometimes we have off days, and we miss things, or misunderstand an aspect of a brief. Sometimes there’s a distance between what the client expects and what we think they want. Or maybe a document is just in such bad shape that it’s all we can do to make it better, and it’s still not going to be immaculate – at least, not in that timeframe, with that budget. Perfection is never a helpful aim.

How we deal with criticism of our work matters. Bad feedback can take a huge mental toll if we’re not careful. It’s not simply a question of avoiding it entirely, as it’s bound to happen sooner or later, no matter how careful we are. But there are strategies that can help us cope with it more effectively, and perhaps even turn it into a positive experience (eventually).

I tweeted about this recently: https://twitter.com/ljedit/status/1217800318932656129

My Twitter thread was in response to a client having commented on some things I’d missed in a proofread, some of which were debatable, but several of which were not – in an ideal world I would have caught them. My response to the client, after sleeping on it (and yes, after initially getting indignant and defensive, and stomping around the kitchen), was a succinct acknowledgement of the things I’d missed, while also drawing attention to the fact that it had been a heavily corrected set of proofs; no proofreader can catch everything. I also thanked them for their feedback. Later I received a positive response from the client, and more work. I think as a result of our exchange both sides felt heard, and also reassured that our good working relationship was intact.

Professional resolution

I shared the experience on Twitter because receiving bad feedback can be such a lonely experience, but probably a fairly universal one in our profession. It received quite a few likes and shares, and some responses indicating that I wasn’t alone. So, based on my own experiences of responding to criticism in the past 12 years (let’s just say I’ve improved over time), plus conversations with colleagues, here are some tips for managing in this situation.

  • Dissociate yourself. It can be incredibly painful to have work criticised. It may even feel like a personal attack – but it (generally) isn’t. Remember that you are not your work. Even if it’s fallen short in some way, it doesn’t mean you have.
  • Don’t panic! Your first reaction might be to assume that you’ve messed things up completely and lost a valuable client. But feedback, even if it’s negative, is generally a good sign. It means the client is interested in an ongoing working relationship and building a dialogue with you. They don’t want to lose you, they just want to keep lines of communication open so you understand better what they need in future.
  • Give yourself time. Your instinct might be to write back immediately, to try to sort everything out right away. However, my advice would be to give yourself as much time to reply as you reasonably can. Sleep on it if possible. The more quickly you write back, the more defensive you’re likely to be, and the situation won’t be helped by heaping it under a load of excuses.
  • Assess the criticism. As I said, criticism is painful, and it’s even more painful to look it directly in the eye. But this is important: you need to understand what you did wrong. This means acknowledging to yourself as well as the client that you made silly mistakes, or were distracted for some reason, or were trying to do too many things at once.
  • You need to address the criticism, of course. It’s good to deal with all the points raised, even if only to say ‘yes, I should have caught that’. Own your mistakes; apologise briefly if necessary. Try to avoid lengthy justifications. Do stick up for yourself if you feel the client is being unfair, but don’t bang on about it, or retaliate with accusations about unreasonable expectations. This is not the point at which to try to renegotiate the contract.
  • If you honestly didn’t know how to do something before, don’t just stumble on in ignorance, hoping you’ll get away with it again in future. Take the opportunity to plug the gaps in your knowledge.

How far should you go to fix things?

This can be tricky. It might be your instinct, because you’re a nice person, to ask for the files back to go over them again. You might want to make the new corrections yourself. You might even think you should charge the client less than agreed. But don’t be too hasty; the client probably isn’t expecting any of this. Don’t over-compensate for something fairly minor. Reassure the client that you will look out for the points they’ve raised in future work, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake(s) again.

Red flags and abusive relationships

Although I wrote that criticism of work is not generally a personal attack, it’s worth remembering that on rare occasions, it is. I’ve been in situations, and I know many other editors have too, where criticism is not warranted, or is out of all proportion to the supposed misdemeanour. Most clients are entirely professional in their dealings, but a tiny minority are unscrupulous, even abusive. If you reach a point where everything you do for a client is criticised, and your professionalism is being called into question (even after you’ve conducted an honest appraisal of your work), or you’re made to put in more work than you’re being paid for to ‘atone’ for a string of supposed infractions, then it’s time to walk away.

As freelancers who often work alone, we can be vulnerable to a particular kind of toxic power struggle where we are made to feel useful, needed, part of a team – and as a result end up giving a client far more than they are paying us for. This can happen quite insidiously, so we should be vigilant in our setting and maintaining of boundaries in working relationships.

 

Liz Jones has been an editor since 1998, freelance since 2008. She works for a number of non-fiction publishers, agencies and individuals, and specialises in highly illustrated books on architecture, art and culture, as well as tech and electronics.

 

 


Editor and Client: building a professional relationship is an SfEP guide that aims to help freelancers understand the needs of their clients, and to give clients a clear awareness of freelancers’ requirements to do a good professional job.


Picture credits: Girl with head in hands – Caleb Woods; And breathe – Max van den Oetelaar,  both on Unsplash

Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Wise owls: how I found my first client

All freelance careers start with tracking down that first client. Even the wise owls were chicks once (though probably still wise even then), and their experiences show that there isn’t just one way to go about getting that first paid project.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I’ll talk about my early career, as my first clients came to me via a now-defunct route. It’s a long time since eBay had classified ads! I also picked up a couple of jobs through Gumtree. Two of my first actions on hanging out my shingle were joining SfEP and getting my website up and out there. My website brought in a few more clients who had found me courtesy of Mr Google – including a novelist I still work for some 12 years later. I also picked up a couple of jobs from what is now IM Available. But my big break was from answering an Announce that went to the whole of the membership (most go to just Advanced Professional and/or Professional Members) – I picked up my first packager client and that broadened my horizons and my experience hugely (which I promptly reflected in my CV). In the early days I also had an (expensive) ad in Yellow Pages, which I cancelled after two years as it was ineffective. But a few days before it was due to come off Yell’s website, a packager looking to hire only editors within the county found me (phew!). We did lots of work together over the ensuing years. I’d certainly advise not putting all your marketing eggs in one basket.

Liz Jones

My first client was the employer I’d just left – a non-fiction book packager. For a while I combined freelance project management (essentially continuing my old job) with working on small editorial jobs for them, alongside another major client (an educational publisher) secured via a former colleague. This all sounds too easy – and it was: it only deferred the inevitable need to find a range of clients, to mitigate the risk of working freelance. At first I suffered many sleepless nights: how would I pay my bills if the packager stopped using me? I realised I needed to take control, and worked hard to gain new work streams – in related areas via old colleagues, and also by ‘cold-emailing’ publishers and other potential clients. It took a couple of years, but I was so glad I put in the effort to market myself at that point. I felt more in charge of my career, and expanded into new areas of work. These days I still work for my first client, but only very occasionally, and I try never to be in the position of worrying about a single client dropping me. (Of course I still do all I can to retain my favourites!)

Nik ProwseNik Prowse

I was forced to find my first client, because I was staring down the barrel of a 3-month redundancy notice. At the time I was working at home, but as an employee, as a staff editor for a science publisher. I needed a change, and redundancy (I realised later) was an opportunity. After deciding to go freelance I made a list of every science publisher I could think of and emailed my CV to commissioning editors, desk editors and managing editors, with the promise of following up by phone a few days later. Most approaches fell on deaf ears. A few turned into paid work in the long term. But two came up with immediate work. One was a European journal publisher offering a very low rate but frequent work. The other was a major university press. The person I’d emailed had a book to place, on molecular biology, and I could start on Monday 16 February 2004. Which was good timing, as I became redundant on Friday 13 February 2004 (very apt). So I finished the working week as an employee and started the next as a freelancer. It made me realise that many freelance opportunities are down to luck, but that you can make your own luck.

Hazel BirdHazel Bird

My first ever piece of work as a freelancer paid £19.03 and took me six hours to complete, so I earned a princely £3.17 per hour. This was back in 2009. I was working full time as an in-house project manager for Elsevier, but I was also in the process of completing the Publishing Training Centre’s distance learning course in proofreading, and I wanted to take on some actual proofreading to keep my future options open.

The client was one of those agencies that arranges proofreading for students and academics. I believe I found them through a Google search for proofreading companies. I know that I completed a test, and I was then added to their list and offered work according to when I was available.

I worked for the agency for around eight months (I stopped after I left my job and began freelancing for my old employer). I worked up to completing around 2–4 articles per week, and by the end of the eight months I was regularly earning over £15 per hour, which I considered a good rate for someone of my experience. There were aspects of the work that weren’t ideal (such as having no contact with the authors and very little feedback), but it gave me a lot of relevant experience to help me upgrade my SfEP membership.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

My first job came from another, now retired, SfEP member. I had joined the society less than a fortnight earlier, but just in time to put my credentials in the next issue of the old Associates Available. My benefactor lived in my area and quickly got in touch to say she’d had an email from a marketing and comms company based somewhere between our two locations. They needed someone to work in-house for half a day to proofread some web copy. Did I want the job? Well, yes – of course! She passed my details to her contact at the company and the following week I found myself on a train to mid-Cheshire, where I spent several frustrating hours working for the comms company. Yup, it turned out to be a nightmare job and getting paid was also a hassle. But the point is, never underestimate the power of networking and getting your info in front of other people’s eyeballs. Despite plenty of experience, I’d only just returned to the UK after 13 years abroad and I had no contacts. I was very grateful for that first gig. Associates Available has been replaced by IM Available but is as useful as ever for picking up those early jobs that can help you start to build experience and a portfolio.

Michael FaulknerMike Faulkner

This is how I found, not just my first, but my first dozen jobs – so I recommend it as a useful approach for all newbie proofreaders! The only qualification is that you need to be up for academic proofing.

There were three stages:

  1. I worked up a good understanding of the (quite strict) parameters for academic proofreading – in this context I mean dissertations and theses by undergraduates and post-grads, not papers by academics for publication.
  2. I went through my contacts – and my family’s and friends’ contacts – for anyone with any connection, even tangential, to university lecturers in any area with which I was comfortable (I concentrated on arts and particularly law), whether academics, journalists, current students or fairly recent graduates. I was interested in the names of lecturers/profs/supervisors who I might approach, and armed with those names and the courses they taught I got the relevant contact details from their institutions.
  3. I wrote a short, practical, helpful email to each person on the longlist, explaining my qualifications/training; my understanding of what is and is not acceptable in an academic context; how I might hopefully make their life easier (obviously you can’t say this last directly but it has to be implied, possibly with humour); and how swiftly I was able to turn work around.

My first job, for a Saudi student at Kings College London, came almost immediately and I have since worked on many papers by students of the same supervisor. Same for a number of other professors, so for work on which I was able to cut my teeth this approach was pretty successful.


SfEP Members can find out more about IM Available by visiting the Members’ Area on the SfEP website.


Photo credit: owl Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

 

Face-to-face CPD in 2020

CPD is a critical part of every editor and proofreader’s year. There is now a vast array of online courses available, but there really is nothing like being in a room, talking with and learning from peers and experts. Here are some possible face-to-face CPD (and networking) events that you could invest in in 2020.

Conferences

SfEP CIEP 2020

The SfEP conference has been a mainstay of many editors’ calendars for years – this year will be the first ever Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading conference, which is bound to be packed full of informative and challenging sessions and learning opportunities, just like the 30 SfEP conferences that preceded it. Booking will open in March.

www.sfep.org.uk/networking/conferences/
Dates: 12–14 September 2020
Location: Kents Hill Park, Milton Keynes

ACES 2020

The 24th annual national conference of ACES, the Society for Editing, has sessions on developing a quality editorial process, the gift of imperfection, editing memoir, diverse content, thinking like a linguist, and editor health and self-care (including a mile-long #StetWalk!). Registration is open now, and spaces are filling up.

https://aceseditors.org/conference/2020
Dates: 30 April–2 May 2020
Location: Hilton Salt Lake City Center Hotel, Salt Lake City, UT

EDITORS20 / RÉVISEURS20 / CORRECTORES20

Editors Canada hosts the International Editors Conference this year, which offers three days of seminars, workshops and keynotes on the theme of ‘From Papyrus to Pixels: International Editing Trends’. Registration is open now, with earlybird rates in place until April.

www.editors.ca/professional-development/conference/international-editors-conference-2020
Dates: 19–21 June 2020
Location: Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, Montreal, QC

METM20

The Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting (METM) offers three days of presentations and keynote speeches, workshops and ‘Off-METM’ events for editors, translators, interpreters and other providers of English-language support services, this year on the theme of ‘The Style Issue’. Registration begins in late spring, and is open to members a week ahead of everyone else.

www.metmeetings.org/en/presentation:1265
Dates: 15–17 October 2020
Location: Olarain University Hall of Residence, Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain

IPEd Conference 2021

Okay, yes, this one isn’t until 2021 (as IPEd holds its conference every two years), but if you don’t live in Australia, you’re going to need that extra bit of time to save your pennies! The theme is ‘Editing on the Edges’, inspired by Hobart’s geographic location and the fact that editors are always dealing with edges, whether they be geographic, demographic, technological or ethical.

https://iped2021.org.au/
Dates: 28–30 June 2021
Location: Hobart Grand Chancellor, Hobart, TAS

Book fairs

London Book Fair

This year’s London Book Fair has over 200 sessions planned covering 11 dedicated seminar streams, including Authors: Central to our Business, and People Development: Re-skilling our Industry. Hundreds of publishers – and of course the CIEP – will be in the exhibitors hall. Tickets available now.

www.londonbookfair.co.uk/
Dates: 10–12 March 2020
Location: Olympia London, Kensington, London

Frankfurter Buchmesse

2019’s Frankfurt Book Fair was the biggest ever with nearly 7,500 exhibitors – we’ve got to assume that 2020’s fair is going to be larger yet. There isn’t much information about the 2020 event available at the time of writing, but it looks like a great place ‘to exchange ideas, be inspired, try out new technologies and cultivate contacts’. Tickets on sale from April (private visitors) and June (trade visitors).

www.buchmesse.de/en
Dates: 14–18 October 2020
Location: Messegelände, Frankfurt am Main

Workshops and courses

In the UK, the SfEP continues to offer its Introductions to Proofreading and Copyediting as one-day workshops, and usually hosts a different one-day workshop on the day before its conference starts. Local SfEP groups can work together with the SfEP office to organise workshops on other topics. The Society also offers bespoke in-house courses for companies and organisations.

The Publishing Training Centre has 21 classroom-based courses in its schedule for 2020, covering core publishing skills, project planning and management , strategy and list building, professional development and marketing.

SfEP local groups

And no summary of face-to-face CPD would be complete without a mention of the SfEP’s local groups – meetings offer a great way to share knowledge and experience (and often also tasty food and beverages).


Photo credits – all SfEP, taken at the 2019 SfEP annual conference.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Compiled and posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Assume nothing, question everything

Five key questions to ask a potential client

By Jo Johnston

1. What services do you need?

Hands up who’s had a client asking for proofreading when they meant rewriting, or editing which later turned into needing a project manager to liaise with stakeholders?

Phew … glad it’s not just me.

Most of us editors can share funnies or horror stories about how a client has misunderstood something key during the briefing stage, or how we, as the supplier, may have failed to clarify something that later is glaringly obvious.

So if you offer more than one type of editorial service, double-check that your client understands the differences between them.

The definitions of copyediting and proofreading can vary from company to company, so don’t assume that just because the client is a communications professional, the definitions they use are identical to yours. And make sure you have the brief in writing in email or confirmed in a phone call, so that you can iron out any creases in understanding.

Takeaway: Include an outline of service definitions on your website or create a PDF handout to share at the briefing stage.

2. What’s the deadline and delivery method?

Some clients assume that you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for their work to land; others understand that you may be juggling a range of projects.

So a vital first question is, ‘when’s the delivery date?’ Even if your client doesn’t have a date in mind, set one yourself. This gives you a goal to work towards and you can schedule in other work around the project – just as you would if you were working in-house.

Everyone has working preferences. So what format do they want to work in – Google Docs, Word, or PDFs? How do they want any amendments shown – as tracked changes and comments or edited directly in the document?

‘Assume nothing, question everything’ is the mindset you need when starting a new project.

Takeaway: Make sure that details such as the deadline or preferred way of working are listed in your project proposal.

3. Will you accept my rate and working terms?

Some freelancers say that they lack confidence when talking about the bees and honey, and let’s not even mention working terms.

It may be tempting to leave this bit until last, after you’ve established a good client relationship first, but don’t leave it so late that you’ve spent bags of time discussing the brief or even visited head office, only to find out that they won’t budge on your price and won’t sign your contract.

Being clear about prices upfront on your website could lead to an increase in higher quality clients. It may help to get rid of time-wasters or those trying to ‘pick your brains’.

Takeaway: State your rates and terms clearly and in writing, either on your website or project proposal.

4. Can you tell me about your target audience or how you will use the resource?

Most of the time, a copyeditor or proofreader is part of a much wider project team. You may have been drafted in at the last hurdle to make sure everything’s tickety-boo, or right from the beginning – as is often the case with developmental or substantive editing.

Whatever stage the project is at, you need to be brought up to speed. Find out who the project is aimed at and how it will be used. It will help you to do a much better job if you know why you’re doing it.

And don’t forget to include research within your project proposal – it’s perfectly OK to charge for background reading and familiarisation.

Takeaway: Ask to see a project brief, terms of reference or target audience research.

5. Can you give me feedback once the job is complete?

The job’s done and dusted. A week, a fortnight … darn it … a few months go by, and you’ve heard diddly-squat from your client.

One way to avoid this state of paralysis is by saying at the briefing stage that you’d like feedback once the work is complete. You may not feel you need this kind of reassurance, but you do need to make sure that the project is finished and won’t bounce back in six months.

Some clients are up against print deadlines and may not have time to respond – you’re not an employee after all. So it’s worth keeping all this in mind and not taking silence personally.

Takeaway: Get client feedback on the radar. It paves the way for you to ask for a testimonial in the future.


What are your key questions when liaising with a prospective client? Let us know how you go about starting a project.


SfEP Professional Member Jo Johnston has been working as a copywriter and editor for 20 years. She started off in the public and non-profit sectors, but now helps to finesse the marketing work of all business types from ambitious start-ups to global giants. As part of its social media team, Jo posts professionally as the SfEP on LinkedIn. Elsewhere on social media, she unashamedly shares countless photos of her beloved Labrador.

 


Photo credits: Trees Evan Dennis, Laptop – Markus Spiske, both on Unsplash; Mabel the Labrador – Jo Johnston.

Proofread by Alice McBrearty, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

 

 

 

 

Not just fun and games: the CPD of escape rooms

By Julia Sandford-Cooke

You might think I’m just a meek and unassuming editor, but I have a secret identity. When I’m not correcting content, I may be stealing diamonds, exploring Egyptian tombs, solving crimes or perhaps even saving the world (twice from a renegade sheep). Despite my reputation for remaining calm under pressure, I have been known to scream, ‘Why are you just standing there? We only have three minutes to defuse the bomb!’

Yes, I’m an escape room enthusiast. Bear with me because the link to continuing professional development (CPD) isn’t as tenuous as you might think. After 20 years as an editor, I’m still committed to learning but I’ve completed most relevant courses at least once, so have begun to seek out new ways to build and apply my skills. After all, we editorial professionals don’t just spend our days correcting grammar and swearing at Microsoft Word – we also practise problem solving, time management, team working and lateral thinking. And all these skills are tested and strengthened in escape rooms.

What is an escape room?

Basically, you and your team of two to about seven people enter a room to solve puzzles relating to a particular theme or story within a set amount time (usually an hour but, increasingly, 90 minutes). In fact, ‘escape room’ is rather a misleading term. It’s really more about escapism than escaping. Although you may need to find a way out of a setting like a prison or cabin within the time limit, instead you could solve a crime, find a relic, save a pirate ship or pass all your wizarding exams. Sometimes the challenge is just collecting as many toy cats as you can. You won’t actually be locked in (I believe that’s illegal) and, in fact, many rooms allow you to leave at any time – but what would be the fun of that? I won’t spoil your future games by describing the puzzles you’ll encounter in detail but they may involve matching words, spotting inconsistences, identifying patterns, remembering sequences, cracking codes, finding pieces of a jigsaw and completing it, or something more physical, such as shooting foam bullets at a target. Typically, you’ll need to identify a numeric sequence or locate a key for a padlock. It’s seen as bad form to require external general knowledge (that’s what pub quizzes are for) so, as long as you know simple maths and the alphabet, you’ll be able to make a start. If you get stuck, your games master, who monitors you on CCTV, can provide a hint.

Most escape rooms are aimed at adults but switched-on kids aged over eight or so often excel as part of a grown-up team, as long as the theme isn’t too scary – my 11-year-old escape room veteran refuses to do any rooms relating to Egyptian mummies, zombies or school detentions. As for the rooms themselves, some are charmingly homemade, some are slickly mechanised and some have amazing movie-quality sets but all require players to accept the scenario in which they find themselves and work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. Can you see the parallels with publishing yet?

Julia and her husband test a virtual reality game at ERIC. Photo by Guy Wah Photography.

Take my nearest venue, Fakenham Escape Rooms. In this game, we have been employed by the International Rescue Corps to complete the work of a missing professor who had been working on new technology that predicts the time and location of natural disasters. Our mission is to find his research and coordinate our findings to discover where and when the next disaster will be. It’s a fun, immersive room and, as it happens, we were top of the leader board for six months until some professional escapologists (pah!) completed it slightly quicker. It’s the taking part that counts – but beating other teams does motivate competitive players like me. The owners subsequently asked us to test their new room before it officially opened, and listened to our constructive feedback on the experience, a bit like a physical version of proofreading.

It’s all about teamwork

So, what makes a good escape room team? Well, I’ve edited enough business books to be intimately acquainted with the Belbin team roles, and have played enough escape rooms to know that combining people with different skills is going to get the job done quicker and better. For example, my daughter has a mind like a trap and is good at finding hidden items. My programmer husband can apply logic to any situation, and I delegate all the maths puzzles to him. Some of the friends I’ve played with are efficient, organised and focused. Others are highly creative or have an in-depth knowledge of binary. As for me, when I asked for feedback on my performance, Team-mate 1 (my daughter) said I’m quick to make connections between different elements and Team-mate 2 (my husband), after some thought, said I’m better at reading than he is. Our greatest triumphs have been a result of focusing on the goal, clear communication and mutual respect for each other’s abilities. All of which are ingredients for successfully managing any project.

Benefiting more than just me

I’ve attended two excellent conferences this year. One was (naturally) the SfEP conference at Aston University. The other was the amusingly named ERIC – the Escape Room Industry Conference in glamorous Dagenham. Covering everything from game theory to marketing, with a little acting thrown in, it was the most enjoyable small-business foundation course that you can imagine. I came home brimming with ideas for developing my own editing business (‘escape rooms’ now features as a key word in my SfEP Directory entry – puzzle tester for hire). As a textbook specialist, I’d love to look at ways of engaging learners via puzzles and for improving testing methods such as those tricky multiple-choice questions that authors always struggle to perfect.

What’s more, while I’m not quite ready to open my own escape room (watch this space), I made a contact at ERIC which has resulted in another exciting new project. I’ve joined forces with my local library to coordinate a treasure trail for teams of Key Stage 2 pupils (9 to 11 year olds) in which they have to use the library facilities to tackle puzzles and act out a narrative – hopefully developing their literacy and problem-solving skills, and their enthusiasm for libraries, in the process.

Try it for yourself

There are now about 1,500 escape rooms in the UK, and maybe 20,000 in the world, so there’s likely to be at least one near you. Some are inevitably better than others – read reviews before you go to gain an idea of quality because it’s admittedly not a cheap hobby. The typical cost is around £20 per person, and it can be even more expensive if (as a purely hypothetical example, of course) you choose to celebrate 20 years with your husband by travelling to Margate to play five games over two days (Kent being the unlikely escape-room capital of the UK). It’s still cheaper than formal training as well as fun, educational and a welcome break from those ubiquitous screens.

Excuse me, I’m just off to Google ‘Milton Keynes escape rooms’. If you want to join my team for some extra escapist CPD while we’re in town for the 2020 CIEP conference, let me know!

Julia Sandford-CookeJulia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has 20 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. She has written and edited numerous textbooks, specialising in vocational education, media studies, construction, health and safety, and travel. In her spare time, she’s a pirate, spy and astronaut.

 


Thinking about your CPD plans for 2020? The SfEP offers a wide variety of courses, and more informal CPD is available through its members’ forums and local groups.


Photo credits: Sheep Jonathan Poncelet, Escape Rooms sign – Zachary Keimig, both on Unsplash; Julia and her husband testing a virtual reality game at ERIC Guy Wah Photography.

Proofread by Emma Easy, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa,

We know you’re busy at this time of year, but we were wondering if you could take a look at our Christmas list. We don’t need all of these items, perhaps one or two per editor or proofreader, but it would be nice to be given something really useful, really relaxing, really inspiring, or really thoughtful this year. (The less said about last year’s pot pourri and wall calendar of naval scenes, the better.)

Tools for the job

Mugs. We use them a lot. During any given year our mugs will have suffered such wear and tear that a new one is always welcome, particularly a funny editing-related one (from Etsy), or one that reminds us of the most wonderful words we’ve ever read (from Penguin).

Also, any coffee- or tea-making gadgets would be lovely. Nothing too big, obviously, as most of us work alone – well, many of us don’t work absolutely alone, but cats don’t drink hot beverages – tea pots for one from Whittard’s, small coffee makers from Bodum, that sort of thing. Let’s face it, most of us would be delighted with some fancy biscuits. If they’re in a nice tin, we can keep it for any of the business-related detritus we’re currently stuffing in a drawer or putting in endless tiny pots on our bookshelves.

Once we’re refreshed, it’ll be time to get to work. T-shirts or tote bags from Arrant Pedantry will get us in the zone for battling those stray commas and dashes.

Reef blue, dandelion yellow, myrtle green, sapphire blue … no, these aren’t the latest Dulux colour range, Santa. They are the colours of covetable Moleskine notebooks. With one of these on our desk, there will be no excuse not to record every small thought that occurs to us during the editing process, perhaps with a posh new pen.

As we valiantly attempt to sit at our computers all day without turning the heating on, how we will appreciate some beautiful fingerless cashmere gloves from Turtle Doves (around £26 per pair). If you can’t stretch to those, check out the Heat Holders range by SockShop. As well as socks, there are gloves, neck warmers, and even hats. Perhaps reserve the hats for those editing in a croft on a Scottish island without heating. You know who they are.

Once we’ve worked for a few hours, we’ll need to do a Stet activity. These didn’t exist last year, Santa. We just called them ‘a stroll around the block’, ‘a quick spin on the bike’ or ‘a short run’. However, this year they’re an indispensable part of our editing day, and we’ve quite worn out our leisure gear, so some new sports clothes would be most welcome.

When we’re back, all revitalised and with a healthy glow we want to show off, we might want to do some promotional activities. For this we’ll need a selfie stick. After all, our arms just aren’t long enough to snap a photo that looks like someone else has taken it, and the cat hasn’t completed its photography course yet. With this equipment, too, we might be able to finally make that introductory video we’ve been promising the marketing department (yup, ourselves) that we’d produce in 2019.

Gifts for downtime

2019 has been a bumper year for books about language. With a book token, we could choose from Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer, Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari, Greek to Me by Mary Norris, Semicolon by Cecelia Watson, or Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch. (Only joking: we’d use this rare opportunity to buy a fast-paced thriller or a book about gardening.)

It’s a cliché, but sometimes the most valuable things aren’t ‘things’. Give us the chance to plant a tree with the Woodland Trust. Or, if we’re fond of birds, buy us membership of the RSPB.

If you’re feeling flush, Santa, you could pay for a one-off house clean or a consultation by a life laundry-type person to get our house and possessions organised. Or, as in that classic Frasier Season 5 Christmas episode, you could treat us to a relaxing massage. We’ll take a BACS payment if you don’t have any cash on you. After all, we are professional business people.

With gratitude and barely concealed anticipation,

The members of the SfEP x


Don’t forget! SfEP members get discounts at Cult Pens, and others – visit the Members’ Area to find out more.


Photo credits: Santa Mike Arney; Mug – Alex; Gift Ben White, all on Unsplash

Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

My first mini-conference: Toronto 2019

By Cat London

Reentering the professional world after being in the trenches as the primary caregiver to young children for eight and a half years is a bit like coming out of a cinema after a daytime movie: you emerge, blinking, surprised to find that the sun is shining and the parking lot is full of cars. Well, the analogy may not be perfect, but as my youngest child approaches three, returning to in-person professional development and finding new opportunities to meet and learn from my colleagues after being focused on my work and my kids has been a pleasure I had not anticipated.

Having recently joined the SfEP, I decided to attend the Toronto mini-conference and so I took a train to my onetime hometown of Toronto. I wasn’t able to attend the pre-conference workshop, led by Dr Malini Devadas, a neuroscientist, editor and coach, but I was fortunate to get an abridged version via Cloud Club a couple of days earlier. Malini, having just arrived from Australia, took the time to answer questions about changing your mindset to increase your income, and to talk about confidence, rates, efficiency and marketing. Her thoughts were very useful to me as I have been starting to think about what my business will look like going forward when my son begins at school.

I have been editing from home in yoga pants for so long that I was quite nervous about being in a room full of talented colleagues and learning from such luminaries as Paul Beverley and Jennifer Glossop. I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered how to talk to actual grownups face to face. However, the organisers and volunteers were so kind and welcoming, the space so full of natural light and the attendees’ conversation so interesting that I quickly felt at ease and excited for the day.

Paul Beverley, the famed Word Macro Man, had flown from the UK to talk to the group about Word macros. He demonstrated some of the huge array of tools he has created and gives away at no charge, with instructions on how to put them to best use. I use a couple of macros regularly, but during Paul’s session I was reminded of how much time I can save every day by mastering macros at a greater depth. I have thus far ignored his DocAlyse and other analysis macros, but have now realised how badly I need them! I also hadn’t realised that there’s a macro that can change the screen background colour according to whether Track Changes is on or off. If you’ve ever had to redo work because you hadn’t tracked the changes (hand up!) you’ll realise how exciting this is. During the break, Paul took the time to look at a macro I had been having trouble with, and even emailed me the next day with follow-up suggestions. Janet MacMillan, one of the organisers of the mini-conference, had mentioned to me several times how kind and giving the general culture of the SfEP is, and Paul is the perfect case in point.

After Paul, we heard from Jennifer Glossop, a Canadian fiction editor I hold in esteem bordering on awe. Jennifer has been working in publishing for over four decades and has edited such authors as Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki and Tim Wynne-Jones. Books she has edited have won or been nominated for many awards, including the Governor General’s Award and the Giller. Jennifer talked about ‘finding the missing parts in a narrative’, about how cutting what is too long is sometimes a simpler task than knowing what is not there and how to put it in. We talked about how to find what might be missing in the areas of plot, character and senses, including missing or offstage scenes, missing emotions, and gaps in timelines. I could write a whole blog post on Jennifer’s thoughts on consequences and how they can work forward and backward in a book (a scene can have consequences down the road or be caused by something that has already happened); the conversation gave me new tools for how to handle some of the challenges I have met in books I have edited, and new ways to explain some of these ideas to authors.

Erin Brenner, an editor from the US with more than 20 years’ experience, titled her session ‘Copyediting 2.0: Editing in the Age of “Post It Now or Lose Your Audience”’, and her talk left me wincing. Not because it wasn’t excellent – it was – but because she helped me realise how many tools and tasks I’ve been ignoring because I’ve been ‘too busy to work smarter’. Erin talked about how easy it is to procrastinate or disregard important tasks like reviewing style guides and finding ways to speed up your work using tools such as PhraseExpander, shortcuts and even the simple yet noble sticky note, as well as how to triage when you don’t have enough time to do everything you would like to do to a document.

Heather Ebbs, a Canadian indexer, writer, editor and teacher, gave me insight into something I knew almost nothing about: indexes. As she put it, ‘indexes are about aboutness’ and it was fascinating to learn more about how indexers work and how to do a better job when tasked with editing an index. When the session ended, I felt a profound sense of certainty that I could never be an indexer, and a more profound sense of gratitude for the professionals who have the skills and experience to do this job with expertise.

Amy Schneider, an editor who has worked on all kinds of books and other projects since 1995, came from the US as well. Her talk, about customising your workspace with templates, dovetailed with Erin’s and reminded me once again that there are many ways to work an awful lot smarter instead of harder, and that it’s time to plunge into them. Amy showed how she uses templates for her work – changing documents to screen-optimised fonts and ensuring that different styles stand out so they can be better edited more quickly – but more importantly she showed us how to take that information and apply it to just about any project and work style.

The sessions ended with a Q&A with all the speakers. The theme that emerged from the day was clearly how to work smarter and more efficiently. Erin challenged us all to do better when it comes to efficiency, and I’m told Malini’s workshop the previous day challenged attendees to pick one thing and do it. So, here I am, publicly pledging that I will be setting up the DocAlyse macro and getting to know it (and maybe HyphenAlyse and ProperNounAlyse) this week.

The conference organisers were like ninjas, or perhaps wizards, conjuring trays of fresh food and pots of hot coffee into convenient locations at regular intervals. Each aspect of delegate attendance was handled thoughtfully, from pronoun stickers to a policy for immunocompromised attendees, to ensure that everyone felt comfortable. There were opportunities to get tech help from Paul Beverley and to learn more about Queen’s University Professional Studies from talented editor Corina Koch MacLeod, who is an educational designer with Queen’s. I don’t want to write an uncritical review, so I’ve been trying hard to come up with something negative to say about the day. I suppose next year it would be nice if organisers could arrange for the weather to be a bit warmer. After the conference we retired to a pub across the street, from which I was sorry to have to dash for the train.

I’m grateful to the organising team of Maya Berger, Kelly Lamb, Janet MacMillan and Rachel Small for bringing together such a welcoming, international group of supportive, interesting and generally lovely people for a day of learning. It was the perfect way to return to in-person professional development, and no one asked me for a snack or told me that their brother was hitting them. I hope to be able to attend some of the SfEP Toronto group meetings in the future, and I am looking forward to next year’s mini-conference.

Cat London recently joined the SfEP as a Provisional Advanced Professional Member. She does developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading of fiction and non-fiction, primarily for publishing companies, and also works as a photographer. A certified copyeditor through Editors Canada, Cat has edited a great deal of gritty fiction and maintains an extensive library of style sheets cataloguing various slang, expletives and obscenities. She lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, with her husband, dog and altogether too many children.


Coming up in 2020:

  • The SfEP’s local groups will meet regularly throughout 2020 have a look at the calendar.
  • The next annual SfEP conference will be at Kents Park Hill, Milton Keynes, 1214 September 2020 booking will open in spring 2020.

Photo credits: SfEP notebook – Cat London; Toronto skyline – Richard Kidger on Unsplash.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

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