Monthly Archives: February 2020

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.