Category Archives: Just for fun

Five things to take to the SfEP conference

By Abi Saffrey

It’s just over a week until the 2019 SfEP conference. This year, I’m leading a workshop on editorial project management but, while writing my slides, I got a bit distracted by thinking about what I need to take with me. And then I started to wonder what other delegates would be taking with them, so I went onto the SfEP’s conference forum and asked. Here are my (and my respected colleagues’) recommendations of what to put in that wheelie case before heading to Aston University in Birmingham on 14 September.

1. Home comforts

Conference accommodation can be unpredictable – the pillows too firm, the duvets too thick, the shower room too tiny – but it’s possible to mitigate those issues by taking something from home. Okay, you can’t take your bathroom, but you could take a pillow or pillowcase, a sheet, even a small fan. At some venues, if you bring a hairdryer, you’ll gain brownie points from other delegates. They may even stand you a drink at the bar. But this year we can all travel light, because Aston’s rooms are truly luxurious with hairdryers, irons (and accompanying boards), fans, bedside lights and adequately sized bathrooms.

2. Food and drink

I will be taking my refillable water bottle, because I love a bit of hydration – especially important in air-conditioned seminar rooms and when spending the best part of three days talking (and laughing). Emergency and preferred teabags are worth shoving in your case, as you never know what will be on offer in bedrooms or at break times. Ditto snack items – whether you prefer sweets or bananas, you’re going to need energy to keep the brain whirring.

Good news: there is a small supermarket a short stroll from the Aston conference centre, so Minstrels are always within reach (other chocolate products are available).

3. Something for the quiet moments

Conferences are tiring, especially if you normally work at home with only a furry companion to talk to for hours on end. How strange that editors often take books with them for their downtime. Other portable hobbies that can provide an essential mental and physical breather include music, colouring, sketching, sewing, running and wine.

Aston does have a delightful little swimming pool that is open to delegates at certain times, so remember to pack appropriate attire if you fancy a dip. This year, there will also be a Quiet Room in the conference centre, so that delegates can easily take time out during the busy days.

4. Something for the actual conference

It turns out that the SfEP conference isn’t all about chatting with edibuddies; there’s also some of that there learning going on. Take an open mind and some confidence – listen to others’ ideas and speak your own. If you’re prone to a grumpy resting face, see if you can dig out a smile or two (for use when appropriate).

You’ll need something to take notes with/on, whether that’s a laptop, mobile device or a notebook and pens (preferably lots, and in different colours). And don’t forget the charger (and additional power pack) for those electronic devices, especially if you’re live tweeting (this year, the conference’s hashtag is #sfep2019).

Consider your clothing selections – a conference is not the right time to try out new shoes. Go comfy (and clean).

Remember business cards in case of networking successes or prize draws.

5. Medication

Nearly everyone who responded to my call for suggestions mentioned medication – either for an existing condition or painkillers for the headaches that come from thinking, talking and those lightbulb moments. (I refer the honourable reader to the earlier point about hydration.)

And don’t forget!

It’s the UK! The weather does what it wants. It turns out that coats quite often get left at home, and are later missed.


With thanks to SfEP conference goers and forum regulars, veterans and devotees: Hugh Jackson, Helen Stevens, Anya Hastwell, Sue Browning, Julia Sandford-Cooke, Luke Finley, Jane Hammett, Denise Cowle, Margaret Hunter, Jane Moody, Beth Hamer, Cathy Tingle, Sabine Citron and Melanie Thompson (and those who have contributed to the discussion after this was written).

 

Abi Saffrey will be taking decaf teabags, a water bottle, her swimmers, well-worn trainers, bananas, her laptop, her resting grumpy face and hopefully a completed set of PowerPoint slides to this year’s conference.

 

 

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.

Wise owls: office companions

Christmas cuddly owlIn the last SfEP blog post of 2018, the Wise Owls are out in force to share their appreciation for that must-have item for every freelance editor or proofreader: an office companion.

Darcy (Hazel Bird's dog)Hazel Bird

Since she arrived in 2015, my furry editorial assistant (Darcy) has been mostly unassistive in her contributions to our joint workspace. She is excellent at identifying the correct use of words such as ‘biscuit’, ‘frisbee’, ‘lunch’ and (slightly more unusually) ‘teeth’. However, she is less good at tasks such as fixing problems with commas or chasing authors’ corrections. She excels at carrying out requests to find the human editorial assistant (generally in his office at the other end of the house). However, she is less adept at conveying any useful information to him or bringing him back with her, if required.

She has many admirable qualities to make up for these professional deficiencies, however. Although she will happily abandon me if there may be food on offer elsewhere, she is generally stalwart, usually being found in a bed next to my desk. Being a cockapoo and thus only slightly less energetic than a tornado, she also requires regular walks – a huge benefit for someone who otherwise has a tendency to become absorbed in her work and forget to move for hours on end.

Overall, during her three years of employment as chief editorial assistant, Darcy has done little to fulfil her job description. She has also probably destroyed more resources than she has generated for the business, having a talent for rendering almost any toy unsafe within an hour or so of receiving it. However, on balance, her positive qualities do outweigh her lack of editorial acumen, so she will likely stay in her role for the foreseeable future.

Louise Bolotin's Spotify playlistLouise Bolotin

For many years, my faithful office companion was Nelson, a pedigree British shorthair with blue tabby fur like velvet and huge green eyes. He was cute, adorable and largely quiet, which was a blessing when I needed to be deep in thought. Since his passing two years ago, I have two office companions. One is silence, the other noise. I must have silence when concentrating on the trickiest of edits. But I also must have music – I’ve been listening to music all my life and it’s as essential as eating for me.

You could say my go-to office companion now is Spotify. Much as I love to sing along to tracks, I find lyrics a massive distraction when working, so anything I play must be instrumental. I have some classical favourites – Smetana’s Ma Vlast and Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez are regularly on my virtual decks, for example. But my true love is reggae and I turn to the heaviest of heavy dub for satisfaction without vocals. It’s rhythmic and soothing, not too fast and typically has
60–90 beats per minute, perfectly matching a healthy heart rate. I’ve been listening to Joe Gibbs’ African Reggae since the late 70s and it never fails for me. Other dub albums are available, as they say.

Margaret Hunter's monkeyMargaret Hunter

I wasn’t going to contribute to this Wise Owls offering. I don’t need office companions, I thought. In fact, I love working on my own, able to get on with things just as I want, whenever I want, without people interfering or chatting or just generally being there.

But then I realised I’m not a total recluse. Freelance editors’ social media pages regularly feature office companions of the furry, purring, woofing (farting??) kind, but I don’t have a pet. I have Monkey (yes, I know he’s not…). He’s not great at conversation though; but he is there if I want a friendly ear to rant at.

And then there are the birds outside my window, who seem to get through seed as fast as I’m daft enough to keep filling it up. Yes… I need a window onto the natural world, and the birds, well, they make me happy.

But really my true companions are my SfEP colleagues. Maybe we rarely say the words out loud, but we’re having conversations all the time on the forums, on social media and via email. And just sometimes we meet in person.

So, I do have companions, human and otherwise. Without them this freelance editing lark would definitely be a much harder and lonelier slog.

Matty (Melanie Thompson's dog)Melanie Thompson

I literally would not be here without my Office Assistant, Matty. When I say ‘here’ I mean, in the village where I live – because a major reason for moving here was the fantastic local (dog-)walking. When I say ‘here’ I also mean ‘being a freelance editor’ – because if I hadn’t needed to stay at home to keep him company I may well have been tempted to take an office job a few years ago. And when I say ‘here’ I also mean ‘at my desk’ – because now he is an old dog and has very set habits. If I don’t say ‘let’s go to work’ and unlock my office door in the morning he looks very confused.

Having an office companion is a joy, but it’s also a job. Being a pet’s ‘parent’ brings responsibilities – and expense. So the yellow Dogs Trust stickers are absolutely right: a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, my top tips are: get good ‘lifetime’ pet insurance (Direct Line have been brilliant for us), and find local friends or professionals who can pet sit when needed.Matty in a field, in the sun

Matty often features on my Facebook page and in my annual newsletter to clients. He’s about to notch up his 13th Christmas in his role as Office Assistant. He’ll be getting an annual bonus (extra fish-skin treats). He has certainly earned it: all those hours of waiting patiently while I’m tapping on a keyboard; the twice-daily compulsory walks that often help me think through knotty editing problems; and helping me to get to know so many of my neighbours and all the local delivery people!

As I type, he’s starting the ‘4:30 whine-up’ … it’s nearly dinner time. Long may his daily commute continue.

Mike Faulkner's Pine MartenMike Faulkner

My office/shed is in the woods in deepest Argyll, so I am spoiled for choice when it comes to local fauna for company – regular passers-Mike Faulkner's red squirrelby are roe deer, pine martens and red squirrels. I haven’t managed to get a pic of one of the deer, but these two chaps come almost every day.

We live in fear that one day Piñon the pine marten is going to catch Squirl the squirrel (I know …), but so far Squirl has been way too fast and agile – hMike Faulkner's dog Eddiee can reach parts of the tree that are beyond Piñon’s wildest dreams, and he doesn’t seem put out by the odd stand-off.

Eddie watches them through the window when he isn’t on LinkedIn.

 

Nik Prowse

I don’t have any pets, although sometimes I think it would be nice to own a dog to warm my feet in winter. But when I think about what keeps me company in the office it’s invariably music.

I can’t edit to music – I just can’t concentrate on copy-editing with any background noise. But running an editorial business, and even working through the necessary tasks required to get a book manuscript back to the publisher, involves far more than just copy-editing. For the extra tasks, especially the mundane ones, I find background music helps my concentration hugely.
In the main, if I need music for concentration I choose ambient electronica. Ambient music often eschews normal song structure to create tracks that vary in length, sound and atmosphere a great deal. Once you get away from the idea that songs need words or instruments … or even a discernible structure … there’s a lot to discover! I find ambient music incredibly good for the concentration (except while editing, as I’ve said). Often referred to in a derogatory way as ‘wallpaper music’, for my purposes this is the point: it’s meant to be unobtrusive and in the background.

One of my current worktime favourites is by Carbon Based Lifeforms. Derelicts takes me back to the sounds of Vangelis or Jean Michel Jarre in the early 80s, and it’s a very soothing soundtrack for those more mundane office tasks.

Sue Littleford's bearsSue Littleford

Hurrah for arctophilia! Much as I miss my darling cats, they did have a habit of sitting on the keyboard at awkward moments, or sticking their butts in my face and walloping me with their tails: endearing out-of-hours but not so much on deadline. Teddies are much better behaved. My tribe is divided into bedroom bears and office bears and currently stands fifteen strong. The ten office bears stand (well, sit) guard and (over)fill my partner’s desk, as there’s no room on mine, but just for you, I had a bit of a tidy-up and you can see my guys (and one gal) in all their office-duty glory. The gal – Genevieve from Geneva – is a genuine work bear as she came home with me from a visit to a client.

Sue Littleford's bearsThe office bears are a very supportive bunch – they agree with all my decisions, commiserate when a manuscript turns out to be a bit of a ’mare, cheer when an invoice goes out and cheer even more when the invoice is paid. Decorative and decorous (no teddy butts in my face), each one is a delight. My bear from babyhood, Pinky, is retired (being more grey than pink, these days). You can see them all looking forward to a crisp winter! Season’s greetings from Pinky (he claimed seniority so must come first in the list), Arthur, Basil, Genevieve, Gerald, Hank, Harry, Kristoff, Little Binky, Marius, Robin, Rodney, Rudy, Siggy and Snowball.

Pip (Sue Browning's dog) Sue Browning

This is Pip, my office companion or, perhaps more accurately, my out-of-office companion, as she rarely ventures into my office (it’s tiny), only sheltering here when there’s serious bike fixing going on downstairs, involving Many Bad Words.

She was a rescue dog, and very timid. When she came to us, aged 5 months, she was afraid of people, dogs, cats, horses, cows, fireworks, gunshots, loud noises in general, and plastic bags. Now, after nearly 11 years of careful and loving nurture, I’m delighted to say she is no longer afraid of plastic bags.

She may not be my in-office companion, but she plays a vital role in my working life, making sure I get exercise and fresh air every day. I love her dearly, and wouldn’t be without her.

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator, Gaston, Abi Saffrey's catand Gaston, supreme office overlord.

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

Cocktails, superheroes and pick ’n’ mix: SfEP at the UK Blog Awards 2017

‘We are delighted to advise that your content has reached the final stage in the UK Blog Awards process as a company finalist…’

Earlier this year I was thrilled to learn that the SfEP had made the final for the 2017 UK Blog Awards. Over 2,000 blogs had been nominated this year, and the SfEP received sufficient votes to reach the final eight in the Arts and Culture category, alongside blogs by Royal Mint, English Heritage and Bodleian Libraries. As the SfEP blog relies on the support of volunteer writers, I was delighted that their contributions had been recognised and appreciated.

Finalists are invited to attend a glitzy awards ceremony in London, and I was delighted to represent the SfEP with social media volunteer Anna Nolan. Here are our recollections of the night…

Tracey

Confession: I have never been to an awards ceremony before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Reading through the #UKBA17 tag on Twitter, I learned the ceremony was sponsored by Odeon cinemas and would have a superhero theme, which only added to my curiosity!

On arrival at the Park Plaza, we joined the other attendees for nibbles and drinks. While searching for a waiter serving what looked like crispy fries (sadly, we were too late and they had all gone), we decided to participate in some of the movie-themed attractions on offer. We were transformed into Wonder Woman – including gauntlets and lightning – courtesy of Warner Bros. (apparently, I was too ‘smiley’ and didn’t snarl appropriately). The SfEP was also judged unworthy and we were unable to pull Excalibur from the stone.

When the ceremony started, the first category announced was Arts and Culture, in which the SfEP was a company finalist. Sadly, the SfEP didn’t win, and English Heritage was awarded the prize for this category. But our disappointment was short-lived (for me anyway!) as bags of free pick ’n’ mix were handed out during the break and we got to chat to other finalists, including the lovely blog team from Cancer Research UK.

The event ended with the award for best overall blogs (congratulations to Sortedfood and Bella Coco), yummy macaroons and more drinking. Tired, but happy, we headed back to the hotel to drink more of Anna’s delicious cocktail and inspect the goodie bags given to finalists. Our bags included books, phone cases, superhero lollipops, a fluffy rubber duck and a music festival survival pack. We chatted about the SfEP and other critical issues (who is better looking: Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch?), and agreed it had been a fabulous evening.

Anna

Tracey and I had been in touch a few times leading up to the event, so had booked into the same hotel. The tickets stated quite clearly, dress code: formal. Yikes! Unlike most women I know, I hate dressing up. I’m thinking it might be a common thing among editors, as working from home means we barely get out of pyjamas or tracky pants or … wait … maybe that’s just me.

We met for a pre-event cocktail in my room, discovering our mutual loathing of dressing up. Tracey recalled some of the outrageous and completely inappropriate tweets from people hashtagging the blog awards and so we prepared ourselves for a ‘young’ crowd (not that we’re not).

After a long 15-more-like-20-minute walk to the venue (yeah, thanks, Google Maps!), we took the lift to level–3 (no, not a car park) and stumbled into … a nightclub. Well, that’s what it felt like. Dimmed lights, sparkling dresses, free-flowing drinks, pumping music and a buzzy atmosphere. We didn’t arrive unfashionably early so we missed out on some of the more enticing nibbles, but lukewarm pizza sufficed. That, and a glass of Prosecco.

Odeon was the main sponsor for the evening, and photo opportunities as Wonder Woman and with Excalibur were not to be missed out on. It felt very red carpet and our timing was such that we only just managed to partake in all the fun before being ushered into the awards.

The SfEP blog was a finalist in the company category for Arts & Culture. Proceedings were swift and well rehearsed and as the alphabet would have it, Arts & Culture was first up! The company prize went to the English Heritage blog – and well deserved, indeed. They did so well, in fact, that one category wasn’t enough! They also won the Travel category and were runner-up in an Overall Content category (or something like that!). We had a good laugh at some of the blog names – see Not Dressed As Lamb and Muddy Stilettos (so much for our hatred of dressing up!).

We couldn’t possibly resist the pick ’n’ mix during the break (don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much sugar in one go!), nor the dainty cream-filled macaroons at the close of the event, but we did manage to avoid being the first on the dance floor! What a fun night!

Anna Nolan is a paediatric dietician who started her editing career in 2013, when she joined SfEP. She’s a strong advocate for SfEP, currently active on the SfEP social media team and setting up the Herts & Essex SfEP local group in January 2017.

Tracey Roberts currently works as editorial assistant for the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group based in Nottingham and is the SfEP blog coordinator.

World Book Day 2017: favourite childhood fictional character


Unsurprisingly, SfEP members love books, and for many their love of reading began at an early age. To mark the 2017 World Book Day celebrations the blog team asked members to share their favourite fictional character from childhood, and, as expected from a society of bookworms, we had some wonderful replies. The team would like to thank Susan, Gillian and Jane for their contributions and we hope you enjoy reading their recollections as much as we did.

 

 

Susan Walton

My two favourite book characters when I was a child (a long time ago) were both cats, and contrary ones at that. One was Simpkin and the other was just called ‘the Cat’. As is the way with many children’s books, both characters were fixed in my imagination by the books’ illustrations, and their creators illustrated both.

So, who were they? The Cat is the animal who craftily negotiates his domestication but who still walks by himself ‘in the Wild Wet Woods waving his wild tail’ in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Cat that Walked by Himself’ in the Just So Stories.

Simpkin is the tailor’s cat in The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. One of my personal rituals is to re-read this book every Christmas Eve. It is set at Christmas, and I still love the part when Simpkin goes out into the snow at midnight, when ‘all the beasts can talk’, and ‘the air was quite full of little twittering tunes’.

I have strands in my personality that link straight back to Simpkin and the Cat. Simpkin is at first vexed when he has to run an errand for the tailor. To make matters worse, the tailor releases Simpkin’s captive live supper of mice while he’s out. But he’s later contrite when he realises that the tailor’s kindness has saved them from penury.

I spent a lot of my childhood being vexed (which, incidentally, is where I first learnt the word: I loved the ‘v’ and the ‘x’ in one word), and then contrite. I’m not often vexed these days, but I still sometimes go for walks by myself in the Wild Wet Woods waving my (metaphorical) wild tail.

Gillian Clarke

The character that springs to mind at the moment is Freddy the Pig – in a series of books by Walter R Brooks, with delightful illustrations by Kurt Wiese. Freddy is one of a number of animals that live on the farm owned by Mr Bean, in upstate New York. The animals talk to each other and to humans – which Mr Bean finds a bit embarrassing. Freddy, with his cat friend Jinx, has become an accomplished detective, and the books are usually about his exploits – often against the dastardly rat family headed by Simon.

Jane Hammett

One of my favourite childhood books is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess.

The main character, Sara Crewe, is a rich British girl who returns to London from India when her mother dies. Her father enrols Sara in a boarding school run by the vile Miss Minchin. Sara is so rich that you might expect her to be arrogant or superior, but she is not. Instead she is kind and thoughtful – and she somehow achieves this without being annoying or smug. She befriends a scullery maid, Becky, and is caring to all the girls, but especially the misfits.

Then Sara’s father dies – and his fortune has been lost. Sara can no longer afford to stay on at the school. Miss Minchin agrees that Sara can stay on – but as a servant to the other girls. She treats Sara terribly – overworking her, starving her, banishing her to a miserable attic room.

However, this reversal of fortune doesn’t change Sara. She remains unselfish and generous, and uses her imagination to make life more bearable: ‘Of course the greatest power Sara possessed … was her power of telling stories and of making everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.’

She asks Becky to imagine a warm bed, a cheerful fire, toasted crumpets for tea. They escape into their imagination, and Sara’s courage and strength encourages Becky too.

There’s a lot we can learn from Sara about resilience – and her story is as relevant and heart-warming today as it was when I was a child.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

Image credits:

Blackie’s Children’s Annual c.1919 by Plum Leaves CC2.0

Tailor of Gloucester Wikimedia Commons

A Little Princess Wikimedia Commons

SfEP celebrates Children’s Book Week 2016

boston-public-library
Every year, the Book Trust hosts Children’s Book Week to help young people learn the pleasure of reading, and during the week adults are encouraged to share their favourite book from childhood with the younger members of their family. To mark Children’s Book Week (31 October to 6 November 2016) SfEP members were asked to share their memories of the book they treasured most when they were younger and say why it still means so much to them today. As you can expect from a society comprised of enthusiastic booklovers, we received some wonderful replies. I hope you enjoy reading them.

 

Julie Marksteiner
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

My favourite book when I was growing up was The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton. Blyton’s school stories hark back to a simpler, more innocent time in the 1940s – a time full of tuck boxes, pinafore dresses and lacrosse matches. I was a fairly quiet, bookish sort of girl (not much has changed there), so I lived vicariously through Elizabeth Allen’s antics at Whyteleafe School. She was muddy-kneed and messy-haired, when I had to be neat and tidy. She broke the rules and did her own thing, whilst I reluctantly played it safe. I thought she was fantastic!

I was fascinated by the idea of boarding school and the camaraderie between the girls – nothing like the suburban primary school I spent my days in. I even tried my hand at writing similar school stories of my own, modelling characters on myself and my friends. You’d have to ask my mum if they were any good, though … I suspect not!

children-book-week-introJulie Hopkins
When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Children’s lit is very close to my heart, partly because I never grew out of the little girl that I was; comforting, cherished memories of sitting on my Nannie’s knee or lying in bed listening to her read to me with her soft Wiltshire accent. I only have to glance at certain books (which I still have displayed on my working desk today) and I’m transported back in time …

One of my most precious possessions is my 1970 copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. I was three years old at the time and my grandmother used to read these wonderful poems to me to help me get to sleep. ‘Nannie’ came from Upavon in Wiltshire, and although she lived in the North West for the longest time, she never lost that soft accent. The book is a treasure trove of poetry harking back to a time now almost forgotten, when children were supposed to be seen and not heard, and to respect their parents, elders and betters. I knew ‘The King’s Breakfast’ (‘The King asked the Queen, and the Queen asked the Dairymaid…’) by heart from a very young age, and particularly loved ‘Vespers’ (‘Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed…’) because sometimes I’d creep into Nannie’s bedroom late at night to find her doing exactly the same – and so I tried to emulate her, too! And I still can’t go into a garden centre today without wondering whether they have ‘…delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)’ (‘The Dormouse and the Doctor’). It was this short anthology of poems that taught me to look after my own mother or else! (‘Disobedience’: ‘James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree Took great care of his Mother, though he was only three…’). And it was this book that served as my introduction to royalty in ‘Buckingham Palace’, where they changed guard all the time – or so I thought, imagining myself clearly as ‘Alice’! I used to believe author and illustrator E.H. Shepard was a spaceman – purely because the vignettes on the back were framed in circles, which to me looked like space helmets!

Great times. Precious memories. The book sits proudly on my office shelf today, always in sight.

Natalie Weiner
The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks

My favourite book when I was a child used to make my mum laugh her head off reading it to me, which is why I liked it. It’s no longer in print (as far as I’m aware), so my copy is much cherished. It’s a picture book called The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks (illustrated brilliantly by Walter Schmögner), published in 1975.

It tells the story of a bear (slightly tipsy from the start) heading off to a fancy-dress party, dressed as a huntsman. On the way, he bumps into …a real huntsman. He mistakes the bear for the ‘head huntsman’ and they head off together to the huntsmen’s ball.

Once there, all the other huntsmen mistake the bear for the head huntsman. Much drinking of beer ensues. The bear then decides they should ‘go out and shoot the bear’. Obviously.

After much drunken stumbling in the snow, and an accusation (by the bear) that the bear ‘must be hiding among us disguised as a huntsman’, the bear’s irate wife turns up, reads him the riot act and takes him home.

The story has the classic ‘he’s behind you’ element – we know the bear is the bear, the huntsmen can’t see it. (That’s beer for you, young readers, let that be a lesson!). It’s ridiculous. I love it.

Julia Sandford-Cooke
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?
Yes, I like it, fan I am.
I like the strong and rhythmic lines.
I like the very pleasing rhymes.
I like the ways it can be read –
Aloud, alone, tucked up in bed.
I like to do the funny voices –
Grumpy, lively – all those choices!
And those bold, distinctive drawings
Stop repetition being boring.
It’s said the book was written when
A publisher (slyest of men)
Bet fifty dollars Seuss could not
Create an entertaining plot
From a fifty-word kids’ lexicon.
Of course, Seuss answered ‘Yes, I can!’
He did it in exactly fifty
Unique words, which was rather nifty.
The fifty dollars he was due
Never came – that’s publishers for you.
But Seuss did make lots of money
From all his books, profound and funny,
Subversive, clever, full of fun,
Not just for kids but everyone.
So, yes, I like Green Eggs and Ham
But what on earth’s a Sam-I-am?

Picture credit:

Children’s Book Week by Boston Public Library via Creative Commons.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

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

Christmas gifts for book and word lovers

OK, so I ranted to friends the other week about seeing a giant inflatable Santa outside our local garden centre BEFORE HALLOWEEN, but even I have to admit that we’re now pushing towards December and haven’t got much time left for buying presents by post. So here are some ideas for Christmas gifts for your fellow grammar nerds word lovers, or to add to your own letters to Santa…

  1. Harris tweed pencil case: https://folksy.com/items/4214762-Harris-Tweed-pencil-case-zippered-pouch-in-mustard-and-steel-grey-checkHarris tweed pencil case
  2. Quotation mark earrings: https://www.etsy.com/listing/255810856/earrings-quotation-speech-marks-bookquotation marks earrings
  3. Banned books socks: http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/banned-books-socks-48474-p.aspbanned books socks
  4. Recycled wood fountain pen: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/auraque/product/morley-recycled-wood-fountain-penrecycled wood fountain pen
  5. Alice in Wonderland cushion: https://www.etsy.com/listing/235304408/alice-in-wonderland-throw-pillow-choose?ref=shop_home_active_8Alice in Wonderland cushion
  6. Book in the bath caddy: http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/aquala-bath-caddy-3157-p.aspbath caddy
  7. Your name in crochet: https://folksy.com/items/4391633-Your-Name-in-Crochet-6-letters-e-g-ALEXIA-BARNEY-DANIEL-RACHELyour name in crochet
  8. Great British ‘bark-off’ apron: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/sweetwilliamdesigns/product/jack-russell-great-british-bark-off-apronGreat British Bark-off apron
  9. Letter cookie cutters: http://www.bodleianshop.co.uk/gifts/gifts-for-writers/letterpressed-cookie-cutters.htmlletters cookie cutters
  10. Book phone case: https://folksy.com/items/6318591-Book-Phone-Case-for-iPhone-4-4S-5-5S-5C-6-6-Plus-and-Samsung-Galaxy-S3-S4books phone case

Happy shopping!

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

Margaret Hunter

 

Posted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

#sisfep15 – Twitter competition

sfep-si-banner@2x

The hashtag for this year’s joint conference with the Society of Indexers is #sisfep15. Don’t forget to use it in the run-up to the conference, whether you’re planning to be there or would just like to keep up with what’s happening.

For the chance to win the mug that every thirsty Twitter enthusiast needs – ‘Go Away I’m Tweeting’ from the Literary Gift Company – make sure you’re following @TheSfEP or @indexers (of course we hope you already follow both!) and use the #sisfep15 hashtag. Every qualifying tweet will be entered into the draw for a chance to win, and the winner will be announced during the closing session of this year’s conference.

Tweetup

After the success of last year’s inaugural conference Tweetup, this year’s will take place from 5.05pm to 5.45pm on Sunday 6 September. Do take this rare opportunity to put faces to Twitter handles!

See the SfEP website for the competition terms and conditions.

 

Posted by Liz Jones, SfEP Marketing and PR Director.

Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss.

Transferable skills and life lessons

It’s safe to say that all proofreaders and copy-editors did something before they started out. Here are a few of the things I learned that I still use every single day.

Untitled

Guide badge

Brownies and Guides

I was a Sixer and a Patrol Leader, so early on I was learning about teams, about working together for a common goal within my own team and in conjunction with others, yet not afraid to stick my neck out and do things off my own bat.

School deadlines!

Thou shalt have thy homework in on time! Show your workings. Quality output pleases people. I ended up a prefect, so more acceptance of additional responsibility.

Saturday job

(Four years in a pet shop.) Be nice to people and they’ll come back. Businesses are built on returning customers. Watch your wastage. The backroom parts of the job are important, too. Regular heavy lifting builds muscle – if it seems hard at first, it will get easier with practice.

University

Make sure you understand the brief, can carry it out independently and to a high standard. Look things up if you’re not sure, or even if you think you are – avoid dumb mistakes. Self-discipline and time management. The importance of research. The art of procrastination (sad, but true).

Psychology experiment subject

(Earning a bit of cash to help while studying.) Check your understanding of what’s required. Test your equipment. Concentrate.

Postgrad course choice

You can survive the most horrendous mistakes.

Proper job

(I joined the civil service as a direct entrant junior manager and took it from there for the next *cough, cough* years in central government, then outsourced to the private sector.) The value of precision work. Negotiation. Vigilance. Effective communication with customers of all kinds and temperaments. Running a budget. It’s easier to save a pound than earn a pound. Cash flow is king. Know where you and the work you do fit into the overall process. Under-promise and over-deliver, but don’t go crazy on either.

Look ahead and anticipate problems. Calculate task dependencies. Prioritise and plan. Keep people informed. Be realistic. If things look like going pear-shaped, take early action and warn people as soon as possible. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and act accordingly. Be reliable. Be flexible, but don’t be a doormat or a yes-man – it does no one any good and will quite often bite you on the bum. Seek out training. “We’ve always done it that way” is the wrong answer. When estimating, give yourself contingency time. Don’t work at 100% capacity as routine – if there’s a crisis, you’ve nothing else to give.

After every project think about what worked, what didn’t, what needs tweaking and what needs investigating further with a view to bigger changes – then act before the next project. Don’t get so wrapped up with the work in front of you on your desk that you don’t see what’s going on around you. Keep an eye on industry innovation.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford was a career civil servant before being forcibly outsourced. That was such fun she changed tack altogether and has now been a freelance copy-editor for eight years, working mostly on postgraduate textbooks plus the occasional horseracing thriller. She is on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Proofread by SfEP member www.proofeditwrite.com.

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

26 reasons to go to the 26th SfEP conference

If you still need convincing to go to this year’s SfEP/SI conference (with the theme ‘Collaborate and Innovate’), here are 26 reasons to book your place right now.

  1. Quite simply, it’s the SfEP’s biggest professional and social event of the year.
  2. It’s the first-ever joint conference to be held with the Society of Indexers, which means new faces and more networking opportunities.
  3. It’s taking place in the tranquil surroundings of Derwent College at the University of York.

    Derwent college

    Derwent College, University of York

  4. If you’d like to see more of this beautiful and historic city, you can take a pre-conference literary tour of York. (Requires separate booking.)
  5. Attending the conference is an unrivalled CPD opportunity. There are over 30 sessions to choose from, covering a diverse range of subjects and interests, from editing academic journals to understanding the self-publishing process, and from the ethics of proofreading dissertations and theses to financial planning and honing your presentation skills.
  6. You can attend one of the pre-conference workshops on Cindex, Macrex, PerfectIt or Edifix. (Requires separate booking.)
  7. The AGM, at the start of the conference, is a valuable chance to find out more about how the Society is run, and have your say.
  8. There is a range of international speakers booked, from the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia as well as all over the UK.
  9. You’ll meet up with old friends, or people you’ve only met previously online – or make completely new acquaintances.
  10. For freelancers, it’s a great time to network with colleagues and potential clients; for corporate subscribers, it’s a chance to find freelance talent.
  11. There’s the chance to get dressed up (if you like) at the Gala Dinner. When else do freelancers get to wear posh frocks and suits?
  12. For that matter, for some of us it might be a chance simply to get dressed, if our popular image is to be believed …
  13. David Crystal (honorary vice-president of the SfEP) is giving the after-dinner speech, which is sure to be a treat.
  14. You don’t have to do the cooking or washing up for a few days!
  15. Experience the joy of finding yourself in the company of so many other people who understand the importance (and use) of the semicolon. This is truly a rare thing.
  16. Expect a fascinating Whitcombe Lecture from John Thompson (a founder of Polity Press, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and author), who will consider how the publishing industry is adapting to change.
  17. Earn points towards upgrading your membership of the SfEP.
  18. If you’re a first-timer, take the chance to grill meet the current SfEP council over drinks on the first night.
  19. Breakout events such as the Tweetup and the exhibitors’ fair provide a range of things to do between sessions.
  20. On the last afternoon, attend the ‘Crystal ball’ panel session, and put your questions to six publishing experts: Alison Baverstock, Allyson Latta, Sam Leith, Peter McKay, Kate Mertes and Lynn West.
  21. The closing lecture, by Eben Muse (Researcher in Digital Media at Bangor University), promises an intriguing look at how readers are adapting to change, and the future of reading itself.
  22. Make the most of your time away and attend the SfEP’s pre-conference course, Introduction to fiction editing. (Requires separate booking.)
  23. As well as your fellow editors, you can meet the lovely staff from our offices in Putney, who keep the SfEP running smoothly all year round.
  24. Try your luck in the raffle, with a range of fantastic prizes on offer, including a handmade book by session leader Paul Johnson.
  25. Be amazed at how revived and enthused you feel after a few days away from your desk. There’s nothing like it for rekindling your love of editing!
  26. Finally, there’s still time to make the most of the early-bird discount if you book now – until Friday 24 April.

We hope to see you there!

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s PR and marketing director.

 

 

Elevator pitches for editors

Spring daffodils

Time for a bit of spring cleaning – tidy that desk and dust down your elevator pitch.

It’s that time of the year – at least in the UK – when the spring flowers are out, the birds are singing, there’s a fleeting glimmer of sunshine … and it’s the end of a tax year (or the start of a new one, depending on how you choose to look at it). Perhaps it’s time to tidy the desk, chuck out a few reams of paper and dust down the elevator pitch.

There’s much to recommend being able to tell people what you do in a way they can understand. Let’s face it – it can be an uphill struggle when it comes to justifying our existence. No, we don’t just check for spelling mistakes. And no, Word’s spellcheck function is definitely no substitute for the real thing. Yes, we might love words, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Sure, an edit is not usually a life-or-death situation, although ‘mere’ typos can do serious damage to reputations and lives – and the work medical editors do, for example, carries a particular weight of responsibility. Good communication in any sector is vital, so there is genuine importance attached to our job, and it takes skill and experience to do it well.

An elevator pitch is typically a short and simple summary of your business offering, using language that anyone can understand. It says who you are, what you do and what you can offer a potential client. A good example will tell a story in miniature, rather than comprise a blurted-out list of bullet points. You need to captivate your listener – and you haven’t got long to do it; perhaps 30 seconds. (The tallest lift in my town only goes up one floor, so I’d have to be especially concise.)

If you’re trying to communicate your worth to so-called non-publishers, you might need to strip things right back to the basics; you could even use an analogy. About a year ago I wrote a description on my website likening the work of an editor to the craft of a sash window renovator. (It only occurred to me afterwards that I should have struck some kind of reciprocal deal with the window restorers, asking them to compare their work to that of a professional editor.) The point is, it can help to explain what we do if we make it more tangible.

Publishers may be easier – they already understand the difference between copy-editing and proofreading, for instance, and they know why they need us. But all publishers are different, and you may still need a very focused approach to make that particular publisher understand why they should hire you, and not the other twenty editors who have also cold-called them that month. What areas do you specialise in? What specific skills and qualifications do you have?

To write your elevator pitch, try putting everything down on paper (or screen) first – everything that differentiates you and your business. Stick to the positives – describe what you can do, not what you can’t. Then, when you have your description, do what you do best – edit it. Cut out all the extraneous material until you’re left with the pure message that you want to convey. Take your time. Tell that story. Nail it.

Now you have your perfect pitch, what can you do with it? One thing you could do is learn it by heart, and then take yourself off to some local networking events (or even an SfEP local group meeting) and actually use it. You might discover that you enjoy the process, and you could even pick up a new client or two. (Remember, contacts you make may not lead to immediate work; it’s often about the long game.)

However, the real beauty of this is that you don’t have to actually deliver the elevator pitch for it to be of real benefit. You’ve just spent quality time focusing on the positives of who you are and what you do. See how you’ve distilled the essence of your business so you understand exactly what you offer and why it’s worth something to others? Now you can use this knowledge of what makes your business brilliant (what I like to think of as your secret elevator pitch) to inform the way you sell it to others, in whatever way you choose.

Do you have an elevator pitch? Has it helped you market your business?

Liz Jones SfEP marketing and PR director

 

Liz Jones is the SfEP’s marketing and PR director.

 

Proofread by SfEP provisional intermediate member Gary Blogg.

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