Tall Tartan Tells About #sfep2019 Conference

Several highlights from my time in Birmingham recently at Conference Aston with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) include great company with colleagues, lots to learn, and laughs galore.

The theme of the conference was ‘In the beginning was the word’. My chosen sessions were:

  • Speed networking
  • The art of querying
  • Mindfulness
  • Lightning talks
  • Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign
  • A training toolbox for editors
  • The six habits of highly effective editors
  • Grammar amnesty (bring your grammar questions)

Speed networking

This is the first conference (out of three so far) when I have had the courage to attend the speed networking session. Fellow editors and proofreaders have five minutes to talk to the person opposite about business, ask questions, pick up tips, and share business cards. Then delegates on one side of the room rotate … I was able to promote my website blog #TallTartanTells and my weekly LinkedIn tips #TallTartanTips for newbie freelancers. One of my favourite sessions.

Quiz: #TeamKevin

Saturday ended with dinner (with a Mexican Chilli theme – not my favourite) and THE Quiz. I sat next to Matt Pinnock, a friend from Essex, and Sophie Playle (fellow Herts & Essex local group member). Team Kevin was decided as a *memorable* name. Matt and others were superb with their general knowledge and song first-liner facts. We won Heroes chocolates. (See photo. Nikki Brice is in the background.)

Sunday: Whitcombe lecture

The first prestigious speaker of #sfep2019 was Chris Brookmyre, a Scottish crime thriller writer who was hilariously interesting and entertainingly rude. Especially about his sub-editor days and the Amazon reviews of over 20 books he has written with the ‘tartan noir’ theme. I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I have come across this term. So, I have ‘bookmarked’ a couple of his less bloody books to acquire.

The art of querying

Gerard Hill led a superb workshop on how to phrase queries to clients. He presented a series of real-life texts he had copy-edited and proofread. We questioned, discussed, analysed, and decided whether to ‘stet’ (leave alone), correct, query, check/suggest/query, or ‘flag’ as a concern. He encouraged, supported and justified in a sensitive way. I can understand why he is the chartership director and why we were successful in our bid.

Mindfulness: becoming mindful with words, work and the whole of your life

I have never felt so much like I needed a session on being still and quiet. We were encouraged to sit comfortably. With our eyes closed, we concentrated on the leader’s voice giving calm instructions on how … to … be … She emphasised focusing on our breath, on clearing our heads and gently pushing against our problems or worries. One helpful tip to relieve stress was: take a mindful walk outside, admiring the beauty of nature. Something I’m aware of already through the #StetWalk. But it always slips to the bottom of my to-do pile – unwise.

Lightning talks

The feeling among SfEP members is that the Lightning talks are the most popular session, as they are so light-hearted. They also cover a wide range of topics. So, for those who aren’t aware, six sfep-ers talk for five minutes each about a topic close to their heart, accompanied by their Powerpoint presentation. Sadly, I could only be at the first of the two sessions, as I wanted to attend a different session later. But the topics that spoke to me most were Pam Smith’s editing music, and Liz Jones’ on finding a good work/life balance.

Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign

Here is some background into my interest in InDesign: I edit a magazine for charity. I was taught to use Microsoft Publisher for editing purposes. I’m aware that InDesign is the modern equivalent, so I wanted to find out more. Two designers from Oxford University Press (OUP) explained how the text and images are put together on designed pages for English language teaching resources – teacher guides, children’s workbooks, indeed anything education based. The implications of how the styles in Word documents transfer and appear in InDesign were discussed by experienced colleagues. Next step for me: training in InDesign.

Gala dinner

It was my third conference, so the nerves about what to wear to the Gala dinner were a little less. Listening to the Linnets (see photo) always calms the nerves, relaxing us with impressive singing and entertaining us with clever lyrics about editing! This year they sang to the tune of ‘He who would valiant be’. Rob Drummond, our after-dinner speaker, and Reader in Linguistics at Manchester University had us laughing about our use of language versus our pedantry in the application of the rules.

A training toolbox for editors

Hilary Cadman, Australian science editor, is a visitor to our local SfEP group in Bishops Stortford, Herts, when she is visiting her family. We get on well, so, when I saw she was running a workshop on how to use our knowledge to train others, I was intrigued. As a teacher, I knew I could be a trainer. As a freelancer of three years, I knew I had free resources available on my website. So how to link the two …?  Hilary demonstrated how to make a screencast by recording her voice-over the modelling of a skill on screen. There was an audible gasp of wonder when she played back this example training video. (She presents her PerfectIt courses in this way. If you haven’t discovered them yet – I have done the Introduction to PerfectIt – there are discounts for SfEP members on the Benefits page of the website.) Next step: learning how to make training videos for newbie proofreaders.

The six habits of highly effective editors

To be effective, the habits of good editing are to be a detective, spy and linguist; to have empathy and intuition. Developing a healthy work/life balance to work effectively include: appropriate sleep, timing/timetabling, repetition of skills, and exercise. Our presenter, Matthew Batchelor, advocates using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) methods, in other words, learn the language of your mind. Next step for me: To practice a more effective work/life balance. Even more important when I seem to have a whole year of CPD ahead of me!

Grammar amnesty

Lucy Metzger (SfEP Vice-Chair) chaired a grammar panel with Luke Finley, Annie Walker and Cathy Tingle. Bring your grammar questions was the mission: questions about grammar you have always wondered about … For example, when to use ‘that v which’ which catches me out when I am proofreading. There was an excellent discussion and exploration of language, with helpful book recommendations on display.

Closing speaker: David Crystal

Conference came to its glorious conclusion with the fascinating plenary session by David Crystal sharing about his experiences editing the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.

At the end of the day, I was glad to catch up with edibuddies Laura Ripper, Helen Stevens, Melanie Thompson and Cathy Tingle. Sorry to those who I didn’t get a chance to chat to.

Before undertaking the three hour drive back to Essex, I decided to stretch my legs and had a pleasant walk into the centre of Birmingham in the company of colleagues heading to New Street Station. It looks so different to what my mother would have seen when she left Birmingham for the last time in the mid-1970s.

Here’s to next year

So, as the post-conference blues set in, here’s to next September and #sfep2020 (or #ciep2020) in Milton Keynes. Here’s my link to my blog post about last year’s conference (#sfep2018).

Thank you to Beth Hamer and the conference team!

 

 

27/09/2019

Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Tall Tartan Tells Why One-day Conferences Appeal

When I heard the North East Editors (@NEEditors) were organising a one-day SfEP mini conference in Newcastle, I was very tempted.

I mentioned to Mr Deakins that, as he had spent 4 years there studying Art and had a great affection for the place, he might want to accompany me and ‘do culture’ (art galleries, museums) while I was learning. Thankfully, he was REALLY keen so we hatched a plan that was win-win: we would have a mini-break by train from Essex in May, and I would get some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and upgrade points.

#SfEPNEConf here I come!

On the morning of the conference, we left the Holiday Inn really early and sauntered to the cathedral to admire the architecture. At the appointed hour, I headed to the venue – the rather stunning Royal Station Hotel – adjacent to the railway station. A perfect location. Victoria Suite was sumptuous with huge windows through which the bright sun shone all day and impressive, glistening candelabras. Very glamorous and extremely spacious for the 68 delegates.

An interesting variety of sessions had been planned. At this point I must credit Eleanor Abraham (@EABediting) who wrote excellent summaries in her live tweeting throughout all the sessions. I have relied on some of her tweets for accuracy.

Sessions

  • Denise Cowle: Marketing Your Editing Business
  • Matt Deacon (from Wearset): The Changing World of Academic Publishing (and the ripple effects on editors)
  • Melissa Middleton: Ministry of (Business) Training MO(B)T
  • Hester Higton: Efficient Editing – How to Make the Most of Your Fee
  • Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. With Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor, Alex Niven

Session 1 – Denise Cowle

Denise is the SfEP marketing director and she belongs to the Content Marketing Academy. Some of her points included:

  • It’s important to make the shift from ‘freelance’ to ‘business owner’.
  • Have a website. Everybody can have a social media profile, but any of the platforms could disappear tomorrow. Your website is yours to do with what you want.
  • Be brave and network with editor colleagues, including those from your specialism.
  • Like, comment and share content from colleagues.
  • Be helpful and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Add value. Give away brilliant free stuff on your website (be like Louise Harnby!).
  • Record outcomes – “What gets measured gets improved”.

Time for coffee and CAKE! Marieke Krijnen even brought Stroopwaffels from Amsterdam.

Session 2 – Wearset

Next, Matt Deacon, Project Manager at Wearset, conference sponsors, talked about the pressures that publishers, in this case academic experts, are against. Pressures from profit-driven markets, the internet, expectations on speed of delivery, globalisation and increased competition. All affecting editors.

He asked if artificial intelligence and natural language processing apps are going to take our jobs? No. Context, style and subtlety of language need the human element. Automaton tools (such as PerfectIt) mundane tasks and reduce the time taken to edit, leaving us to focus on language and sense.

Matt gave guidance on how to future-proof editing: spot change, embrace and innovate, and spearhead development. How can we as editors encourage standardisation of templates amongst publishers? He suggested that the SfEP has a role to play in encouraging cleaner formats for editing  by sharing discussions with publishing clients. Food for thought.

Session 3 – Melissa Middleton

After a quick change-over, Melissa Middleton’s session was hilarious. She runs Project North East Enterprise (PNE) promoting Enterprise and CPD. Apparently, there is one local to you – part of the National Enterprise Network. She had us eating out of her hands with her Geordie humour! In groups, we listed all the ways we do CPD daily – many more than we first thought. Her final workshop activity had us writing our top skill on a post-it to be placed on a poster of collective skills; then writing a skill we want to improve on a separate post-it for a second poster. By the end of the session we had created a Skill Swap Shop. Very simple, clever and effective. As a post-script, a couple of the SfEP directors reminded us that the Forums on the SfEP website offer a similar support: members ask a question, and those with relevant knowledge answer. Many of us learn from the way different professionals answer the question with techniques they have used. Melissa finished her session by sharing an Interactive CPD Toolkit – a very useful resource.

 

Session 4 – Hester Higton

After lunch, Hester’s session was fascinating, if intensive. Her aim was to help us judge what can and can’t be done when clients are cutting costs and driving down schedules. Given examples of non-fiction texts to discuss and prepare for copy-edit, the task was to analyse the brief and project; calculate how much time could be allocated to each task, bearing in mind the rate of pay for the job and the time scale.

Hester’s tips:

  • Can the essential work be done within budget? And by the deadline? Often, when copy-editing, there was little time to put aside for dealing with the actual text.
  • Know what your key priorities are and stick to them.
  • How often, when an editor says the text is ‘clean’, do you believe them …?
  • Use clean-up automaton routines, keep track of the project, and analyse when finished for timings and cost.

Session 5 – Panel discussion

The last session was a Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. On the panel were Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor and Alex Niven. The panel discussed such questions as:

  • How do editors deal with …?
  • How have you tackled a ‘muscular’ (favourite word of the conference) or heavy editing job?
  • When do you get time to work on your own novel when you are an editor/publisher and enjoy writing?

One-day conferences

This is my second one-day conference. The first one I attended was the Educational Publishers Development Day in November 2018 at De Vere West One (DVWO) in London. Both conferences were hugely popular with impressive speakers and plenty of opportunities to network.

In summary, one-day conferences appeal to me for a variety of reasons:

  • Lasting only a day means they are not expensive in terms of time or money.
  • Their location may be nearer to you than the main SfEP annual conference.
  • They present more regular networking opportunities than waiting for the annual conference.
  • They are eligible for upgrade points.

The FINAL (unofficial) session moved venues and headed to a bar for well-earned drinks. Unfortunately, I had to miss it as my husband and I reconvened at the station for our train home.

Bravo and cheers to the NE Editors: Kia Thomas, Nik Prowse, Caroline Orr, Jenny Warren, et al, for a valuable day!

 

P.S. A summary of this was seen in the SfEP Blog in June 2019.

P.P.S. BitmoAnnie thought she really should wear tartan to represent #TallTartanTells. She feels a new branding concept brewing.