Several highlights from my time in Birmingham 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
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
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 includes 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!
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 Encyclopaedia 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!
Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk