I went to my first editors’ conference, the weekend of June 12-14, in Toronto. This was Editing Goes Global, the first international conference hosted by the Editors’ Association of Canada (which will be going by “Editors Canada” rather than “EAC” for short, as of July 1), and there were editors there from all ten Canadian provinces (but not from all the territories, to my knowledge), numerous U.S. states, and twelve other countries.
I have been to a number of writers’ conferences, and they’re always a blast, because writers are an awesome tribe, but I have never been among a more friendly, welcoming, supportive, and encouraging group of people than at this conference. Everyone, whether keynote speaker, conference organizer, volunteer, or fellow first-timer, was approachable and friendly. There were many jokes about introverts being forced to interact, but the dynamic at a conference centre full of (mostly) introverts is remarkable: little time wasted on boring, enervating small talk, allowing for real conversation and real connection. The swapping of business cards cements connections, rather than standing in for them.
Here are some of my highlights:
1. Winning prizes!
On the Friday at lunch, I teamed up with Rachel, Julia, and Christina and we wandered around the area seeking editorial glitches (“typographic crash” is my new favourite term) and lunch. Not only did we introduce Rachel to sushi for the first time, we were the only team to both find every item on the scavenger hunt list and check them off, so we won cool swag. And by “swag” I mean “books” (of course). The two Dragon books by and Lucifer are by authors I don’t yet know, but hey, free books! Vanessa is also an editor and was at the conference, but I never managed to get my books signed. *sad face*
2. Networking and Social Media
One goal in attending the conference was to create the beginnings of a network of colleagues. There was a whole stream of workshops on just this subject, and the ones I went to were stellar. I have so many new connections on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, I’ve had to put some of the social media strategy tips I learned into practice, just to keep up. I also got some great information about websites that work, and am working on redeveloping my website even now.
3. Carol Fisher Saller’s opening keynote
The Subversive Copyeditor and moderator of the Chicago Manual of Style‘s Online Q&A is both wise and funny. Her speech about sane editing was an inspiring start to my conference, and gave me the new term “assertionist” (i.e., one who asserts the rules of language that they learned in school — often 20, 30, or 50 years earlier — as the only “correct” way to use language). This assertionst approach to any other educational subject — say, math or science — would be patently ridiculous, Saller said, and yet for some reason it never occurs to some of us that our information about language might be outdated or might benefit from further study. Given that I am in the middle of studying grammar, for the first time in more than forty years, this really hit home for me. (I’ve also recently learned that many of the grammar rules I learned over the years are, in fact, usage guidelines; they are stylistic rather than structural, and are more fluid than “rules”.)
4. Speed Mentoring
I was fortunate to get consecutive speed mentoring sessions with two brilliant and experienced editors. Christine Leblanc and Gael Spivak let me pick their brains about networking, websites, professional development, volunteering, and marketing, and offered both practical advice and encouragement. I came home with a head full of tips and ideas that I am working on putting into practice.
5. Plain Language
I first encountered plain language writing while writing and editing patient information materials in hospitals. Iva Cheung‘s session on Plain Language and Social Justice, and Cheryl Stephens‘s Plain Language Q&A reawoke my awareness of plain language and put it in a wider context. Sometimes, complex language is simply the result of laziness or a desire to look clever. But it may also be designed to conceal meaning or intent, and it may be used to create or support an unequal power dynamic. Plain language has the reader’s interest at heart; complex, obfuscatory language has the writer’s. These two sessions were full of “shazam” moments for me, and I’m looking forward to the Plain Language Principles course in my Editing Program, and to the new Clear Communication Program coming to SFU next year!
6. Katherine Barber’s closing keynote
The Wordlady and former editor of the Oxford Canadian Dictionary (before OUP closed the Canadian office) gave a funny and touching speech about the Canadianisms that differentiate us (butter tarts, anyone?), and the language that unites English speakers around the world. And of course it included that most Canadian of Canadianisms: the Saskatchewanian “bunnyhug“.
7. Fun swag!
Apart from the books I won, and the button-badges that adorned the top edge of my ID hanger, there were the books I bought! Editing Canadian English 3 launched at the conference, and Editing Niches, pictured above, is a supplement/companion to the print version. Mindful of the weight I’d have to carry (I travelled carry-on-only), I bought only Editorial Niches, which I couldn’t find online, and ordered EC3 from ChaptersIndigo when I got home.
Perhaps the most fun swag, though, was at the vendor fair in the conference. The talented Catharine Chen must have been working like a madwoman to create her editorial jewellery; she had earrings and necklaces for every taste and her stuff was very popular. I love my Oxford Companions necklace; it’s a nice counterpoint to my Writer necklace.
The organizers did a fantastic job, and I had such a great time that I was looking for opportunities to volunteer for the 2016 conference, being held in Vancouver, before I even packed up to fly home. Kudos and thanks to everyone involved in bringing that conference off so successfully.