Most editors like to keep learning after we finish our initial training. Over time, standards change, technology upgrades, and minds forget. January is a good time to do some studying. And reviewing is better in a group, right?
Back in 2018, several students in my copyediting program started an accountability group, and I was invited to join. We're all in different stages of our careers. We've helped each other with tough question and editing conundrums, and we've supported each other through major life changes.
We decided to prioritize ourselves this year. We'll be refreshing our knowledge base by going through The Copyeditor’s Workbook together, starting today.
Every month we’ll tackle two or three exercises and discuss how we did, what the pitfalls were, what minor typo we caught, and what we learned. Believe me, the exercises are tricky!
Two members are in the UK, and the others are in North Carolina, Kentucky, California and Washington state. We’re spread far and wide but we are happy to be reconnecting and motivating one another through these trying times while we also work to keep our eyes sharp!
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”
Celebrating Poe’s birth in 1809 today!
My copy of his collected works still sits in the mountain of books my Dad was supposed to bring me in 2020, but all of his planned visits in 2020 were cancelled, forcing me online to get my Poe-fix. That sent me down a rabbit hole: I came across this amazing illustration by Harry Clarke that was used in Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, 1919.
The gothic and macabre images created during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements are my favorites. I’m now drooling over several original books with Clarke’s illustrations on a rare book website.
All of this because I didn’t have my Poe book at home! I truly love the internet. Check out more of Clarke’s work here: https://www.wikiart.org/en/harry-clarke
Do you remember the moment you were first smitten? I do. My fifth-glade class was in the library, and the librarian began reading “Dealing with Dragons.” At that moment, I fell in love. In love with books, in love with stories, and in love with dragons.
It’s Appreciate a Dragon Day, and the main dragon of this series is Kazul, more philosopher than terror. Never have I ever suspended my disbelief as I did with this book. Kazul could have walked through my childhood bedroom door and I wouldn’t have blinked. She lived and breathed and was as real as my dog.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit that my favorite book is a kid’s/YA book, but this title pops into my head first when anyone asks. I keep a copy of “Dealing with Dragons” with me wherever I go, and I’ve had to buy many copies because I’ve literally read it to pieces. I can’t recommend this book or series enough. It’s impossible for me to believe that anyone would ever not like it. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles has four books and the fourth book, “Talking to Dragons” is my second favorite, followed by the Book of Enchantments, which is a spin-off of short stories.
3 minute read
Getting an acceptance letter is always thrilling, and in December 2019, I was offered one of the Career Support Officer roles for the Society of Young Publishers* (SYP) London. Acceptance comes from having ‘the skills’, right?
Wrong. My year with the SYP London Committee taught me just how much I had to learn.
The committee met only once in person before London entered lockdown in March. We moved online and experienced the chaos that comes with joining an organization during a major upheaval.
Let me say this upfront: I’m not comfortable meeting new people, in-person or online, but moving to an all-digital life was my worst nightmare. This is how I’m getting through it.
Social media & online platforms
I was tech literate when I joined SYP, but not tech savvy.
Success on social media (SM) comes from having a message and an audience who wants to hear it. I realized that I didn’t have either of those things, and that’s why I didn’t like being online or using SM.
So I spent all of 2020 exploring and experimenting. The team made online events happen, fumbling our way through. Mistakes (and typos) were made. But the world didn’t fall apart.
Now I can host interviews and workshops on Zoom without flinching. I actually talk and interact with people on Twitter (typos and all). Every day I improve my understanding of design by studying marketing materials. Now I can create more eye-catching event announcements on Canva that I’m not too afraid to post on Instagram.
It sounds easy. It’s not. It takes time, patience, and repeated efforts to get it right. But at least now I look forward to these tasks instead of dreading them.
Everyone dreads networking. But when, like me, you’ve just arrived in the country, are new to an industry, are a freelancer working alone at home, and the whole world has moved online, you’ve got no choice.
Fortunately, my imagination is overactive and talking to people is never as bad as I imagine it to be. To put on events for the SYP, I had to do what I most feared – email people I’d never met to ask them for their most valuable asset: their time.
Who wants to do that while the world is falling apart? There was nothing to do but sit down and write emails. Lots of them.
Luckily, people in publishing are happy to volunteer their time and knowledge. I’m grateful to everyone who was able to say yes. The nos were never personal.
Now a lot more people know me – I’m not just a stranger on the internet. If I hadn’t joined the committee, I wouldn’t be (nearly) cured of my fears: speaking to strangers, cold emailing, interacting with people online.
With networking comes communicating. For most of my professional working life, I’ve been on my own. Being thrown in with a team of nineteen strangers and learning how to talk with them was a challenge, and I got it wrong. Frequently.
I undercommunicated, not mentioning my plans or asking my questions. I thought what I had to say wasn’t important, and the end result was that I sabotaged my own success.
Eventually I started keeping notes about things I wanted to say in meetings, made sure I asked every single question, re-announced events frequently and booked the Zoom account early.
This year helped me become more flexible and I’ve become better at thinking on my feet. I still need to be more assertive in groups and meetings and learn not to care too much about what others think. Got any advice?
My parting advice to anyone joining a team in 2021 is to say everything, and say it loud. Proactively copy people into emails.
Make sure your event information is shared early, widely and repeatedly.
Ask questions. Lots of questions.
Double check all dates. Triple check, actually.
No one on the committee had the year they had hoped for, but as a group we were able to accomplish a lot more than we imagined!
I’m grateful for the team: I didn’t realize how influential a group could be. They have no idea how much they contributed to my growth, and I want to thank them all.
Despite everything, 2020 was one of my best years in terms of gaining new skills and knowledge. When I joined SYP, I was looking to find my place within publishing. I haven’t found it yet, but I’ve been given a peek into a magnificent industry with so many unimaginable opportunities. I’m excited to spend 2021 exploring those options.
*The Society for Young Publishers is a not-for-profit organization for anyone in their first ten years of their publishing career, NOT people who are young.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
England's Queens: The Biography
Keeping Up With the Editors
Happy Birthday, Poe!
Appreciate a Dragon Day
I Was Wrong – Or What I Learned from a Year on the SYP London Committee
Shortlist of the Best Books I Read in 2020
V for Vendetta
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
The Mandibles: A Family 2029–2047
The Diary of a Bookseller
The Dutch House
The Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort
Becoming a Writer
Things Fall Apart
Welcome to My Bookshelves!