In 2016, I was a wide-eyed newcomer at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders annual conference. In 2017, I was a nervous lightning-talker. By 2018, I was delivering a one-hour session at the annual conference and helping out with the inaugural Toronto mini-conference. And now, in 2019, I’ve found myself speaking again at the annual conference and co-organizing the Toronto mini-conference. My SfEP conference-going history can best be summed up by the phrase: “Well, that escalated quickly.”
Each year, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), the professional association that I belong to, runs a three-day conference that has become an unmissable event for me. I’ve only been attending SfEP’s annual conferences since 2016, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that even in that short span of time, the impact they’ve had on me is profound.
I attended my first SfEP conference a few months after leaving my previous job with a higher education news publisher to strike out on my own, and while I had 10 years of experience with that publisher, I wasn’t sure how well that experience would translate into the fiction and academic proofreading and copy-editing I wanted to pursue. So when the SfEP Forum and my local group in London started buzzing about the upcoming 2016 conference, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to brush up on some of my self-taught-in-a-hurry-on-the-job editorial skills.
The conference was indeed that, and so much more. The speakers were first-rate, and each session felt like an editorial masterclass. I was also amazed at the collegiality and encouragement I saw all around me. Far from guarding their secrets, delegates were eagerly sharing the best practices they’d developed for everything from creating the perfect style sheet to securing repeat business from clients. At the sessions and while chatting with people during meals and coffee breaks, I learned new tips and techniques, but I also gained a sense of belonging among this group of talented and generous people from all over the UK and the world. Upon hearing that I didn’t have a hotel room of my own, the wonderful Helen Stevens invited me to be her roommate for an hour so that I wouldn’t have to change for the gala dinner in the public loos!
I had been able to afford only a one-day ticket for the 2016 conference, but I was determined to attend for all three days the following year. I excitedly booked my place and registered for sessions at the 2017 conference. And when Lucy Ridout put out a call for 5-minute Lightning Talk speakers, I decided to volunteer, buoyed by how much I’d enjoyed my first conference. Like many SfEP members, I get nervous about public speaking, but I could not have asked for a friendlier audience. The experience taught me that each of us has something to contribute to this community, and I remember that lesson whenever imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.
I now live in Toronto, and I still make attending SfEP conferences a priority. I was one of four Toronto SfEP members who flew in for the recent 2018 SfEP annual conference, and I led an hour-long session on editing erotic fiction — something that pre-SfEP me would have never believed I could do. The 2018 conference featured sessions on everything from medical editing, inclusive language and editing in the EU to growing your business, not to mention late-night tea and wine parties with colleagues-turned-friends.
Small wonder, then, that I’ve had my place booked for the 7 November 2018 SfEP mini-conference in Toronto for weeks now. The one-day mini-conference, organised by Janelle Bowman, Janet MacMillan and Kelly Lamb from the Toronto SfEP group, boasts an impressive roster of speakers from the Canada, the UK and the US, and I can’t wait to learn from, be inspired by and have fun with them!