“I’m a copyeditor, not a copywriter, so what would be the point of attending a writers conference?”
It’s always worth going to a copyeditors conference, as Carol Fisher Saller, the author of The Subversive Copy Editor, makes clear in her most recent CMS Shop Talk blog. But, based on my experience at this year's Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference, here are the reasons I would consider making the trip to Washington DC to attend the event in 2017.
1. The opportunity to learn
This year’s AWP program included sessions such as Think Like an Editor; Women Who Edit Literary Journals; What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Redline (a session about the book and magazine editing process); Revising Nonfiction; and Writing and Editing Sex. Although not exclusive to copyediting, these sessions illuminated the editorial process as a whole, and copyeditors who understand their place within the process have an advantage over those who work in a bubble. I also think it behooves smart editors to consider increasing their earning potential by adding more strings to their bows, so to speak: the different types of editors at AWP certainly inspired me to further develop my skills in substantive and line editing.
2. For the love of literature
Whether being writers of fiction or nonfiction makes us better editors is a moot point, but this much I believe is true: good editors are prolific readers. The more we consume quality writing, the better we understand the art of effective wordsmithing. The brutal truth is that if you are not a voracious consumer of language, editing may be the wrong profession for you (ouch!). But if you’re out of the reading habit, there’s nothing like a writers conference to rekindle your passion for the written word and remind you why you went into editing in the first place.
3. For insights into publishing
For those of us on the outside looking in, the publishing industry is a mystery, but many of the AWP conference sessions highlight what’s hot and what’s not in the world of publishing. Understanding the latest trends will make you a particularly valuable resource to the writers you work with.
The AWP also hosts a gigantic book fair that would take three whole days to cover thoroughly. The fair is a chance to meet a range of small presses and journal publishers...all of which may be in the market for a professional copyeditor. The fair directory is a great resource, and at some point this year, I will get around to contacting as many of the fair exhibitors as I can. I was also greatly encouraged by seeing the number of independent presses and bookshops represented at the fair: I’m happy to report that traditional and digital publishing in the US is alive and well!
4. For the chance to connect
Networking at the book fair was easy because exhibitors are specifically there to talk to attendees. Once outside the exhibition hall, however, it became more challenging. I always find it difficult to strike up conversations when the goal is self-promotion, but I enjoy getting to know people. My only advice on this subject is “Be yourself.” Cliched, perhaps, but true. Let conversations begin naturally so that, if you make a connection, it’s easy to exchange contact details. Although I made only one significant connection at the conference this year, it’s the quality of the connection that counts. That one person taught me a lot about writing and publishing and introduced me to a wealth of useful resources—and we’ve become the best of friends to boot!
Read the first AWP blog post, “Editors and Writers: Are They On the Same Page?”