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The contents of my goody bag from Cult Pens! Even Daisy the Editing Spaniel was impressed!

It’s been a couple of days since I returned from my second SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference, and I’ve just about regained the power of speech, although I can’t guarantee this blog will make 100% sense (but when do they ever?!).

As expected, I have returned filled with inspiration and knowledge (and a stinking cold) as well as excitement and joy at making new friends and seeing old ones again.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Let’s Talk About Text’, which is something that we editors and proofreaders do indeed like to talk about. It was a fitting theme and the whole weekend provided serious food for thought on the different types of text we work on and the similarities and differences we all face.

My first session was ‘Where do you go next? Developing your editorial and professional career’, led by Chris McNab. This was one of the sessions that has given me the most to think about, and I particularly enjoyed the blend of Chris’s real-life anecdotes about his own career and more practical work where we filled in a worksheet about our priorities and plans. There’s something about writing things down that makes them seem more achievable, and looking around as pens scribbled away furiously, I got the feeling I certainly wasn’t the only one who was feeling slightly inspired. I have some follow-up work to do as a result of this session, such as formalising my five-year plan (world domination, naturally) and working out what’s in store for KT Editing Services in the years ahead.

In the afternoon, I moderated a live discussion forum on the issue of fees, with the question ‘What can we, as freelancers, do to encourage clients to pay reasonable rates?’. It was a lively and interesting session, with around thirty participants breaking off into small groups to discuss various issues and questions linking in to the overall theme. As freelancers or individuals working for ourselves, there’s always the risk of becoming isolated, and this session was a great way to speak to other editors face to face and discuss an issue that affects every one of us. As expected, everyone was respectful and willing to listen to others, even when there were several opinions being aired about a particular aspect. I found it immensely valuable and it gave me a fresh perspective on some things. I’m sad to say we didn’t find a way to work for an hour a day and become a millionaire, but perhaps next year!

On Monday, Laura Poole’s fantastic session about work/life balance was another highlight, and again has provided me with lots of things to think about and the need to sit down and reevaluate how much I am taking on, and what I am sacrificing when I do. For such a small person physically, Laura’s personality and brightness filled the whole room, and I think everybody left the room feeling invigorated and much more positive. I’m also looking forward to reading her book, which she thoughtfully signed for me, and putting some of her suggestions into practice.

With excellent talks from Susan Greenberg, David Crystal and Lynne Murphy, there was much to discuss with other editors. And discuss we did! The social aspect of conferences is just as important to me as taking part in work-related sessions, and thankfully there was plenty of time built in for socialising. The pub quiz was great fun, even though we were disrupted halfway through by a stray mouse appearing (that’s our excuse for not winning and we’re sticking to it).

A final word on the venue, which was Aston University in Birmingham. I thought it was an excellent choice. Everything ran smoothly (bar my small PowerPoint disaster and a fire alarm the first morning which saw me propelled onto the street in my bear pyjamas) and the facilities were very smart. Next year’s location has been revealed as Wyboston Lakes and it looks very posh, so I’m putting that in the diary already!

For anyone who hasn’t attended a conference before, I’d strongly recommend it. It’s exhausting and yes, it does cost money, but the value for money is unrivalled, and you can make friends for life there as well as finding the confidence and knowledge to carry you to the next step in your career.