By Kathleen Walker, NWIEG President
This speech was delivered at the annual Northwest Independent Editors Guild potluck, hosted this year at the Sky Lounge at the Post Apartments in downtown Seattle.
I don’t know where the urge to shoot myself in the foot comes from, but I’m going to tell on myself now: the Guild met in this same fabulous Sky Lounge for a potluck two years ago, and I brought my standard potluck dish, which is a Greek potato salad. Everyone was asked to create a label, naming their food item, and place the label next to their dish. I’ll never forget the horror of standing in this room, looking at my Magic-markered word “Potatoe” and thinking maybe I should take the e off the end. But not being so sure about that. All the while, fifty hungry editors were lining up to make the rounds on the buffet table. I left the e on there. Please forgive me–this happened at the end of a long, hard week and you all made me nervous.
I discovered that I come unglued in the presence of genius.
Well, now it’s fall 2016, I’ve finally recovered from my humiliation, and I am privileged to return to the scene as president of this illustrious organization. Life certainly takes interesting twists and turns.
Fall 2016 is a significant season: the Northwest Independent Editors Guild has now officially entered its twentieth year. Starting from the first meeting in the summer of 1997 when eleven editors gathered in a Seattle living room, we’ve burgeoned to a membership of more than 300, with representation in three states.
How did this success happen, considering it came about only through the power of volunteers? The answer, I believe, is twofold:
The first source of our success is a little bit mysterious. In fact, it’s magical—it’s our people.
Look to your left and look to your right: you are surrounded by high-caliber, thoughtful people who have a broad range of interests and experience. These are not just bookish word nerds or grammar police. They are fascinating people who are brimming with curiosity and who are compulsive learners. Among us are tailors, sailors, engineers, chefs, mountaineers, silk acrobats, musicians, scientists, and artists of every ilk.
This wealth of talent and knowledge creates a synergy of inspired volunteers who enrich our editing craft by brainstorming bimonthly programming, organizing neighborhood coffee hours, hammering out details of our biennial conference, and nailing down annual budgets that keep an eye on the future.
The second source of our success has nothing to do with magic. It’s strictly nuts and bolts, the hard work of our founders, previous and current board members, advisors, and contributing members. This is the nitty-gritty stuff that includes, for example, unseen tasks such as developing and updating a detailed handbook of role definitions and procedures that maintain a healthy organization, enable the smooth succession of board roles, and create effective volunteer opportunities.
Attention to these details ensures we have what it takes to advance the Guild’s mission, which is to connect clients with professional editors, foster community among our members, and provide career resources.
Our volunteers put the legs on that mission, and the way I see it, that work could be divided into two categories: the sexy and the unsexy.
Here’s what we’ve been doing for the past twelve months. Like beauty, sexy is in the eye of the beholder, so I will just run through a list of some of our undertakings this year, and let you do the categorizing.
- Since last year’s potluck, our meetings covered the topics of crafting your online profile, editing for bias, developmental editing for children’s books, and a tech talk about tools for enhancing an editorial business.
- Members have organized numerous satellite get-togethers, including a lunch hour at the ACES conference in Portland. Our Portland contingent meets regularly now, and members in South Puget Sound, Whatcom County, North Seattle, and other neighborhoods have get-togethers.
The Guild had volunteers manning a booth at PNWA conference in July, and we have committed to a booth at Wordstock in Portland during November.
- We unveiled our new responsive-design website, which has enabled a continuously groomed job board, a rolling annual membership renewal, easy enrollment and payment for events, and continual development with add-on features.
- The board has drafted a strategic plan, which is an ambitious five-year guide for advancing the Guild’s mission. With a view to serving and growing our membership in the Pacific Northwest, reaching an audience beyond, and broadening our job board offerings, the plan, among its many features, includes increasing our online presence. To that aim, we are launching a blog this month and if any of you would like to know more about this, please contact Jen Grogan, our blog master.
This November, we will be hosting our first fiction-editing workshop.
- A new membership survey was developed and will be launched this month, which will give us an up-to-date handle on the makeup of our membership and what member needs are.
- Our 2017 Conference committee has begun to spool up. You’ll certainly be hearing more about that in the months to come.
- This year, the Guild updated its membership dues, which still offer a great bargain for a professional affiliation, and enable the Guild to have the contract staff and services that are essential for our growth.
- Our trusty administrator Toddie Downs, who served the Guild for a number of years, made a career change in December. Our tradition of contracting a highly skilled administrator continues with Rebecca Brinbury, who maintains the website, job board, membership renewals, tax records, facility rentals, and all manner of picky details.
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We’ve invested in some technical upgrades. Our live streaming meeting presentations continue but the recording quality is dependent largely on the WiFi connection, and this is uneven. So our new camcorder and mic give us a better quality video to post on our website. Please note, we need tech volunteers. It’s not tricky at all, pretty much just point and shoot. This month we’re also getting a new projector and screen for our meetings.
- The board and our administrator have been housekeeping, getting documents under one roof in the cloud, setting protocol for storing passwords, and updating our insurance.
As this year continues, we’ll be talking about reinvigorating our speakers bureau by creating a corporate presentation package; and we’ll discuss relaunching our mentorship program, looking at ways to increase diversity in the Guild. There’s no shortage of great ideas.
I encourage you to catch the vision and join the mission. If you are interested in board service, please attend the open board meeting in October. If you are interested in volunteering opportunities, or have input for the speakers bureau, ideas for programming, or thoughts on how to broaden the Guild’s reach in any way, the board wants to hear from you.