Brass Tacks Season

MAY 7, 2019 By Matthew Bennett Before becoming a full-time editor, I went out and picked up Sara Horowitz’s The Freelancer’s Bible. I had taken many contracts but had never strung them together as my sole source of income. Horowitz’s insightful book introduced me to the regular beats of an editor’s day: early-morning emails, the job hunt, marketing, marketing, and marketing, followed by the nitty-gritty of editing. But importantly for this post, the Freelancer’s Bible taught me how to calculate my rates. Our May 13 meeting builds off the 2018 rate survey information provided by members. This survey shows that editors charge a range of prices, in part due to our members living in both urban and rural areas, where costs of living diverge. Client types also determine a freelancer’s rates. Some members work with deep-pocketed corporations, while others work with shoe-stringed poets. As a result of the survey, and so members may negotiate rates better, the Guild will publish a rate chart on our website based on the results. (A link will be sent to members upon publication.) Let’s look at a formula that’s an easy and necessary one, especially living in the Northwest. Here’s how freelancers may calculate the rates they need to earn a livable wage. Horowitz asks that editors determine their desired salaries, then their real-world costs (e.g., rent, transportation, health insurance, and food), then their profits, usually at 10 to 20 percent. “Profit isn’t the same as salary,” Horowitz explains, continuing, “consider your salary a business expense (paid out to you as your own boss). Profit is charged over and above your expenses.” Here’s the formula: (annual salary + annual expenses + annual profit) / annual billable work hours = basic hourly rate This budgetary approach—depending on how you tinker—might produce the sock or the buskin, the traditional masks of comedy or tragedy. I’d suggest finding the rate that leaves you smiling. For your own sanity, estimate fewer than 80 hours of work per week (seriously, folks). I’d also recommend you use the formula to find your rate before next week’s member meeting, where the Guild’s survey and rate negotiation tactics will be discussed. At the May 13 meeting, advisor to creatives Ted Leonhardt will guide members in the art of negotiation. Horowitz is doing great things with the nonprofit Freelancers Union out in New York. For more information on rates, see the The Freelancer’s Bible, especially pages 38–45. See also the several rates calculators available online, such as the beautifully simplified Your Rate, which works elegantly from desired salary, hours per week, and weeks off per year. What do the results of the 2018 member rate survey mean for you and your business?  What’s the best way to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome? Come to the Seattle-area members meeting next week and find out: Monday, May 13, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Community Hall at Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Ave N., Seattle.

A Long-time Guild Member’s First ACES Conference

MAY 1 By Beth Chapple This year I joined ACES: The Society for Editing just in time for their annual conference in Providence, RI, on March 27-30, 2019. I pictured the trip as a pilgrimage to the New England of my youth, complete with grime on the streets, weeds growing up through cracks in the sidewalk, a vague smell of fish . . . Nope, nuttin’ like that. Instead, it was about putting faces to institutions, such as Peter Sokolowski to Merriam-Webster or Helen Eby to the new Spanish Editors Association. Experiencing the buzz around AP style, particularly this year’s “gasp moment”: cutting hyphens from common constructions like “third grade teacher.” (I am sure glad most of my own clients prefer Chicago style!) The event was also about finding one’s place in the world of editors and freelancing. I definitely had the feeling of being among my people! Both Boston and Providence have seen major renovation since I lived there. A bonus: delicious food. For me the trip to Providence began at the train station, where my hostess for the week whisked me off to a lovely lunch of strawberry quinoa salad in her Eastside home. Next came the spelling bee. Some at the conference said they felt torn between that and the freelancer happy hour—but I just walked over to Trinity Brewhouse afterward with all my winnings in a new #WordsMatter tote bag. Fun to meet the ten other spellers and face not only the audience of word critics  but also the judging panel, which consisted of lexicologist extraordinaire Kory Stamper (!), Peter Sokolowski, and AP Stylebook Lead Editor Paula Froke. Read more in my “Adult Spelling Bees” post. It was a thrill to meet other seasoned editors and language lovers such as @The_GrammarGeek (Dave Nelsen) and @grammartable (Ellen Jovin). Surely you are wondering why I call them by their social media handles. Well, it turns out that Twitter is an integral part of an ACES conference. At the session by Ashley Bischoff called “Be the Helvetica of Ergonomics,” I was one of at least three audience members live-tweeting her helpful tips and gear suggestions. (See #BeHelvetica for those tips.) A session called Social Media 101 exhorted us to follow the rule of thirds: make one-third of your posts original to you, one-third curated posts from relevant others, and one-third just to engage your audience, such as polls and chats. That same session used Giant Pencil in an example! Every session got a hashtag, and it’s possible to catch up even now using those or at least the #NotAtACES hashtag. Something to consider for our own Red Pencil conference this fall. The first session I attended was “Copy Editing in the Government during a Crisis,” where one editor from the CIA and one at the FBI gave me many reasons to be thankful that my work does not usually involve deadlines spelled out to the hour, unreasonable workloads, and stakeholders breathing down my neck. My favorite session was Mark …

Red Pencil Conference 2019: Voice & Voices

APRIL 18, 2019 Contributed by the 2019 Red Pencil conference committee: Kyra Freestar, Lea Galanter, Erica Akiko Howard, Tina Loucks-Jaret, Barbara Mulvey Little, Tori Smith, Ivonne Ward, Polly Zetterberg. A slate of inspiring sessions is coming together for the Northwest Editors Guild Red Pencil Conference 2019: Voice & Voices. The seventh biennial conference returns Saturday, September 21, to the campus of Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, northeast of Seattle. The Red Pencil conference is a gathering to share in a day of making connections with fellow editors and puzzling with words. This year’s lineup features over twenty professionals from a variety of backgrounds, some whose names you will recognize and some who we are thrilled to welcome into the Red Pencil community for the first time. We’ve designed a mix of sessions to help us tighten our craft, strengthen our business and self-care skills, and stretch our understanding of our place as intermediaries in a dynamic and evolving field. Our theme, Voice & Voices, explores how we as editors engage with the concept of voice at its many levels. Beyond the daily practice of editing voice on the page, the conference examines our part in championing the unique voices of the under- and unheard and our role in fostering communication rather than acting as gatekeepers. We will look at how we can do this and why it matters. Most importantly, we will look at how editors can better support the voices of a greater range of writers, publishers, and readers, with a professionalism and polish that lifts and honors their words and needs. A few highlights include “Macros 101” with Amy Schneider, “Tweet This, Not That: How to Write Social Media” with Alysha Love, “Technical Editing for Science and Engineering” with moderator Jen Koogler, “Holding Space: The Importance of Helping African Americans Heal through Storytelling” with Christy Abram, and a session on nutrition, fitness, and wellness for editors with K. Aleisha Fetters. We’re also excited to announce that the After Party will be held on-site at Bastyr immediately following the closing remarks. The gathering will provide attendees and presenters an opportunity to linger and celebrate a mind-stirring day over tasty nibbles and libations. In keeping with the conference theme, the food and beverages will feature the “voices” of local Northwest farmers and food producers. Food, drinks, door prizes, entertainment, and camaraderie are all part of your After Party ticket. Interested in supporting the Red Pencil conference as a sponsor? We’ll be sharing sponsorship package details in a few weeks. In the meantime, if you would like to feature your company or organization at the conference, contact the committee at sponsorship@edsguild.org. Direct any other inquiries to conference@edsguild.org. The Northwest Editors Guild and the Red Pencil committee are looking forward to hosting more than two hundred editors from the Pacific Northwest, California, Canada, and beyond. Watch for announcements about early-bird registration and our keynote speaker in May. The lovely wooded setting at Bastyr is the perfect spot for a well-deserved retreat, high-quality …

Giant Pencil Interviews Mary Norris, the Comma Queen

April 2019 Our own mascot, Giant Pencil, met up with author and copy editor extraordinaire Mary Norris at the ACES 2019 conference in Providence, RI, to chat about her latest book, Greek to Me. Giant Pencil: You’ve spoken lovingly about your favorite pencils in numerous past interviews, but have you ever been interviewed by an actual pencil? Mary Norris: This is the first time I have been interviewed directly by a pencil, but I have shot a video in a pencil boutique and had its owner, Caroline Weaver, splay an array of gorgeous pencils in her well-manicured hands for my admiration. If you don’t know C.W. Pencil Enterprise, you’re in for a treat. GP: In Greek to Me, you discuss how learning Greek and traveling to Greece helped sharpen your English knowledge. What is one useful Greek word or phrase (ancient or modern) that all editors should know? MN: The Greek for “O.K.” is entáxei (εντάξει), pronounced “enDOXy” (rhymes with “epoxy,” if I am pronouncing that right). The literal meaning is “in order”: the prefix for “in” is en (εν) and taxei (τάξει) is a form of the noun that means (among other things) class, as in classroom at school, where everyone sits in order and things are under control (supposedly). We cannot do without “O.K.” in English. In Greek, it’s a very reassuring word. GP: What other fine points do you think the editorial types will enjoy most about your new book? MN: Writers and editors and all word nerds enjoy the alphabet, and I have a chapter at the beginning of the book in which I did my best to write something interesting about it. It’s about the Greek alphabet as the ancestral alphabet of English. I started out writing an abcedarian for the barbarian (Alpha is for Athena, Beta is for Bios, etc.), but it kept putting me to sleep, so I jumped all the way to chi and omega and had fun with fraternity names, Sigma Tau Delta (STD), of which I am an honorary member. I think people who like words will enjoy the prospect of a new alphabet. GP: Erasing the thought that editing—as we know it today—didn’t really exist in ancient times, how do you think you would have fared as an editor of ancient Greek epigraphs? You’ve edited many famous authors in The New Yorker, but how would you have marked up, say, an early written version of the Iliad? MN: It’s a little hard to edit something that is written in stone. If it has a mistake, do you fix it or preserve it? I wouldn’t want to draw attention to it . . . I think I’d be paralyzed by the idea of editing epigraphs. The epic poems are more forgiving. Once they were written down, some of the repetition in them was no longer necessary, but it is part of their fabric, and if I changed anything, I would immediately change it back. I hope. GP: What was it like …

Cooking with Adverbs

MARCH 2019 By Jody Gentian Bower, PhD One of my first writing teachers forbade use of the word very, a rule he underlined by asking us to compare the two following sentences: He was an honest man. He was a very honest man. In the first sentence, honesty is absolute: one either is or is not honest, and this man is. But in the second honesty has become relative, with the man in question at the “more honest” end of the spectrum—but not, perhaps, completely honest? The attempt to emphasize his honesty by using very backfires. Many writing experts agree that adverbs can weaken rather than strengthen the point being made. “The adverb is not your friend,” states Steven King, one of the leaders of the movement to avoid adverbs. Some go so far as to say it is the mark of the novice writer to use adverbs when they are not necessary and even redundant: to have someone “shout loudly” or “stomp heavily.” A few advise avoiding adverbs in dialogue altogether to avoid such errors. Overuse of adverbs can also make a writer lazy. It’s easier to throw in an adverb instead of providing enough description that the reader can imagine how someone is behaving. But there is a middle ground between overuse and avoiding all adverbs that most writing mavens fail to address! Used with care, the right adverb can add zing and depth. “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is far more interesting than “To go where no one has gone before.” We understand from this adverb that the crew of the Enterprise is courageous and undaunted, that they welcome challenges. It does precisely what an adverb is meant to do: it tells us how an action is undertaken. Lois McMaster Bujold shows us when to describe action and when to use an adverb in a passage from The Curse of Chalion. The protagonist has been seriously wounded and is recuperating, when: A great party of persons shuffled into his chamber, attempting to make themselves quiet and gentle, like a parade gone suddenly shy. Any adverb attached to the verb “shuffled” would fall far short of evoking the image provided by her simile of the parade. But later on, she reinforces this image by saying: The mob withdrew, tiptoeing loudly. Her use of an adverb that contradicts the verb makes us slow down and think about the scene again. Plus, it’s funny! Much more enjoyable than if she had written “The mob withdrew, trying and failing to tiptoe quietly.” The right adverb enhances prose. The key is to use adverbs deliberately. Think of them as seasoning. Don’t use them to emphasize what the verb already implies; that’s like throwing cayenne pepper on top of a jalapeno. Don’t use them to avoid the time and effort required to describe the scene adequately; that’s like using a lot of imitation lemon extract instead of grated zest and fresh lemon juice when baking lemon bars. It won’t …

Pleased to Meet You

February 1, 2019 The enthusiastic volunteers who guide the Northwest Editors Guild kicked off the year with a daylong board of directors’ retreat on January 13. To ensure a smooth transition, departing, returning, and incoming board members, along with Guild administrator Jen Grogan, joined together at this annual event. Four volunteers—Christina Johnson, Roberta Klarreich, Pm Weizenbaum, and Polly Zetterberg—wrapped up two years of service, making way for new board members: Alison Cantrell, Erin Cusick, MariLou Harveland, and Alicia Ramos. The team is looking forward to meeting up with members at our bimonthly member meetings, regional gatherings, and, of course, the September 21 Red Pencil conference. Until then, here are brief introductions. Executive Committee Elaine Duncan, President After practicing law in California for almost thirty years, I retired and moved to Seattle in 2012. Having always loved the process of writing and editing, I joined the Guild, enrolled in the University of Washington editing program, and started freelancing. I enjoy editing any kind of nonfiction—even arcane technical topics like economics or law—but I hope to branch out in the next few years. Joining the Guild and then serving on its board have been instrumental in helping me feel grounded in Seattle without the backstop of coworkers. I love contributing to this organization and meeting people who enjoy it as well. Aside from editing, I like walking around Cougar Mountain with my dog, Anya, visiting Washington wineries, and trying to be a tourist in Seattle. MariLou Harveland, Vice President of Member Services My editing journey began in 2001, editing technical training manuals for the Microsoft Learning Team, where I also acted as contributing writer and editor for their in-house style guide and trainer for new MS writers in the U.S. and in Denmark. In 2012, I entered the freelance world after publishing my first work of fiction, The Seventh Soul, which won first place in the Indie Reader Discovery Awards—Paranormal category at the International Book Expo in New York, NY. As a freelancer, I mostly focus on developmental, substantive, and copyediting for novels (fiction and nonfiction) and technical content. I have a master’s degree in English from North Dakota State University, where I taught College Composition I & II. Currently, I am balancing writing and editing with spending quality time with my husband, Dan, and our vivacious golden retriever and bossy cat. Alicia Ramos, Vice President of Board Development I’ve always been an editor in one fashion or another. My love of reading led me to an undergraduate degree in literature. I started my professional career practicing law, spent more years than I like to count in corporate communications, and finally made the switch to full-time editing in late 2016 when I joined ECG Management Consultants. I’ve been a Guild member since 2015. My freelance work, which includes everything from proofreading to substantive editing (but not full developmental editing), is focused on popular fiction (particularly queer romance) and memoir. I love working with authors to help them convey their ideas in the most effective …

Collaboration and Relaxation at the Oregon and SW Washington Editors Retreat

January 2019 By Alison Cantrell We met . . . In early 2018, fellow Portland editor and Guild member Julie Swearingen and I took over planning of the happy hours for the Portland contingent of the Northwest Editors Guild, hoping to bring our local editors together and continue to provide them with a space for communication and collaboration. We’ve enjoyed the relationships and connections this experience has forged for us. When a conversation with former Guild president Pm Weizenbaum sparked the idea for an editors retreat, we were eager to help create a learning-based experience that would build upon the happy hours we’d started hosting. So, during the last weekend of September 2018, twelve editors gathered in small Rockaway Beach, Oregon, for the first ever Oregon and SW Washington Editors Retreat. Over six months in the making, this retreat was a chance to take part in professional development in the off year of Red Pencil while giving area editors the opportunity to relax in a beautiful local setting. We collaborated . . . Highlights of the retreat were the lively discussions we held around various editing topics. Julie Swearingen kicked off our Saturday morning by leading a talk on how marketing factors into editing, reminding editors that they don’t edit in a vacuum and to stay abreast of how their authors will be marketing their books to publishers and readers alike. In my day job, I do a lot of editing for social media, so I volunteered to lead the group in discussing what makes editing social media different from other types of copy as well as strategies and tips for editing good social content. Together, we explored how to optimize copy based on its audience and platform as well as how to ensure copy is crafted in the best way to make it visible to and searchable for social media users, including effective use of hashtags. Eugene-area editor Sherri Schultz discussed the phenomena of editors moving from large metro areas to smaller, less expensive but still culturally vibrant towns, and taking their editing work with them and the potential benefits of a location-independent lifestyle. We rounded out our day with a discussion period dedicated to planning future Guild events in Oregon and SW Washington. Retreaters enthusiastically suggested new formats for events, in addition to novel topics area editors would like to learn more about. We’re hoping to see some of these ideas implemented in the coming year. We relaxed . . . In between stimulating editing talk, we took breaks, exploring the nearby town and coastline. We were staying just a short walk from the beach, so editors took various trips down to stroll alongside the waves. Some of us also visited the local shops and brought back goodies, including locally made taffy. The group also had time to bond over a movie night, where we chose to settle in with a lighthearted editing-related film and have a few laughs, as well as a blind date book swap activity. …

2018 State of the Guild

December 2018 By Pm Weizenbaum Note: Pm delivered this message at our annual potluck on October 7. Her term as board president ends on December 31, 2018. Hello! My name is Pm Weizenbaum, and I’m president of the Northwest Editors Guild. Thank you all for coming and for contributing to this year’s potluck, our eighteenth (although we’re now twenty-one years old, so drink up). It’s great to see so many familiar and new faces here. I joined the Editors Guild about seven years ago, to get the member discount on Red Pencil 2011. When I was a new member—didn’t know anyone, feeling shy and unconfident—I used to experience the Guild as a sort of theatrical troupe, with member meetings as the bimonthly performances, and the Red Pencil conference as the star-studded gala event. By joining the board, I got to step behind the curtain and learn about all the backstage activity that goes on in support of our members. One of the very first things I learned about the board was that each one of these people takes our mission to heart, weighing decisions against these words: “The Northwest Editors Guild connects writers with professional editors of the written word in the Pacific Northwest. We also foster community among our members and provide resources for their career development.” As president for this year, I’ve had the privilege of being “guest director” for eleven bright, engaged, and funny board members. In place of set design, lighting, and costume staff, much of our work is done in committees: Operations, Board Development, Programming, Communications, with the Executive committee providing a supporting role overall. And as a group, the board votes on larger decisions affecting the membership, as well as putting on our potluck and other special events. Keep in mind that the board consists of volunteers—working editors who are busy building businesses, or working full time in-house, and sometimes even both—while I show you what our repertory theater has provided to our audience of 375-odd Guild members, as well as prospective members, clients, and even the broader national editorial community in our 2018 season. I’ll describe highlights of what each of these committees has accomplished this year. First, the Operations committee. It handles the internal nuts and bolts. Talk to our dedicated administrator Jen Grogan about these unsung essentials. Most visible to you was moving our email list from an increasingly obstinate Yahoo to Google Groups. This committee includes our treasurer, who this year has helped the board develop a more strategic budgeting process, and craft banking and investment policies regarding Guild assets. —Curious? Talk to Michael Schuler. And the Board Development committee: In another behind-the-scenes role, this committee of one keeps the rest of us happy in our roles and ensures that the board is well supplied with future board candidates. —Talk to Valerie Paquin if you’d like to hear more. Here, some Programming committee highlights: In addition to fine member meeting topics that the Programming committee presents, of which you’re all …

Unique Holiday Gifts for Editors

NOVEMBER 2018 By Jill Walters   What kind of holiday gifts would a discerning editor enjoy? How about the editor who seems rigid but has a secret sense of humor? The basic go-to coffee shop gift cards and sets of red pens are appreciated, but you can do better than that for your closest edibuddies and word nerds. Below is a list of unique and memorable gifts—arranged alphabetically by store name—suitable for just about every age, size, flavor, and type of editor, plus the tiniest editors-to-be. You might even find something you’ll want to treat yourself to after making that big deadline! Based on suggestions from fellow editors and plenty of searching, these affordable gifts all cost less than $50, and many register under the $25 mark. Most shops listed are owned by editors or wordy types, or are small businesses based in the Pacific Northwest and the western U.S. and Canada. (More small print at the end of the post.) Sorry, bibliophiles, but there are no books included because there could easily be a dozen lists of books alone. This guide is full of clothing, accessories, office supplies, housewares, beverages, and generally fun things any word wizard would want. 1. AP vs. Chicago and Conscious Style Guide (aka Quiet Press) Shops California editing superstar Karen Yin, the founder of the AP vs. Chicago and Conscious Style Guide websites (and 2017 Red Pencil Conference keynote speaker), makes it easy to show your love of editing and respectful language with merch from her two shops. Please note: Order T-shirts from the Uni-T shop which has a wider selection and custom color choices not available on Karen’s Etsy shop. And as an extra-special bonus, Karen is offering a 10% discount for blog readers through December 31, 2018, at both her shops with the discount code REDPEN. Top Picks: Edit or Die Mug ($12) A roomy 15-ounce mug perfect for imbibing while marking Oxford commas. Make Peace With Words T-shirt ($34) Wear your support for conscious and inclusive language choices with these incredibly comfy bamboo/organic cotton blend tees. Available in fitted or straight-cut styles with plenty of color choices for shirts and inks to customize your look. 2. Arrant Pedantry Shop Utah editor Jonathon Owen has been writing about language usage and change for more than a decade on his Arrant Pedantry blog. The store connected to his blog features witty T-shirts in many sizes and styles that will make any grammarian chuckle. Top Picks: Stet Wars: The Editor Strikes Back T-shirt ($14.99–$20.99 depending on style) One of several hilarious Sci-Fi/word nerd mashup tees available at this shop. I Could Care Fewer T-shirt ($14.99–$20.99 depending on style) Make the pedants cringe and the descriptivists cheer with this grammatical shirt. 3. Blackwing The Blackwing 602 is one of the most famous pencils in history due to its impeccable quality and soft lead. Super-editor Mary Norris of The New Yorker even raved about Blackwing pencils in her book and in videos. Beyond the classic Blackwing 602, there are now several custom …

A Dev Editing Handbook with Novelistic Empathy

OCTOBER 2018 By Matthew Bennett In anticipation of our upcoming November 12 member meeting on developmental editing, let’s review a book that’s an inspiring and comprehensive introduction to the craft of “dev editing,” my own preferred corner of the craft. Imagine for a moment you’re an editor in a publishing house, perhaps one of the local presses like Wave Books in Seattle. As you sip your morning coffee, two of your colleagues (frazzled editors in their own right) collide in the hall and mix up their manuscripts. One of these manuscripts is a sly and meticulous instruction manual on the craft of developmental editing. The other is a novel about books, a story driven by conflict and (sometimes) resolution between editors, writers, and publishers. To aid your colleagues, you accidentally shuffle several chapters of each book into the other like a poker dealer with a stack of cards. One would expect the new hybrid manuscript to bewilder the narrative, but the shuffled whole catalyzes so harmoniously that the publisher rejoices in the happy accident. This resulting book is Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago, 2009). Norton divides his guide into ten chapters, each describing developmental editing processes and tools, on the one hand, and a fictionalized editing project, on the other. These fictional sections address several aspects of developmental editing by dramatizing a problematic writer-editor relationship, such as an uncompromising writer with a manuscript lacking a concept. To teach the interested writer or editor, Norton creates problems in the novelistic sections that he resolves in the guidance sections. Norton begins with the foundation of any successful editing relationship: to “engage in sustained acts of two-way empathy—toward … authors and their prospective readers.” For the writer, the craft of fiction demands a keenly developed empathetic imagination. For the dev editor as well, robust empathy is necessary for both the writer and their potential audience. Combining his own empathy with a mania for outlining, Norton humorously delivers his lessons for improving troubled manuscripts while encouraging an amicable working relationship between writer and editor. There is a wide variety of editing techniques in Developmental Editing, as well as endearing character studies and even views on the publishing industry, but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on only one section as exemplary of the whole. In chapter two of Developmental Editing we encounter the zombie manuscript: a shambling text that resembles a book and yet has no soul. Here Norton discusses the problem of a manuscript lacking a core concept, and he plops this text down between a first-time author, a New York trade publisher, and a freelance editor. For Norton, a subject is simply a topic that guides a particular discussion, while a concept is something larger, what we might refer to as a position or “an author’s special take on a subject.” Here is Norton’s editing process in a nutshell: interview the writer, read the manuscript deeply (twice is best!), take notes, categorize subjects, synthesize …