State of the Guild 2020

Dear Guild members,

In a “normal” year—that is, in a year without a pandemic—the Northwest Editors Guild would host a gathering of members at the annual potluck in the fall. This gathering gives members in the Puget Sound region a chance to meet informally to share good food and good company. We regret that this event, along with so many others, had to be canceled this year.

It is traditionally at the annual potluck that the Guild president gives a State of the Guild speech. Without that annual gathering, I’ve opted to write to you instead with some reflections and updates from the Guild in this most tumultuous of years. In early spring, we made a rapid transition to remote events and, in doing so, were able to make the acquaintance of editors across the country and even around the world. While we deeply miss networking face-to-face, it’s been heartening to see our Guild community grow.

The Guild’s mascot, Giant Pencil, models proper mask-wearing behavior and fall fashion.

The last in-person gathering of Guild members was way back in January, when about a dozen of us made the trek in wintry conditions to the Southside Commons in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle for our first member meeting of the year. Although we had hoped for a higher turnout, it ended up being a delightful intimate gathering that I now think back on wistfully. Imagine! Gathering a dozen people together in an enclosed space with the biggest concern being the icy conditions outside. Two months later, the next member meeting had to be canceled on short notice, given the rising COVID-19 infection rates in the Seattle area at the time, and instead we held an impromptu gathering online. Then we made the rapid transition to hosting all subsequent meetings online.

The transition to remote member meetings was made infinitely easier by the aid of our volunteer webinar coordinator, Sarah Peterson. We originally envisioned having Sarah help us put on a couple of webinars—something we wanted to try out this year in order to reach a wider Guild audience than we can at in-person events. No one could have anticipated that we would quickly rely on Sarah to facilitate our newly remote member meetings as well! Sarah’s expertise has been invaluable as we’ve all scrambled to figure out how to “Zoom.” If you’ve attended a virtual member meeting this year, you’ve likely seen Sarah running the show as the moderator.

Despite having to cancel in-person events this year, we on the board have been delighted to see that Guild members have participated in remote events, sometimes in record numbers! In April, for example, total attendance for online Guild events was 281. We held our first formal online member meeting that month with record-breaking attendance: 78 people participated in the presentation on editing PDFs (presented by Sarah Peterson).

If there is a silver lining for the Guild this year, it’s been the opportunity to connect with a wider Guild audience through remote events. We’ve made many new friends this year who we might not otherwise have met if we had held only the usual in-person events in Seattle, Portland, and a few other locations in the region. We have long wanted to reach more far-flung members with networking and educational opportunities and have been working on strategies to achieve this goal. The pandemic propelled us into the position of having to host events online, and the outcome and reception have been positive. Thus we anticipate continuing to provide online programming even when it is safe to meet in person again. We expect to also return to meeting in person for at least a few member meetings each year and for regional coffee hours and happy hours, of course. I know that many of us have been missing that opportunity to mingle face-to-face.

Let me give you a better picture of member engagement this year: Total attendance for all eight member meetings held online so far this year numbers close to 300. Attendance for other online events, from informal coffee hours to book clubs to mentoring chats, totals more than 700. Here’s a rundown of events held online this year between late March and early November:

  • 8 online member meetings
  • 26 informal coffee hours or happy hours
  • 24 regional group meetings
  • 10 online mentoring chats
  • 6 book club meetings
  • 4 small-group virtual visits
  • 3 volunteering and board-recruitment events

That’s 82 Guild events, with total attendance surpassing 1,000 (well beyond attendance numbers in a normal year). Guild members have also been engaged online via the listserv, with 336 discussions so far this year. Many, many thanks to each of you, our members, for attending and/or hosting these events and for contributing to listserv conversations! Check for upcoming events on the Guild’s events calendar, learn more about hosting your own coffee hour or happy hour on our Volunteer page, and submit events here (logged-in members only). You can also view past meeting notes and recordings here.

Our member numbers have been pretty steady for the past three years, hovering right around 400. This year we have 388, and almost 20 percent of these are new to the Guild. Welcome to all our new members!

Although the Guild’s region of focus is the Pacific Northwest, where the vast majority of our members reside, we have added about a dozen new faces from more distant regions since we opened up membership to editors outside the Northwest last year. Some of our newer members join us from California, Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan. And even here in the Northwest, our reach has expanded to include several from Idaho and Montana.

The makeup of the Guild’s board of directors has also expanded to better represent members across the region. Though the majority of us are in the greater Seattle area, from Everett in the north to Tacoma in the south, we now have three board members in the greater Portland area, and we anticipate welcoming board members from even farther afield next year. Since the end of 2019, board meetings have been held on Zoom, making it possible for board members to participate from any location. If you are interested in learning more about board service, please feel free to reach out to me, or any board member, to learn more. We’re looking to fill six spots for two-year terms beginning in January 2021.

Aside from routine tasks and operations and generally keeping the Guild afloat amid the turbulence this year, the board and our stable of devoted volunteers have been working on several other projects. Here is a sampling of some of the Guild’s activities this year:

  • Our administrator, Jen Grogan, and the Guild’s Communications committee have been hard at work developing a new website. Stay tuned for the unveiling!
  • Board members attended a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training in October—a preliminary step in an ongoing effort to increase diversity in our membership and, by extension, our profession. We hope to bring a DEI training to members in the coming year so that we can all work collectively and individually toward greater equity for underrepresented populations in publishing.
  • The Guild Mentoring Program paired 24 mentees with mentors this year for 10-week one-on-one sessions. The mentoring program’s coordinator, Nevin Mays, also initiated a pilot program to provide micro-mentoring to editing students at Portland State University and the University of Washington. This program served 18 student mentees in small-group sessions.
  • Treasurer Michael Schuler spearheaded the effort to switch the Guild to using QuickBooks and has continued to formalize the process. (Do you have experience with QuickBooks, or would you like to learn to use it? We’re looking for someone to serve as treasurer in 2021. Training provided! Please contact me if you are interested.)
  • The Guild’s blog posts have tackled some challenging topics this year, including COVID-19 and the fight for racial justice. Volunteer blog coordinator Kristin Stein has worked with the Communications committee to bring you this content.
  • The Guild’s Writer Mentor Program, which pairs mentor editors with aspiring writers, is just wrapping up its second year. The program was developed and is coordinated by board member Matt Bennett. This year the program partnered with Seattle’s Crosscut.
  • Several Guild volunteers discussed editing with writers at the Willamette Writers first virtual conference. Thanks to interim volunteer coordinator, Julie Swearingen, for working with the Outreach committee to coordinate this opportunity. Julie filled in for board member Alison Cantrell when Alison was on maternity leave over the summer.
  • The Communications committee developed the Guild’s code of conduct.
  • Our social media following continues to grow thanks to coordinator Jill Walters and to all of you who interact with the Guid via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Our largest audience increase was through LinkedIn, where the Guild more than doubled its number of followers in the last year. Posts featuring StetPet animal editorial assistants continued to be our most popular across all platforms. 
  • In addition to providing increased virtual programming this year, the Member Services team released our biennial member rates survey. If you have not yet completed the survey, please take a few minutes to do so in the coming weeks as this will help us keep our editorial rate chart updated.

Finally, I would like to offer thanks to four outgoing board members for their two or three years of service: Alicia Ramos, MariLou Harveland, Matt Bennett, and Michael Schuler. And thanks to the six board members who will continue to serve the Guild in their second or third year: Alison Cantrell, Brendan McLaughlin, Jesi Vega, Kris Ashley, Laura Shaw, and Laura Whittemore. Thanks also to our many volunteers, from those who facilitate or coordinate Guild programs to those who serve as mentors or as happy hour hosts.

And to all of our members: Thank you for continuing to support the Guild’s work and, especially, for supporting one another in this trying time. The Northwest Editors Guild comprises some of the most respectful, thoughtful, bright, and talented people I have ever known. Thank you all for your participation.

Wishing you all the best,

Erin Cusick

Erin Cusick

Erin is an independent copyeditor, proofreader, and fact-checker specializing in literary fiction, novels in translation, historical fiction, and cookbooks. She revels in the variety in her work and that each project provides an opportunity to learn something new from the subject matter. Erin is wrapping up her two-year board service term, having served as secretary in 2019 and president in 2020. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and baking, learning to play the piano, hiking and backpacking, and, of course, reading.

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