The State of the Guild . . . Depends on You!

October 2019

By Elaine Duncan, president of the Northwest Editors Guild

Note: In this State of the Guild address, presented at our October 12 potluck, Elaine acknowledged the many volunteers who made things happen in 2019 and suggested ways volunteers can move the Guild’s mission forward in 2020. A few of those opportunities are highlighted in boldface below, and we’re always open to members’ fresh, creative ideas for future community building.

It’s my pleasure to be here today to update you on where we stand.

First, a personal note. I joined the Guild in 2013 right after moving here from the Bay Area. I still remember walking into that first meeting at the Good Shepherd Center. I didn’t know a single person. I didn’t even know what developmental editing was. I never thought I’d be president one day. But that first meeting was fun, I met some really nice people, and here I am.

Now for the Guild. Two years ago, we generated a lot of new ideas, and this year we spent most of our time implementing those ideas, which can be challenging. We have had a lot of success, but there is still a lot of opportunity. I’d like to highlight some of each.

Our most recent success was the Red Pencil Conference, which came off beautifully last month at Bastyr University.

Attendees at the 2019 Red Pencil Conference working on a hands-on editing exercise during a session. (Photo by Jill Walters.)

The theme of the conference was a new one, Voice & Voices. It was aimed at including and recognizing the contributions of groups who are not traditionally part of the editing community. To support that theme, for the first time ever, we offered six scholarships—funded by contributions from individual Guild members—to editors from underrepresented groups who would not otherwise have been able to attend their first conference. I know the recipients appreciated our effort, and I hope we have laid the groundwork for future relationships.

Anyone who’s ever done something like organizing a conference knows how hard it is. But the committee was so well-run and so hard-working that the whole event looked seamless, despite a few speakers who cancelled at the last minute. Even the weather cooperated! And who can forget the editors’ lament to the tune of “Home on the Range” at the end of the conference? That was brilliant.

The band singing at the end of the conference. (Photo by Jill Walters.)

And they’re still not done. The committee is documenting its process to make things easier for future conference planners to do their work without reinventing the wheel. I’d like to recognize the committee for everything they have done: Tori Smith, Kyra Freestar, Lea Galanter, Erica Akiko Howard, Tina Loucks-Jaret, Barbara Mulvey Little (Spokane), Ivonne Ward, and Polly Zetterberg.

Other big changes have come from the Communications committee, which has been implementing our first-ever marketing plan to develop a unifying Guild voice for our public face and social media—the motto is “approachable, credible, and clear.” The committee, has designed beautiful marketing materials for Guild members to use in public, for example, at one of our half dozen regular regional meetings, plus topical meetings on technical editing, book clubs, and so on. Our social media coordinator, Jill Walters, has used furry #StetPets and iconic Giant Pencil to increase the number of followers on our social media platforms, the biggest increase being on LinkedIn. Betsy Berger has been adding to our collection of professional quality photos, and Karen Parkin has beefed up the frequency of our regular blog posts. If you haven’t seen these developments, check them out on the website or social media.

Communications works hand in hand with the brand new Outreach committee, which coordinates a Guild presence at writers’ conferences to promote our members’ services. In fact, we are hosting a table at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference in Bellevue next weekend, and again at the Portland Book Festival on November 9. These are great opportunities to meet people and talk about the Guild, so if you have some free time and want to talk about editing, let one of us know. If any of you have ideas for nonfiction or professional groups you think we should contact, let us know that too.

Other outreach efforts include the Speakers Bureau, which Jessyca Yoppolo helped get off the ground with a virtual talk to the Ketchikan Public Library writing group in the spring, and the job board, which our administrator, Jen Grogan, has been updating weekly. Look for a survey on that later this year so we can get your feedback.

And of course, the Programming committee has been hard at work with our traditional bimonthly meetings in Seattle, which, thanks to videographer Sue Cook and note-taking volunteers, are also on YouTube and the website. So far we have had presentations on twenty-first century typography, the results of the Guild rate survey and tips on negotiating, and editing for global audiences. Our next meeting is November 11 and will feature longtime Guild member Beth Jusino talking about the current landscape in book publishing. And one big new thing we hope to try later this year: a webinar. Programming chair MariLou Harveland plans to work with a speaker to host a webinar in December, which could really expand the reach of our programming outside Seattle.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been putting new ideas into action too. For the first time, thanks in large part to Valerie Paquin, we have a strategic plan that attempts to measure the success of things we do, for example:

  • How many writers stopped at our table at the Willamette Writers Conference in August?
  • How many individual discussions took place on the Guild listserv this year?
  • How many people found work through our job board?
  • How well do these efforts serve our membership?

The strategic plan also keeps us focused on our mission, which is to connect writers with professional editors in the Pacific Northwest, foster community among our members, and provide resources for their career development. Speaking of fostering community, we primarily have our secretary, Erin Cusick, to thank for getting us all here at the potluck today.

Back to the plan. One of the new goals we added to the strategic plan at the beginning of this year was to promote member diversity and increase programming on inclusive and nonbiased language. We accomplished that in spades with the Red Pencil conference, but also with individual programs like the six-month pilot Emerald Writers Mentor Program, a brainchild of Matt Bennett to bring the Guild and South Seattle Emerald together to give amateur writers the benefit of professional writing and publishing experience. Based on initial success, we hope to continue it next year.

A panel and audience at the 2019 conference. (Photo by Jill Walters.)

To get more into the weeds, we have done a lot to improve our financial standing this year, thanks to the Operations committee and our intrepid treasurer, Michael Schuler. Michael is doing an online trial of QuickBooks to simplify the treasurer’s job—hint, hint—and make sure we spend our money in ways that really benefit members. We are also looking at areas where we need established policies, like financial guidance, privacy, and terms of use for our website.

Speaking of the website, thanks again to Jen Grogan, we substantially improved our membership profile system, which now gives you a lot more flexibility in designing your public profile and finally allows people whose last names do not start with A to pop up first on the database listing! If you haven’t updated your profile yet, take a look at it. And finally, rumor has it we may be switching from WordPress to another platform, but that is a story for next year.

As you can tell, we have a lot of work in progress. And while we have a lot of different kinds of expertise on the board and among our volunteers, and we have a great committee support structure, most of these accomplishments are simply due to individual people sticking their toes in the water, learning about these areas, and doing really cool things together.

And I think you can see the results. Our membership has been growing, and this year for the first time, we topped 400—405 current active members. So far in 2019 we have had 118 applications, about 25 percent of which have been from Oregon; we have also received our first new members from Idaho in over a dozen years, as well as two members from California and one each from Montana and Michigan. Yes, Michigan: we decided this year to allow applicants from other states—mostly states adjacent to the Pacific Northwest where folks feel the love, or members who move away and still feel the love—but please do not worry: this will not change our regional focus.

And even our regional focus has been expanding. After several years of promoting events in Oregon, we have our first Portland board member this year, Alison Cantrell, who serves as our volunteer coordinator. And based on some discussions at the conference, I think our Spokane contingent is also about to grow, and there is a separate editorial group in Springfield-Eugene started by Guild cofounder Sherri Schultz.

My final pitch is about getting involved: at last count, eight of our twelve board members will be stepping down this year. Of course, we want and need board members—people who have the opportunity over a two-year period to shape the overall direction of the Guild and direct specific programs. The camaraderie, networking, and sense of contribution are great added benefits. (See my earlier blog post on board involvement.)

But we are also making it easier for non-board volunteers to get involved at a lower level of commitment in activities previously done mostly by board members—like planning our bimonthly member meetings, developing a marketing plan, organizing our finances, getting the Speakers Bureau going again. This makes sense, since some of our most successful programs have long been run by non-board volunteers—take mentoring, for example—which was revitalized a few years ago by former board member Kyra Freestar and then handed off to Nevin Mays in Oregon, with help from Lynn Post for mentoring happy hours in Seattle.

We on the board want to keep close ties with those programs, but there is a lot of opportunity at all different levels for people to contribute to this wonderful organization. So think about it. If I have mentioned anything today that piques your interest, talk to a board member. Stick your toe in the water! Alicia Ramos, our board development person, would be delighted to learn more about you and your interest in becoming more active in the Guild.

So, with that, I would like to thank this year’s board members—Matt Bennett, Betsy Berger, Alison Cantrell, Sue Cook, Erin Cusick, MariLou Harveland, Valerie Paquin, Karen Parkin, Alicia Ramos, Michael Schuler, and Jessyca Yoppolo. I’d also like to thank all of our many volunteers, from notetakers at member meetings to program coordinators to the awesome Red Pencil committee.

As I said at the close of the conference, we might not be the biggest editing organization in the country, but we are the most fun! So go back to having fun, and thank you for listening.


To find out more about volunteering, contact volunteer coordinator Alison Cantrell (alisonjcantrell@gmail.com). If you’re considering joining the Guild’s board of directors in 2020, it’s not too late! Contact Alicia Ramos (aliciazramos@gmail.com) or keep an eye on the listserv: we’ll soon announce the dates for more happy hour Q&A sessions.

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Elaine Duncan

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. It was a great way to meet people, and one of the members encouraged me to enroll in the University of Washington editing program, which I did. I started freelancing and then joined the Guild board as treasurer for two years, member-at-large for one year, and then president in 2019. Joining the Guild and then serving on its board have been instrumental in helping me feel grounded in Seattle. 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.