The Black Cat monthly round-up: May 2019

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Mini and Ella having a snooze after a walk.

Welcome to the May round-up. I had another full-on month – I’m starting to think this is the standard now and I should get used to it. I’m getting on well with Toggl, and I have found it has significantly increased my productive time.

We had a good time at Black Cat HQ, with Mini visiting for a week or so mid-May. Her dad had swanned off on holiday, again (this time to Spain). Mins is an absolute sweetheart, and Ella always loves having her here.

One of the other highlights of the month was the SfEP local group lunch meeting. It’s always an enjoyable few hours, but this was a particularly lovely meeting. We had a couple of new faces, but the atmosphere was still warm, friendly and unguarded.

What I’ve been working on

May started with the proofread of the memoir of an economist and former banker, which was straightforward enough. Alongside that, I copy-edited the first part of a varied and thoughtful collection of short stories. My second proofread of the month was a crime novel set in London and dealing with issues of sexuality and gender. And then I got stuck into the edit of an epic (in length as well as content) fantasy-romance novel. I don’t usually work on romance titles but the quality of the writing and the strength of the fantasy elements enticed me to make an exception.

What I read for fun

I mentioned in the April round-up that I would be writing my first review for the SfEP’s Editing Matters magazine. Well, I read the book and I wrote the review. The book I tackled was On Editing by Helen Corner-Bryant and Kathryn Price. I won’t spoil my review but I loved the book and I’d highly recommend it for fiction authors and editors.

The Princess Bride Black Cat Editorial Services_ May round-up(1)by William Goldman was my only fiction read this month – yet another classic I really should read already (I have recently bought a whole load of classics to try to address this failing of mine). It is, of course, brilliant, and if you love the film you will love the book. Perhaps the most striking thing, for me, is the framing device of Goldman editing the work of the fictional author S. Morgenstern. It took me a while grasp the complexity of the whole thing – Goldman narrates as a fictionalised version of himself, weaving a story within a story. If you are thinking about using a framing device in your work, you should check out Goldman’s stunning, intricate example.

Looking ahead

I have a couple of projects to finish off for the beginning of June. I’m hoping to put aside a few days to start working through the SfEP’s Introduction to Fiction Editing course. I aim to do at least one training course each year to support my continuing professional development. I love working on fiction, I have heard good things about the SfEP’s course, and I had a discount voucher to use up – it seemed the obvious choice.

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The benefits of SfEP local groups

Are you a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)? Are you thinking about becoming an SfEP member?* If the answer is yes to either question, have you met up with a local group yet? Even before I became the coordinator for the West Surrey and North Hampshire local group, I recommended local groups wholeheartedly. It can be a bit scary to put yourself out there, but here’s why you should go along:

It gets you out and about

I can go days without talking to someone outside of my immediate family, and that’s probably not very healthy. I can have whole months when I only leave the house to walk the dogs. That’s definitely not healthy. But it’s such an easy default to slip into when you are self-employed and working from home. I don’t have to talk to anyone (I’m not counting contact with clients). Regular, face-to-face meetings with other human beings are the perfect antidote to the little bubbles we can find ourselves trapped in.

You will build a support network

LGMThis, for me, is the most valuable aspect of attending a local group. Every couple of months I meet up with people who care about how I’m getting on, and I care about how they are getting on. We share our successes and our troubles. We give and receive advice and support. Being able to talk to people who do what you do, and understand the things you are dealing with, is extremely important. There is no need to feel isolated or lost or out of your depth. It has never been the case that a member of our group has been alone in whatever was worrying them.

You’ll learn things

Many local groups hold training sessions or continuing professional development (CPD) days – a quick glance through the calendar of events confirms a range of topics. Our last CPD day was about working with PDFs. The next one will be about professional practice. But it’s not all about dedicated sessions and specific topics. I’ve learnt such a lot from our informal meetings. If you approach the meetings with openness and generosity, you’ll find it reciprocated.

You may get work out of it

Let me start this section by saying I consider it poor etiquette to ask for leads, and I don’t think I am alone in that. However, when you get to know other editors they may become inclined to refer work to you, if they can’t take it on themselves. I refer work to other members of my group, and members of the group refer work to me. I’ve picked up some excellent projects this way, and I know other members have too. And it’s good for our clients – we can’t take on the project, but we know someone who may be able to, and we know they will do a good job.

It’s fun

A lot of local group meetings involve food. If you are anything like me, that will be all the encouragement you need. West Surrey and North Hampshire meetings are usually lunches. It’s a couple of hours of sitting with your friends, eating good food, and having a chat. I’ve spoken to a few other coordinators and they all aim for a friendly, welcoming environment, where you can enjoy yourself.

Want to learn more?

The SfEP has a lot of information about the local groups. If you are an SfEP member, you should join your local group’s forum and see what they are up to. And you can always email the coordinator(s) for more information. We are volunteers – we aren’t paid for the time we spend on local group business – but we’ll do our best to assist. It’s always lovely to welcome new group members.


*Non-SfEP members can attend up to three meetings. Once you’ve joined the SfEP, you can attend as many meetings as you like. And you aren’t restricted to one group – join as many as you want!