Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why I love ACES meetings

I've been absent for two years from the annual gatherings of the American Copy Editors Society. I missed them. I'd forgotten how much till I was able to make it again this year to the gathering in St. Louis.

It's about meeting old friends - and some of them former co-workers - like John McIntyre, Bill Cloud, Wayne Countryman, Joyce Laskowski, Vicki Krueger, David Sullivan, Rich Holden (great to have him back from bypass surgery), Merrill Perlman, Doug Ward, Nicole Stockdale, Fred Vultee ... and too many others to mention.

And finally getting to meet others who have been kindred spirits over the digital divide, like Ruth Thaler-Carter (and having a great lunch).

It's about great sessions, like the annual AP lovefest and seeing my old friend and former colleague Darrell Christian. Or how to make copy readable without making it stupid.

There's listening to a former editor of Hustler - yeah, we concentrated on the text errors as he flashed various examples on the screen (trust me, the other stuff was very tastefully redacted).

There's sharing stories with others in the trenches, especially the academic trenches, about teaching editing and writing and dealing with plagiarism and fabrication. I always come away with new ideas as well as the realization we all are seeing the same thing: students who are great hunter-gatherers if the information prey is on the surface in front of them but who have trouble connecting the dots (or, continuing the bad metaphor, aren't great farmers in making things grow). It's compounded by watching more students increasingly struggle to read things quickly and critically. (I do miss the lunches that we "profs" used to have at these meetings and hope we can resume them.)

There's the great conversation about Southern politics with the guy next to me at dinner.

Followed by a great talk by Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster. Yes, people do read the dictionary, and the online stats show it. Some fascinating things. For instance, what are the most looked-up words? Affect and effect. So don't feel bad, dear student. As I've said many times, look it up (grin).

(And the reminder from Bill Walsh that sentence fragments like those in the previous graf are fine if used sparingly and artfully.)

There is great food. And there are great views.

And there's the reminder that I need to push some of our students more to apply for ACES scholarships. (Yeah, you who are going to that North Carolina city for an editing internship - I'm talkin' about you. My bad for not pushing it more. Expect to get pushed for next year when I get back. Next year's application is already online.)

And most of all there is satisfaction and pride.
  • Satisfaction that the reality Nicole and I predicted has come true from when we did those blogging and SEO for editors sessions back in Los Angeles and Miami and Cleveland (and when I went solo in Denver), and people were crowding the room but also were looking at us like we had three eyes and were lighting torches and sharpening their pitchforks. I don't mean smug satisfaction -- we admittedly were out on the high wire and, like everyone else at that time, were making it up as we went. And I remember being almost jumped at the general session in Denver when I got up and suggested ACES needed to start broadening from its newspaper-centric view.
  • Pride that ACES has matured, expanded and embraced the digital age and the wide range of editing arts full bore. Yes, some of it was born of necessity, mixed with a bit of panic as ACES saw its ranks thin as newsrooms went through wholesale cuts, centralization (or elimination) of editing, etc. But the measure of a person or organization is not necessarily the motivation, but how they (yes, they -- it's not wrong to use it there) respond. And by that measure, ACES has truly risen to the challenge and found its stride and its strength. And while it still remains too hidden (including, Sokolowski acknowledged, to him), and while editors still too often are seen as nit-pickers and grammar grunts, neither of which has ever been true of those who truly practice the craft, knowing that ACES continues to strengthen is great -- because I plan on attending these for a few more years at least.
Congrats on another great meeting.

Best line seen at the meeting on a T-shirt (paraphrased from memory): How does a copy editor comfort a struggling writer? Just walk over and whisper "they're, there, their."

On to Las Vegas.

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At 4/6/13, 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Their's no thier there.

At 4/7/13, 3:01 PM, Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

I took a break from the conference this year and followed the fun via social media. It was almost as good as the real thing, but not exactly.

See you in Vegas for ACES 2014.

At 4/11/13, 4:53 PM, Blogger Wayne Countryman said...

Was great to see you, Doug -- I'd been away for a few years too.

And it was great to see in person the renewed strength and broadened focus of ACES.

At 4/12/13, 10:32 AM, Blogger tom said...

I should've gone, but I've been too busy freelancing.

I was glad to see the membership is recovering and that a notable chunk of them are freelancers.

I agree that the image of copy editors as no-talent nit-pickers played a role in the profession's decline. It's no Hawaiian vacation making it as a freelancer but the skills are still in demand if you can track down who needs them.

At 4/12/13, 12:14 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Tom, Andy:

Definitely missed you. And, Tom, good to see the freelancing is busy.

Definitely great to see you. All the best for success.


At 4/13/13, 5:00 PM, Anonymous Jim Thomsen said...

Honestly, as I look over the conference schedule each year, I'm still not seeing sufficient offerings for book editors. There's thousands of us out there, and room for thousands more. It's the most forward-looking editing discipline out there, thanks to the meteoric rise in e-book publishing. And it's populated by people who actually get to concentrate on wordsmithing on their own terms.

Why isn't ACES reaching out more aggressively to us? Why is it still focusing most of its time and energy on a segment of the industry in rapid decline, populated by people who do comparatively little editing as a proportion of their overall workloads?

Jim Thomsen


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