oral history, biography series, proofreader Robin Martin

Remembering Hoboken

Though I’ve lived in California pretty much since graduating from Rutgers College in 1993, anyone who knows me recognizes that you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. 

I do make it a point to keep one foot there. For the family, for the food, for the hockey team (Go Devils!), for the “cultcha.” Although– give me California climate, grocery stores, and lifestyle any day.

It’s my Jersey roots that perhaps make me so gratified to be invited to be a part of the Hoboken Historical Society’s Oral History Project Vanishing Hoboken chapbook series. I’ve been working with series editor Holly Metz and designer Ann Marie Manca for a number of years now to keep stories of a working class industrial Hoboken from being forgotten as the city changes.

And Hoboken has changed. I’m not going to say for better or for worse. It will always be Jersey.

oral history, biography series,  proofreader Robin Martin
Historical Biographies
Proofreader: Robin Martin
EFA Conference, NYC, editing, Sacramento Editing

Highlights from the Editorial Freelancers Conference

I’d met Mary Norris and taken care of my obligatory awkward-stuttering-fan first words at the Under the Gum Tree booth at AWP in LA earlier this year. So starting the day chatting with Mary Norris, the Comma Queen herself, was nothing but a pleasure.

My takeaway: There is no need to be intimidated by your heroes.

Jane Friedman’s Keynote was called “The Competitive Creative.” Self-awareness led to Friedman’s departure from the daily grind of her Writers Digest job into something that she felt was more energizing and fulfilling, and now she loves her day job— freelancing!

My takeaway: If you are ignoring the call to be creative, stop! As Jane said, “Art and business don’t have to be at war.”

During two hour-long sessions, attendees could choose to attend one of four simultaneous programs in small breakout rooms. I enjoyed Jake Poinier, who provided pro tips on pricing our freelance editorial services, with the reminder that “the best deals make you and the client happy.”

The takeaway message: “Do what you want, it’s your business!”

Then, Laura Poole and Kristen Stieffel introduced us to some new (and reminded us about some old) ways to organize our clients, jobs, and general to-do lists, including this gem: “Make your to-do lists the night before!”

The takeaway for me: “Don’t let the tools get in the way of your work.”

The incredible, funny, Mary Norris had the ideal crowd for her Keynote address on Day 2. “A Life Squandered on Words,” revealed a love for language that every person in that auditorium seemed to share. She discussed her prescriptivism, and unabashedly held it higher than descriptivism—everyone in the auditorium did not necessarily share this view. One man in the audience felt the need to take her to task on what he perceived as the failings of The New Yorker’s editorial staff, to which she replied: “You’re fired!” Wonderful. This got some play on Twitter (#EFACON16).

Erin Brenner presented the last session I attended about editing for the web. She provided valuable reminders in this session sponsored by Copyediting.com.

My takeaway: What I am doing at Two Songbirds Press is consistent with best practices.

It was so nice to meet the new members of the Board of Governors, the EFA Chapter coordinators, and those members interested in starting a chapter in their part of the world (shout out Florida!), as well as fellow freelancers from the EFA Discussion List and Social Media. The next EFA conference may be as soon as 2018, and I hope to attend.

 

 

editor sacramento editor

Supporting the community

editor sacramento editorIn 2009, when I joined the ranks of full-time freelancers, I discovered the Editorial Freelancers’ Association, an education and support organization for editing/writing/publishing professionals. I wanted an affiliation, and I needed to learn. Not long after that,  fellow EFA member Susan Herman and I started a Northern California chapter of the organization.

I remember at an early NorCal meeting, a participant (not an EFA member) asked what was in it for him. Were we going to generate business for one another through some kind of referral percentage system? How would we deal with competition among our ranks? This guy wanted to know how we could share information without giving away our own business. How would he wind up with more money in his pocket when he left our monthly meetings?

He didn’t get it.

Increasing skills & helping others understand what we do

Instead of looking myopically at how much money we will see going into our pocket in the short term, consider that building a network of professionals in the same field and discussing best practices may be the best way to support our community, increase understanding of what it is exactly that those in our field can do for a variety of clientele:  a publisher, yes, but also a small business, an author, a tech company, an insurance lender, etc.

Not all editors are the best fit for any given project, and neither are they necessarily in direct competition with one another. In just a small group, like the NorCal EFA chapter for example, we could have an academic textbook editor, a scientific journal editor, a business blog writer, a health ghostwriter, and two or three fiction editors. One of the fiction editors focuses on genre (sci fi/fantasy) fiction, the other on short stories and literary fiction.  While it is true that many of the required skills do overlap, and some of us do more than one thing well, experienced editors often have a niche in which they specialize. (Maybe it is related to subject, i.e. “music”; maybe style guide, i.e. “APA” ) Every one of us is likely to bring different experiences, personalities, policies, and price structures to the playing field.

Seven years later, Susan still has the Nor Cal EFA chapter going strong, and I am the organization’s International Chapter Development Chairperson, helping to facilitate the growth of chapters in order to increase the skills and exposure for EFA members. And I’m not afraid to link to her freelance-editor site from my freelance-editor blog.

Has supporting the editorial freelance community in this way put money directly in my pocket? I’ll say it has, because I believe it, but I have no stats to prove it. However, I am decidedly richer. Sharing, learning, being a part of a supportive community is valuable not only for me as a business owner, but also as a human being.

Two first-timers talk about attending #AWP16

The Association of Writers and Writing Program’s annual conference and bookfair is a very exciting industry event. It inspires. It disappoints. It overwhelms. It builds. It agitates. It connects a bunch of the diverse people who are in this writing biz. Even though there is no shortage of media posts surrounding this event, I feel compelled to add one. I interviewed two colleagues who attended the event for the first time this year.

AWP16Gary

Gary is a long-time psychotherapist in private practice. He has two graduate degrees, one of them in literature, but has never formally studied creative writing until he became my client. He writes linked and unlinked fiction, and had never heard of AWP until I suggested he attend the bookfair this year. So far, he only writes privately.

Jen

Jen is an emerging young creative nonfiction writer, who has a MA in Creative Writing and three children under 6 at home. Her work has been published in a number of places whose names you would recognize. Jen has a website where you can learn more about her: https://jenpalmaresmeadows.com

TSP: Why did you attend AWP in LA this year?  

Gary: I attended AWP LA to browse the book fair, make connections with other writers, editors, and publishers—and with you, of course, since we had never met in person. Also to catch as many panel discussions as possible that would 1) contain didactic content, especially in the areas of short fiction, LGBTQ fiction, memoir and other forms of nonfiction, and 2) provide guidance and information about getting my work in print, particularly in LGBTQ-friendly publications.

Jen: I had wanted to attend AWP since I first learned about it in grad school, but due to financial viability and familial obligations, was unable to do so until now. For years, I was the person stuck at home, following Twitter feeds, and reading AWP blogs. This year, everything came together. It’s nice to join the larger writing community as a sentient, flesh and blood person, rather than simply words on the screen. Computers are great, but do not replace a smile, an embrace, or thoughtful conversation with a stranger. 

TSP: What were you hoping to learn at the conference?

G: I was looking to make personal connections, learn of more LGBTQ-friendly publications, and benefit from the panel discussions.

J: I recently started a large essay project, so I hoped that the conference would help kickstart my project and motivate me to get some real work done on it. Listening to and discussing writing with other writers creates a sort of delicious frenzy that I wanted to take advantage of. Plus, there were must-attend panels and amazing keynotes. I also wanted reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, meet the writers I’d corresponded with online, and thank the journals and editors that had published my work.

TSP: What were your favorite panels (please tell me about up to three) and what did you enjoy about them?

G: Reimagining Literary Spaces [F199] and Story as Survival [F235]: I liked the information about current LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction, LGBTQ-friendly publications, and the political/diversity challenges within the literary/publishing world encountered by authors, and also by publications open to diverse voices. In addition, I learned more about memoir-writing from an LGBTQ perspective, and grew increasingly interested in that form of writing, as a result. Also, Linked and Unlinked, Reimagining Story Writing [S198]: This panel was very helpful to my process of writing linked short fiction.

J: Stories By Design: Visual Narratives [R123]: This was the first panel I attended, and one of my favorites. Hybrid writers are pushing form and language, playing with different medias. Some of the writers were using images, design, maps, drawings, video games and other forms. I think there’s so much exuberance and inspiration to be gained from attending those kinds of panels. You never know how they will enrich your writing. Literary Orphans Presents the Importance of Writing Essays That Change the World [R138]: Writing an essay that can ‘change the world’ seems ambitious and maybe impossible, but I liked the idea that it’s important we try. The all women panel was moderated by Anna March. Some of the things discussed: how personal story can become larger than yourself, writing from a place of authority, and owning your story. I came away from the panel inspired and motivated.

TSP: How much time did you spend at the bookfair? What table/booth at the bookfair was your favorite, and why?  

G: I spent less time than I would have liked, but I visited fifteen booths or more and browsed many others. Favorites: Under the Gum Tree, Narrative, LA Review (The Offing), Solstice, Slice, Lambda Literary, James Franco Review, Ascent, and others.

J: I probably spent three to four hours in the book fair each day. And it was time well spent, despite always thinking, “Oh, I’m missing this panel or that reading.” But there’s so much awesome at AWP, the feeling is inevitable. I couldn’t pick a favorite, though I did enjoy the Iron Horse booth which had a cool little horse race you could compete in for prizes. My favorites were the ones where I knew the people behind the table, and the journals that published my work. It was great being able to say, ‘thank you.’

TSP: Did you make any direct connections in support of your writing and/or publication?

G: I did make several good connections. I had a great chat with Paul Lisicky. He is very accessible and down to earth. He told me to reach out to him for possible submissions to his short fiction review.  As to publications on my list, [I’ve added] Solstice, Narrative, Slice, The Offing, and Under the Gum Tree. Others, too. I also have a better idea of which stories to submit, which to continue revising, and which to skip for now. They are all my babies: which to chose, which to neglect?

J: Yes, I did receive some offers to submit my work to places, and that of course, was appreciated–if you can differentiate yourself from the slush pile in any way, that’s handy. Still, I try to keep in mind that when it comes down to it, a successful writing career has less to do with networking and more to do with the work I create. You can shake every hand at AWP, get invitations from every editor, but if the writing isn’t good enough, it doesn’t matter. That’s why when I do meet people professionally, I’m more interested in connecting with them as individuals. It’s difficult to do, and I know not everyone has the time, energy or the inclination, but that connection is much more worthwhile to me.

TSP: If geography and resources came together right, would you consider attending a future AWP?

G: I would certainly consider attending in the future, but would try to arrange to be there for the entire conference.

J: Absolutely. Professionally, the opportunities the AWP conference provides are unlimited. You might find a publication or press that would be a great fit for your writing, or meet someone you want to collaborate on a project with. Writing can be a lonely business, so it’s wonderful to have a reason to gather now and again with the writing community, if only for support and encouragement.

TSP: What do you know now about the conference that you wish you’d have known going in? 

G: That there is too much to do and learn, and too many folks to meet, in two days!

J: Although countless blogs warned me, I wish I had known how mentally exhausted I would be by the last day of the conference. The first day, I shook hands, smiled, made witty conversation. By the last day, I wandered around the book fair, numb, and struggling to engage. I was zoned out at the booth of a well-known publication (I won’t say which one) when a man said my name in greeting. It was the editor for said well-known publication. We shook hands and he introduced himself. With poor eye contact, I mumbled, “I know who you are,” and kind of wandered away. My prepared canned response should have been: “I’m a subscriber. I appreciate your publication and the work you do. Thanks.” Exit. 

Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses, Jen and Gary. And, hey—no regrets! There’s always next year.

AWP16: Attending the Writing Industry’s Largest Event

In advance of The Association of Writers and Writing Program’s annual conference and bookfair, you can find serious tips and tricks for surviving it, and humorous explorations, such as this field guide. During it, you can follow literally thousands of attendees and exhibitors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even I did a bit of #awp16 @undergumtree tweeting this year.

sacramento editor, under the gum tree, Robin Martin AWP

And following the conference, of course, you can find everyone’s rundown of the panels they attended, the hands they shook, the swag they carried home and the colds they caught.

It is a very exciting industry event and everyone has something to say about it. It inspires. It disappoints. It overwhelms. It builds. It agitates. It connects a bunch of the diverse people who are in this writing biz. This year, over 12,000 of us.
This, my fifth AWP Conference, involved no air travel, fewer expenses, time in my comfortable (hybrid) vehicle with audio books, and lovely weather. The Under the Gum Tree/Fourth Genre event was a tremendous success by all accounts. While at the book fair, I was able to meet many writers that Gum Tree has published, prospective contributors and potential editorial assistants for Gum Tree, as well as current and former clients of Two Songbirds Press, colleagues from the Editorial Freelancers Association, and editors of other presses who have inspired me.

Even though there is no shortage of media posts surrounding this event, I feel compelled to add one.

I thought I’d change it up a bit and instead of writing about my experiences (although I did have a great time and am writing —inspired by a panel I attended), I asked some questions of two colleagues who attended the event for the first time this year.

Gary: Gary is a long-time psychotherapist in private practice. He has two graduate degrees, one of them in literature, but has never formally studied creative writing until he became my client. He writes linked and unlinked fiction, and had never heard of AWP until I suggested he attend the bookfair this year. So far, he only writes privately.
Jen: 
Jen is an emerging young creative nonfiction writer, who has a MA in Creative Writing and three children under 6 at home. Her work has been published in a number of places whose names you would recognize. Jen has a website where you can learn more about her: https://jenpalmaresmeadows.com

I am looking forward to receiving their responses and sharing them here!

Look sharp! Editing adds professionalism.

Professional Tip: Hire an editor to refine your language.

Wait– maybe “refine” isn’t the best word for what I do, because most of my clients are average-Joes who don’t want to sound like they are drinking tea with their pinkies in the air. So because “refine” has this subtle unintended meaning associated with snobbery, let me find a better word to explain myself exactly. How about “clarify” or, even better perhaps, “sharpen”? Because who doesn’t want their language to be precise, to cut right to it, and to get the job done efficiently, like a sharp knife?

What I did here in my first paragraph is precisely what an editor can do for your writing. An editor will sharpen the language you use to communicate with your audience.

This might make some people fear that their personality will be cut right out of their writing. (And too many writers have had that experience with editors; it is true.) Doggone it—you want to sound like you! And if you’d never-ever use the word “doggone” in a blog post, no one should add it in an effort to “refine” your language.

A good copyeditor will listen to your voice and maintain your personality while cleaning up wordiness and redundancy in the language of your post or web copy.

Your casual voice, the way you talk, is completely fine for blogs and social media posts, which are intended to be friendly and build community based on who you really are. It is important not to come across as stiff or fake. But it is easy to miss silly things when we read our own writing. (Like using “also” and “too” at different ends of the same sentence.) So an outside professional is better equipped to notice the tics that make you who you are, and emphasize them; as well as notice the tics that make you look unprofessional (or idiotic) and eliminate them.

And for more formal writing, like whitepapers, cover letters, or printed marketing material, a copyeditor can also help identify jargon that hides meaning from the layperson you’re trying to attract. A copyeditor can trim down the number of words so you can have a more attractive layout. (Some editors also do design work.)

A proofreader can make sure your autocorrect hasn’t added an auto-error, that you haven’t misplaced an apostrophe, that you haven’t used the word “tick” when you meant “tic;” or, (heaven forbid!) “there” when you meant “their” or “they’re.” These are things that should have been eliminated from your writing by ninth grade, and these errors poorly reflect your professionalism.

If you’re interested in learning more about what an editor can do for you, you may want to visit the Editorial Freelancers Association, or, head over to my Contact Us page, follow the directions for completing TSP’s Editorial Services Survey and I’ll get in touch with you.

 

 

 

 

Sacramento editor keeping busy this winter

I thought I’d post a quick rundown of what’s been keeping me occupied lately, and what I’m looking forward to in the near future.

I continue to work with short-story and novel writers to hone their craft. One is working on a series of connected pieces that we are putting together as a single collection, a novel-in-stories (a la the much-discussed Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno). I find this kind of work engaging and tremendously fun. Please feel free to fill out an editorial services survey and reach out if you would like to consult with me about your writing. I have a spot or two available.

Speaking of Anthony Marra, I recently attended a CapRadio Reads event featuring this fine crafter of prose. He is not only brilliant, but also charming. My colleague Kate Asche released her book of poems (Our Day in the Labyrinth, Finishing Line Press) at a reading at a well-attended Sac Poetry Center event. Also, Radio Silence (currently on hiatus- boo!) hosted Elvis Costello in San Francisco; a great event in conjunction with the release of Costello’s memoir. So, I’ve been getting out a bit.

I’m enjoying engaging with musician-writers and other music-aficionados on Twitter @Sacramentorobin. Rock and roll memoirs and biographies are almost an obsession of mine. My pet department at Under the Gum Tree is the Soundtrack category, where I get to work with writers for whom music holds a special place in their hearts. That’s where I worked, for example, with the terrific Samuel Autman (watch him rocket to greatness!) when he wrote about Donna Summer.

At Under the Gum Tree, things continue to grow. Pick up a print copy for your coffee table. Send your creative nonfiction to us! And if you will be at AWP 2016 in LA, be sure to stop by our booth at the book fair and come to our event (details TBD). AWP, of course will get its own posts here when the time comes.

I am, as always, reading lots. Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Ploughshares, Writers’ Chronicle, Poets and Writers, Essay Daily, J.M. Coetzee, The Sun, Mother Jones, The New York Times. Etcetera. I just picked up Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, and am wondering how I ever missed it.

Always learning, reading like a writer. Not so much writing, but lately the bug has been making me itch. I will be hankering down soon.

Thank you for reading my blog. Remember, I’m here if you would like support with any part of your writing process.