ACES 2012: Editors unite in the Big Easy

new-orleansMy first American Copy Editors Society (ACES) annual conference surpassed my expectations—by far.
My brain was mush and my feet were blistered, but I was with my tribe. Just over four days of editor shop talk … and fried crawfish, crawfish etouffee, crawfish dip, crawfish beignets… (am I starting to sound like Bubba Gump?) .
Here’s a recap of the most memorable sessions:
Most starstruck. On my three flights down to New Orleans, I belatedly read The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Saller Fisher, the editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online’s Q&A. So when she was a panelist with the arbitrars of style from the Associated Press, I sat in the third row and gaped like a groupie. I love that Carol not only summarized the changes from CMoS 15 to CMoS 16 but also gave us her personal thumbs up or thumbs down opinion of each. (More about CMoS 16 in a future blog, I promise.)
Flashback to college. “A Keen Eye for Graphics,” led by Bill Cloud of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was the most like being transported back to my college Journalism school days. The ACES program mentioned “wonderful prizes awarded” to those who spotted errors in graphics. When I raised my hand and said that “Santorium” should be “Santorum,” Bill tossed me a Moon Pie.
Most like a self-help group. For “Avoiding Burnout,” a group of workaholics and overachievers formed a circle and had an engaging and sometimes emotional discussion about setting boundaries and realistic expectations. Takeaway: There’s always someone whose situation is far, far more stressful than your own.
Most seriously funny. “Even Porn Needs a Style,” led by Eric Althoff, former editor at Hustler, had me cracking up. Eric would put up a slide of a Hustler page and ask, “What’s jumping out at you?” And we had to look beyond the boobs and point out that if a two-word term is in Merriam-Webster’s, we don’t add a hyphen to create an adjectival form. Takeaway: No matter what the content is, bring solid editing skills and a professional attitude.
Most trouble with sticky notes. The premise behind the “Freelance Editors Forum” was that audience members would write questions on sticky notes, and the panelists would select questions from a wall of sticky notes. Of course, sticky notes don’t stick to textured wallpaper. But panelist Erin Brenner of really impressed me with her technological savvy for amassing editorial resources. If I were looking for freelance work, her method of amassing information via RSS feed would be life-changing. She’s my runner-up idol after Carol Saller Fisher.
Most practical session. When I first saw the topic “How to Learn a Style Guide 10 Days,” I thought, gosh, if I took 10 days to learn a style guide I’d be 10 days past the deadline. But I was thinking about the relatively short corporate style guides we receive from most clients. Presenter Colleen Barry (@CopyCurmudgeon) was talking about book-length style guides like Associated Press and the Chicago Manual of Style. Colleen has carefully divided up tasks to make it possible to know what you to need to know about a style guide in 10 days. Useful stuff!
Biggest kick in the pants. About one-third of the conference participants were tweeting about the event and forming their own little inner circle of editorial communications. Takeaway: Sit next to a college student and ask for help (thank you, Rhiannon).
Most musical keynote “speaker” ever. Banquet keynote speaker Roy Peter Clark, author of The Glamour of Grammar, grabbed a piano, put on a jazz-style hat, and entertained us with New Orleans-esque musical stylings. Editors who were willing to be backup singers and dancers on stage had the opportunity to win one of Clark’s books. Better than a Moon Pie.
All in all, the 16th annual ACES conference was an adventure of the sort that fights burnout in two ways: (1) Getting me out of my routine and deadlines to be in a new place with new people, new foods, and new sights (Bourbon Street—enough said). (2) Re-energizing my passion for what I do and what I am: an editor, through and through.
Amy Paradysz leads the corporate proposal editing team for Dragonfly Editorial. Despite the nearly universal love of the semi-colon amongst ACES members, Amy adores em-dashes.


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