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My Editors' Conclave Experience

Daylong events are not my cup of tea and I am usually quite wary of attending one of these out of my own volition, especially on that precious Sunday. But I felt unusually enthusiastic about the Editors’ Conclave and registered very early without any second thoughts. Though I stepped into the venue with trepidation expecting a “first day at a new school” experience, I was in for a pleasant surprise. I got to meet some lovely people in the lobby. It was a promising start for the skeptical me and further unfurled into a very interesting day that had me stay till the end.

Manish’s presentation slides reminded me of a Manirathnam movie, with the gist of his concepts conveyed in crisp power-packed sentences on the screen. From his presentation and from Rishi’s video, I got a glimpse of the future of the publishing industry. It made me wish I was younger and could have a go at starting to copyedit at a much earlier point in life in a cool work culture. (I always have this thing for a work atmosphere that promotes a work-life balance.)

I got introduced to Yateendra Sir, thanks to Dr. Venkat, and that left me feeling very privileged! His presentation gently but firmly drove home the point that “attention to detail” should be the mantra of any copyeditor who wants to excel, and the one and only path to achieving any certification. His relentless pursuit toward perfection just shone through and left an indelible impression, convincing me that I need to seriously consider working harder at this. I could see how methodically he must have cracked the certification exams.

I finally got to meet Dr. Venkat in person, as witty and sharp as ever. When I saw that his presentation was on quantification of copyediting quality, I did not expect to get much out of it. I expected it to be more for project managers. On the contrary, the presentation made me nostalgic, and I reminisced about the struggles I underwent before I started seeing that faint light at the end of the tunnel in my journey of being a copyeditor. It was reassuring to know that many had traveled this path before me.

Dr. Venkat summed this journey in just four columns of a table, which just blew me away. He then explained the four different types of edits that could be made by an editor and how training the editor to make the right edits could increase efficiency. I realized this was something I could apply even as an individual and was glad to have been present for that dissection of the process of copyediting. That he named his site the art of copyediting seemed so apt.

Surit Das’s profile photo had always made me think he must be this very stern and serious person, and I did mention it to him. His presentation made me laugh and giggle so much and I just could not believe when he said he gets nervous speaking on stage. He had this huge infectious smile, and I was delighted that I got a chance to meet him in person. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. He emphasized how copyeditors need to take care of their health—and true, I had been ruminating about this only recently.

Lunchtime offered opportunities to be introduced to the pros in the field. Some good food and the feeling of camaraderie that floated around was what made it feel just right. That I had my ever-enthusiastic boss at the same table, introducing me to his ex-colleagues, was a bonus.

Social media and its possibilities were discussed by Arpana, and then Dr Bushra Rashid gradually led us to see how memberships of editors’ associations could have a positive effect on a copyeditor’s career. It did get me thinking. Neelima’s presentation on alt-text was very clear and I understood why exactly it was suddenly gaining popularity and what future scope it had.

Chitralekha Manohar’s story did leave me gaping, as Venkatesh said in his blog post, and hats off to her determination in choosing the difficult path and leaving her mark on it as she treads toward success. She charmingly related her trials and triumphs and held everyone’s attention overall, in spite of hers being the last presentation of the day.

The panel discussion gave several insights into the interaction between in-house managers and freelancers. The suggestion by Dr. Venkat that senior copyeditors could hone beginners’ editorial skills by vetting edited manuscripts of the beginners definitely raised my hopes, and I do hope that Indian Copyeditors Forum (ICF) would actually get this going. The mentor-mentee meetings had to be cancelled because the schedule went beyond the permitted time, but we are looking forward to this being done online or in-person some other time.

When you change schools and go to a new one, you could have either a great experience or a horrible one. Stepping into copyediting was something similar, and I luckily got handed the first one. In the conference, I was like a little girl in a candy shop with all the goodies in front of my eyes—things I had only heard of before. All those names on the ICF FB page now had a face and a personality. I am grateful that the “Vivek fever,” as Surit calls it, has infected so many people. It seems that the Vivek virus is very potent and silently infects people, with good symptoms though! Everyone wished he had been here in person as well. The silent enigma Visa was there—one whose gentle resilience I got to witness. That she managed to accomplish so much with her cute little kid around is an inspiration.

I met many like-minded peopIe who were easy to talk to, and at the end of the day I wanted to hold a pen to the sky and say “I have found my ilk” (like he-man holding his sword and shouting, “I have the power”)! The best part was that I found two kindred spirits who kept me company throughout the whole proceedings—and that was the cherry on the cake.

The AI factor and its possible implications for the future do loom ahead, but as someone pointed out, adapting ourselves to the change might be the best way to face it rather than worry. Hope there are more such conferences in future and I have the wisdom to benefit from them.

As I hurriedly wrap up this piece that I started writing the week after the conference, I am beset with anxiety that it would be read by so many copyeditors out there. But I remembered their friendliness and I grew bold, and decided to post it.

Chandra graduated with a BSc in chemistry and an MSc in biotechnology. She started her career as a patent abstract editor. After a short stint at this job, she became a lecturer in a private college in Chennai. She taught biochemistry, genetic engineering, genetics, and animal tissue culture. Her teaching career spanned a period of seven years in the department of biotechnology. During this time, she handled classes for master’s degree students, teaching both theory and conducting laboratory sessions for them. She also got an MPhil in biotechnology while she was a teaching faculty.

Her desire to earn a doctoral degree took her to IUPUI, Indianapolis. She was a research student with a fellowship in the department of biochemistry for four and a half years. She was able to complete her course work and present her proposal. However, she could not earn my degree because of personal circumstances. Back in India, she worked as clinical research ethics committee coordinator for two years. Finally in 2016, because of a fortunate turn of events, she assumed the position of an in-house copyeditor. (This strengthened her resolve that when you wish really hard for something and do your part, it does happen in spite of seeming impossible.) It is now two years since she has been a copyeditor and she has been made senior copyeditor recently.

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