Out of My Depth: write|edit|index 2015
This year Canberra hosted write|edit|index, the 2105 Australian Conference for Editors, Indexers and Publishing Professionals. Though not a publishing professional (I’ve produced a little bit of content from time to time…), I attended to learn about the arts in question. It was one of the most enjoyable conferences I’ve been to — and it was right in my own back yard. I learned an enormous amount.
The first thing I learned were that my grasp of grammar are inadequate. The second thing was that you can be an editor if you are good enough to get and keep the business.
Editors and indexers are a diverse bunch. Many are freelancers — self-reliant business people. Any given editor may have specialised in editing fiction, whipping documents into shape for government departments, fixing the English found in scientific papers, who knows. This was reflected in the range of topics, from continuity in the novel through using markup languages to indexing texts in South Africa.
As a Physicist I found the gender balance unfamiliar. At a session by Sarah JH Fletcher (‘Everything in its right place: fiction continuity’), I counted about 45 females and 3 males, including myself. Even at a Physics meeting I would expect the audience to be more evenly split than that — say 40M:8F. The ratio was most pronounced in sessions to do with editing fiction, but was always tipped that way.
I can’t help but wonder why. Does the freelance, flexible nature of much of editing and indexing work better with the career interruptions caused by family life? (Despite change, this is still likely to impact on women more strongly than on men.) I know many female academics whose careers suffered due to pregnancy. Are women simply better with words? Are men too precious to work hard on somebody else’s words without (much? enough?) kudos?
The sessions were for the most part extremely sensible and useful. The panel discussion on ‘Valuing our professions’ got down to cold hard numbers — talking about dollars per hour and working out your businesses operating expenses.
And I liked their banner head…