A Look Back at EFACON 2023
A Look Back at EFACON 2023
Attending EFACON 2023 on August 18 and 19 in Alexandria, Virginia, increased my editorial knowledge and strengthened my ties in the editorial community. I left the conference with renewed enthusiasm for my work and already look forward to future events from the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).
In the following I discuss benefits of the conference and provide a high-level lesson from each of the eight sessions I attended. I’ll also add here that the keynotes from Dr. Cathy Hannabach, Cecilia Tan, and Ran Walker were all excellent, and the EFA did a praise-worthy job selecting these speakers.
Like many editors, I’m introverted, and it’s all too easy to hide in a corner, keep my eyes down to avoid interaction, or look for the empty table at meals. But I’d promised myself that I would engage with people at the conference and am proud that I interacted more than I ever have at similar events.
As freelance editors, we generally work alone and can often feel isolated, so building that sense of community and expanding our network does wonders for increasing our opportunities for learning from others, sharing job opportunities, and enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded professionals.
A common theme at the conference was that you never know how a connection will pay off, even years later, so with every interaction you’re planting seeds. Perhaps more important, you’re interacting with the kind, generous people in the editing community, and that’s something to appreciate in and of itself.
I certainly learned from all my interactions, even in terms of broadening my conception of what people do and how they work, and I was also able to share what I’ve learned since going full-time freelance at the end of 2017.
I already knew some of the attendees from online venues, and it’s a wonderful experience to finally meet people in person. There’s a unique thrill to Oh, that’s so-and-so!
Friday and Saturday entailed two long days of sessions, and by the end of the second day I was mentally and socially at my end, so I headed out before the final reception. While that would have been a nice capper, it’s important to recognize your limits, and I left feeling good about all aspects of the conference.
The EFACON sessions provided a wonderful opportunity to learn from editing superstars and to improve my processes.
The following are the sessions I attended at EFACON, with a takeaway for each. Multiple sessions were scheduled for each time slot, and I’m looking forward to catching ones I missed once the recordings become available.
Diversify Your Business: From Building Communities to Teaching—How to Provide Editing-Adjacent Services to Authors (presented by Jessica Snyder)
This provided an excellent start to my conference, especially because it challenged me to think differently. Jessica talked about how coaching, online courses, and consulting can help you serve clients and increase your income to protect against lost income due to disability or illness. She also explored options for better work-life balance.
TAKEAWAY: It’s easy for me to get in an editing groove and move from one job to the next, but you never know what’s around the corner, and you should never stop thinking about how your business can change and adapt.
An Editor’s Guide to Assessing and Addressing Problematic Content (presented by Crystal Shelley)
I’ve long been a fan of Crystal Shelley and have learned much from all the helpful resources she provides, so Crystal was at the very top of presenters I was excited to see. In her session Crystal looked at the ways biased and exclusive language renders text ineffective or harmful. She offered practical tips for offering guidance on problematic language or representation, flagging content, crafting clear queries, providing feedback, and handling client resistance.
TAKEAWAY: More than anything, I left Crystal’s session wanting to embody her approach of knowing that we’re all human and capable of mistakes, but by listening and learning we can do better, show kindness to others through language, and help to better serve our clients.
Client Interactions and Relationship Management (presented by Katie Chambers)
Katie Chambers is a wonderful presenter, lively, funny, and engaging. In this session Katie shared her processes for template emails, e-mail management, client intake, data and systems, and client management.
TAKEAWAY: Data, data, data! Collecting data on clients and the associated work is vital, and refining processes for doing so should be ongoing.
Oops! Finding and Fixing Bloopers in Fiction (presented by Amy J. Schneider)
The author of “that little yellow book,” Amy Schneider was another presenter I was greatly looking forward to seeing. Amy discussed language bloopers (pet phrases, danglers, redundancy), action bloopers (Chekhov’s gun, drop-in characters), and factual bloopers (body position, anachronisms, geography).
TAKEAWAY: Easy takeaway here. When one of the best copyeditors anywhere shares insights into her craft, you sit up and take notes on every observation.
One on One: Coaching for Creativity and Craft (presented by Christina M. Frey)
I’ve taken two line editing classes from Christina Frey, and I’m convinced she’s a genius. In this session Christina discussed how an editorial coach can provide support beyond the typical editor-writer relationship, the qualities of a good editorial coach, approaches, and techniques for listening and adjusting.
TAKEAWAY: Clients have needs beyond your service offerings, so expanding your thoughts on how you might meet those needs could open all-new areas for your business.
Find Your NICHE: How to Niche Down and Market Your Specialty (presented by Jeanette Smith)
I know Jeanette from an EFA chapter and was beyond excited to be there to support her and see her deliver her presentation. She nailed it! Jeanette examined all aspects of NICHE: natural talents, interests, characteristics, heart, and environment.
TAKEAWAY: Again, it’s easy to get lost in the work and let the marketing side of your business flag. Thinking about your niche can help you better direct your services at the clients you most desire.
Talking Points: Copyediting Dialogue in Fiction (presented by Amy J. Schneider)
Here Amy addressed handling the mechanics of dialogue to maintain character voice while keeping dialogue understandable for the reader and letting the story shine. She looked at dialogue tags, verbs of utterance, action beats, punctuation, unspoken dialogue, informal dialogue, sounds and other nonverbal expressions, non-English language and translated dialogue, and electronic communication.
TAKEAWAY: With The Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction, Amy literally wrote the book on copyediting. I’m just smart enough to realize when to pay attention and take lessons from one of the best in the field.
Retreats: Build Your Business with a Getaway (presented by Laura Poole)
Here Laura Poole delved into business retreats and professional getaways, discussing benefits, logistics, and suggested activities for group, solo, and virtual retreats. By the end of the session, I think everyone in the room was dreaming of a getaway to ponder all aspects of their businesses.
TAKEAWAY: This is the third time I’ve said this, but it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in your work. However, stepping away and changing your environment can inspire you with new ideas that might completely revamp how you do business—and make happier clients in the process.
What We Wish We’d Known Before We Started Freelancing (panel discussion presented by Lori Paximadis, Jeanette Fast Redmond, and Amy J. Schneider)
This esteemed panel shared insights on building a steady client base, marketing strategies, business policies and boundaries, contracts, client acquisition, automation tools, and efficiency. As a means of both looking back and looking forward, this was a fantastic way to end my conference, head spinning with ideas and hopes for my business.
TAKEAWAY: Never ever ever stop thinking about new ways to approach your business.
EFACON 2023 benefited me personally and professionally. I’ll do my best to continue to build on what I learned there, and I’m thankful for new and deepened editing relationships among my peers.