The third year: ACES 2019, Providence

The first year was amazing and overwhelming and filled with revelatory moments, nearly all related to the sudden realization that yes, there ARE other people as into editing as I am, as fond of reading books about words (including the dictionary), and as eager to talk to someone just like themselves.

The second year is mostly a blur thanks to my being awarded the prestigious Robinson Prize. I had so completely convinced myself it was not going to happen that I’m still a little agog that it did.

And so it is we come to the third year. I renewed many friendships and acquaintances, made a goodly number of new ones, and met a few of my heroes, to wit: Ben Dreyer of Random House, Mary Norris of The New York Times, Mignon Fogarty (the Grammar Girl), and Ellen Jovin (who goes by “GrammarTable” on Twitter, and is known for setting up a card table in Verdi Square, NYC, and answering GUMmy stuff questions for free, for anyone who stops to ask).

On another note, I was floored when Dan Heuman of Intelligent Editing (makers of PerfectIt3) introduced himself to me at the Thursday night reception and thanked me for saying such wonderful things about their product. And then we went to a whiskey bar with James Harbeck and Dan Sosnoski. I’m still floored. (But not from the booze.)

The highlight this year was presenting the 2019 Robinson Prize to Rob Reinalda. From a field of fourteen nominees, he rose quickly to the top of the heap, so to speak. I had the honor of being both one of the judges and the presenter. I managed not to give anything away, even when at a morning session he and his wife, Teresa, sat behind me and as they took their places I heard him say in a low voice, “There’s Grammargeddon Angel. You know, Karen Conlin.” I played it cool even as I got up and scrambled around the chairs to greet them both. It’s one thing to be Twitter-acquaintances and quite another to meet in meatspace (as we say).

After the conference ended, I stayed another full day and met one of my long-time clients, Lisa Cohen (author of the HALCYONE SPACE series, among other books). We wandered through the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, and then I introduced her to New York System hot weiners and coffee milk at Baba’s. It was a good day.

One thing I made a point of doing this year was talking one-on-one to first-time attendees, sometimes over a meal (it was my delight to treat them). Having written an article for the ACES website aimed at helping first-timers better navigate the conference, I felt it was only right that I put myself out there to do so in person when I could.

Of the trip home, the less said, the better. I live-tweeted my journey as it happened. The short form is I landed eight hours later than originally scheduled, after being rebooked through three airports.

And then I slept.

And now? I’m back to regular life, like everyone else, and I’m looking forward to next year in Salt Lake City.

 

What it doesn’t take to win the Robinson

I’ve been pondering a lot since Friday night. I mean, I was nearly dumbstruck by the events as they unfolded, even with last year’s laureate, Karen Yin, patting my arm and telling me to take deep breaths. (She had asked to sit with me at the banquet so we could catch up and chat. SURE KAREN, WHATEVER YOU SAY.)*

[Note: It wasn’t Karen who did the patting. It was Dan Sosnoski, who nominated me. That’s how verklempt I was. No small feat, conflating those two …]

I can tell you what is not required to win the Robinson Prize for excellence in editing.

No memorization of anything, whether it’s dictionaries, style manuals, or usage guides.**

No big-name connections from past jobs.

No flying around the world to ensure people know who you are, so they’ll vote for you.

No red-carpet moments. (They’d be cool, but are def not required.)

Not self-confidence in the nomination, that’s for damn sure. I was in denial right up into the middle of Sarah Grey’s reading of the news release to the attendees, before she called my name and I somehow managed to walk to the stage. What tipped it? “Register.” I’m the voice in the wilderness. Maybe that will change now.

Not national or international attention prior to the nomination. It’s not like the Oscars. There’s no Golden Globe or People’s Choice to pave the way. You stand on your merits. Period.

Not a string of letters behind your name. I have two BAs: one in British Literature pre-19th century, and one in healthcare administration.*** No master’s degree, certainly no doctorate. I’ve taken two developmental editing courses through the EFA. That’s the extent of my traditional professional development.

I keep rereading the words from my clients, and I continue to be moved nearly to tears. I knew I was a good editor. I love my work. And I figured they thought I was good, too, or they’d not continue to hire me and pay me. I just didn’t know that my peers would think I was that good, too. (Thanks again, Dan, for being a pushy bastard.)

I still feel a bit like Sally Fields, though.****

*Karen Yin is a sweetheart and she knows I’m jesting. We talked about working together on a YA fantasy, and I am STILL STOKED about that.

**My performance in the Merriam-Webster Spelling Bee notwithstanding.

***YES I STYLED IT CLOSED FIGHT ME

****If this means nothing to you, a) you’re a kid and b) I invite you to search for “Sally Fields you like me GIF” and be enlightened.