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Why should editors and proofreaders attend the London Book Fair? Tips from two first-time attendees

This blog post discusses tips and impressions from two CIEP members attending the London Book Fair for the first time. Should you bother with all the seminars? Is it worth handing out business cards? And isn’t it all a bit overwhelming? Let’s hear what Aimee Hill and Andrew Hodges have to say …

Our first London Book Fair

It’s spring in the UK and the London Book Fair in early April was an energising way to start socialising in person again! This year was our first Fair, and we showed up not knowing what to expect. Even knowing how huge the event was, the size of the hall was still astonishing. Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate the event.

Aimee says …

Come with goals

Turning up to the London Book Fair with concrete goals is essential. Whether it is worth it depends entirely on what you want to get out of the Fair. And the whole event is so large and bustling that, without goals, it is very easy to wander around aimlessly staring at the rows upon rows of stands.

Find out who is visiting and meet them

Twitter is a great source for finding out who is at the Fair before you go. While I was there, I met up with some other editors I know, including Andrew Hodges, past course mates who had found themselves in the same industry, and in-house publishing people who I’d previously only chatted to on social media. It is a valuable chance to say a quick hello to connections.

Go to seminars that interest you, but don’t overdo it

The seminars throughout the event are invaluable. There are few better ways to get insight into the industry than the talks that LBF put on. If you work with independent/fiction authors, the seminars hosted at Author HQ give insight into the different concerns and interests of your clients. They are also all recorded, so you can catch up on the ones you missed and rewatch the ones you were too tired to pay attention to. Extra tip: if your goal for the Fair is just to go to these seminars, there are digital tickets that give you access to the recordings without having to trek to London.

Be emboldened to socialise

In my opinion, networking is just a fancy word for socialising. While the Fair is primarily a corporate, work-focused event, there is space for getting to know a diverse range of people across the industry. Informally, the queues for coffee are long enough that you are likely able to strike up a conversation with those around you. In a more organised sense, the Wednesday offers opportunity for drinks socials all over the fair. In particular, both the Society of Young Publishers and the Independent Publishing Guild provide space for people to get together.

Andy says …

First impressions

After all that online networking and professional development in a box room under the stairs, it felt amazing to be around people! I spent the first hour walking around grinning, dazed by all the stands and people there to discuss books. Was it smaller than usual? Was Author HQ normally three times the size? I had no idea, and I didn’t care. It felt massive and a bit ‘out of this world’.

When I described it to a friend, she said the book fair sounded like a political party conference: its core had a corporate feel, with people paying lots of money for stands … and with loads of interesting stuff happening around the edges.

There was a traditional publishing crowd brokering deals in a part of the Fair we weren’t allowed to access. I got a small taste of this when I met a representative from a German publisher promoting titles to be considered for translation into English.

The logistics

If you have a long train journey to get there, two days will probably be enough. Don’t forget to bring water and preferably a packed lunch. Chairs for visitors are in short supply, and as Aimee points out, while you can sit down to watch all the interesting talks, don’t overdo them as you may end up feeling fatigued!

Where should editors hang out?

Well, that depends on your goals. If you want to network with publishers, there are loads of stands to visit. My favourite place was Author HQ, where the indie authors were mostly hanging out. There were great talks on energising the writing process, publishing successes with Amazon KDP, and on making UK publishing less London-centric.

My experience in book translation inspired me to hop over to the literary translation centre too. Broadly speaking, the translators felt closer to academia and activism, while the indie author crowd were more entrepreneurial. Despite their differences, both crowds were bursting with creativity and a love of books!

ALLi’s tenth birthday party was a highlight, where I chatted with several indie authors. I learnt a lot about the relative merits of different publishing services and by the end of the evening we were discussing reversals and character development in short stories.

I was sad the CIEP didn’t have a stall at the Fair this year, but the pandemic is far from over and the decision to wait was sensible. I bumped into Alison Shakspeare and got chatting to Aimee Hill over coffee, and it was good to know there were other CIEP members there.

Is it worth it?

Was the LBF an investment that will bring me a return? In the narrow sense, I have no idea, and that’s not why I went. My reason for attending was to get to know and understand how publishing works a bit better. This wider-picture perspective will inform my future edits and interactions with publishers and indie clients.

And that’s why you should go – at least once.

The Fair has given me a taste for in-person events now, and a new-found energy. Next up is Cymera in June – bring it on!

About Aimee Hill

Aimee Hill supports independent authors with communicative line editing. She primarily works with science fiction and fantasy authors.

About Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges runs an editorial business called The Narrative Craft in Edinburgh, UK. He loves line-editing fiction and ethnography and enjoys chatting with science fiction and fantasy authors about worldbuilding and point of view issues whenever he can.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Photo credits: wall of books by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash, London Book Fair by Andrew Hodges.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

British Library Study Day: Fairy Tales

By Tor Hegedus

Once upon a time, on a not-so-Grimm Saturday in January, a group of fairy-tale enthusiasts gathered at the British Library for a sold-out study day. Thanks to a post on the SfEP forums highlighting the event, I was lucky enough to be among them.

I’ve always loved fairy tales – the magic, the feeling that anything could happen and the dark little corners found in even the most child-friendly retellings – so the library’s promise that I would ‘discover stories I’d never heard before’ was a temptation I couldn’t resist. Also, as a children’s specialist who has worked on numerous fairy-tale retellings and collections, I was curious to learn more about the history of these traditional tales and see if there were any takeaways to be found for editing them.

Arrival

Upon arrival, we were treated to tea, fancy biscuits and goody bags (!) containing a copy of the programme, as well as a beautiful British Library notebook and pencil. The programme had been updated at the last minute due to a dropout, but the replacement lecture by Dr Erica Gillingham sounded promising … if anything, I was more excited than before. And I didn’t have long to wait. Soon enough, we were invited to take our seats in the library’s Knowledge Centre Theatre for the morning session.

The morning session

The day was kicked off by Michelle Anya Anjirbag from the University of Cambridge. Michelle’s talk, ‘Unlocking the Cabinet of Stories: Fairy tales, subversion and representation’, touched upon our understanding of fairy tales – our expectations and the biases those expectations reveal. She also talked about the issues surrounding representation and diversity in fairy tales, both historically and in modern-day retellings.

Michelle was followed by Jane Suzanne Carroll from Trinity College, Dublin, who talked on the subject of landscape within fairy tales. Her lecture, ‘Into the Woods: Spaces and places in fairy tales’, explored the familiar spaces within European fairy tales and explained why the same spaces occur again and again. It also examined the ways that stories have become embedded in real landscapes, using Irish and Welsh examples.

The late addition to the programme, Dr Erica Gillingham, closed off the morning with her talk ‘Cinderella and the Huntress: A lesbian retelling of Cinderella in Malinda Lo’s Ash’ – a lecture that not only spoke to the twisting of tropes in Lo’s Ash, but also offered a wider perspective on LGBTQ+ representation in YA fairy tales.

The afternoon session

After lunch, the afternoon opened with a thrill – Lucy Evans, a British Library curator, took us on a fascinating journey through the library’s collection of fairy tales. We were able to see examples of printed materials from the archives – from theatre posters and chapbooks to beautifully illustrated fairy-tale collections and even original manuscripts!

Next was Gillian Lathey, an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Roehampton, with her talk, ‘The Princess and the Multiple Peas: The translation and transformation of fairy tales’. In this lecture, Gillian discussed how the choices and personal styles of translators (and editors!) have impacted familiar tales over time.

Finally, author and publisher Dr Tamara Pizzoli took the stage for her talk, ‘The Tooth Fairy is a Black Woman and Other True Tales: A modern griot’s quest to rewrite history one fairy tale at a time’. In this talk, Dr Pizzoli opened up about the founding of her publishing company, The English Schoolhouse, as well as her journey as an author and what inspires her to continue writing both diverse retellings of existing fairy tales (such as The Ghanaian Goldilocks) and original stories (like Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO).

Highlights

All of the speakers were engaging, knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen topic. With such a high-quality line-up, it’s no surprise that there were plenty of memorable moments throughout the day. Some of the most fascinating content for me included:

  • Michelle Anya Anjirbag discussing representation and diversity in Disney’s fairy tale adaptations – their history, the steps they’ve taken and the steps they still need to take.
  • Jane Suzanne Carroll presenting a map tracking the geographical origins of Irish selkie stories. During this segment, it was pointed out that certain Irish surnames hold links to selkie folklore … leaving one surprised audience member checking themselves for webbed toes during the break!
  • Lucy Evans sharing an image of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. (I’m not ashamed to say I let out a squeak of excitement – The Bloody Chamber is a long-loved favourite of mine!) Lucy also shared this – a chapbook with a subtitle I still can’t quite shake!
  • Gillian Lathey discussing the changes made in one translation in the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea’. The translator, who felt it unrealistic that a single pea would be felt under so many mattresses, took it upon themselves to add multiple peas – a change that can still be found in subsequent versions today.
  • Learning that in early instances, Goldilocks was not as we know her today. In fact, early versions of the story had her as an old woman with silver hair!

Into the sunset

With a hot chocolate and my notes to keep me company on the train home, I found myself reflecting on the day. Overall, it was a fantastic experience – well worth the price of admission. It would have been beneficial to have a few more breaks dotted about … the seats were comfortable, but two and a half hours is a long time to be sitting in one place without a break!

The only (VERY minor) disappointment I had related to additional materials provided after the day. While I did take my own notes, we were told we would receive additional materials from the speakers via email in the following week. I was looking forward to a more comprehensive memory jog from these, but for the most part they lacked the depth I was hoping for.

For anybody interested in attending a future event at the British Library, you can browse here to discover what’s on.

Tor Hegedus is a writer, editor and Professional Member of the SfEP. Formerly an in-house copyeditor at a well-known children’s publisher, Tor ditched the commute to fully embrace freelance life – pyjamas and all. When she’s not wrestling commas, she can be found slurping tea and reading picture books to her cats.

 

 


Photo credits: open book Natalia Y; woods – Donald Giannatti, both on Unsplash.

Proofread by Victoria Hunt, Intermediate Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, SfEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.