What I Took Away from My First Editors Canada Conference

By Adrienne Huston

The words came out of my mouth without much thought: “I’m just a student.” It was the first session of the weekend, and I was introducing myself. Attendees were gathered from across the country, each sitting at their own desk yet all present for Editors Transform, the 2021 national—and first virtual—conference of Editors Canada. I had chosen to begin my first day of this June weekend in a networking session for non-fiction editors, and we were in a video chat with a moderator, chatting and sharing work experiences.

One attendee picked up on that just and commented with alacrity but tact that I could leave that word off my introduction. Betraying my insecurities with a slip of the tongue was not how I envisioned meeting colleagues in my newly chosen industry. Still, I understood the intention and welcome behind her words and tried to relax into the day. There was lots more to come, and I wanted to experience it all.

Over the course of two days, June 12–13, Editors Canada had planned 40 speakers and six networking sessions for participants. The hitch was that I could only attend six each day. It almost felt cruel to subject attendees to such choices when amazing talks on language, social change, technology, and self-publishing were on the menu.

A beginner editor’s toolkit

The sessions I picked would best be described as a beginner editor’s toolkit—freelancing, finding work, marketing, networking—though they were anything but elementary. Intrepidness was a common theme. I took furious notes and made a habit of placing checkboxes next to actionable items for follow-up. There are over 20 checkboxes in my notebook.

One invaluable tip, shared during a session called “Freelance Like a Boss,” was to always open documents immediately upon receipt. Checking that a file is correct, complete, and uncorrupted prevents the client from knowing when you start on their work should you need to ask for another copy.

The talk on finding work opened my eyes to viewing every company and publication as a source of potential employment, while the discussion on marketing reframed content marketing as a collaborative effort between colleague editors rather than a solo effort. The lesson on networking had a simple yet powerful message: one is always networking.

Each time I needed to introduce myself, I purposefully laced my words with confidence I may or may not have felt and was careful not to use the dreaded J word. It got easier. The talks began to work their magic. More than building me a to-do list, they were immersing me in a world that accepted and welcomed my presence. Sitting behind my laptop, I was no different than the speakers and long-established editors around me, and we were all there to learn and socialize.

Editors change wor(l)ds

I experienced the weekend through that laptop, my headphones, and the #Editors21 hashtag. Certain editors showed amazing skill at being able to listen, summarize, and tweet out soundbites at great speed. I could be in one talk and usually get the best of what was being said in the other simultaneous talks via Twitter. Between that feed, the lobby chat, the individual session chats, and the networking sessions, the conference organizers went a long way towards making you feel like you were somewhere other than your desk.

The entire experience felt expansive. It was a world of people who know each other, getting together to share knowledge, while keeping their arms open wide for everyone who had come to listen. In the last six months, I had been actively following every editor I could find on Instagram and Twitter. I knew handles, profile pictures, and people’s art. The conference connected those bits of creative output to real people: moderators, speakers, coaches, and mentors.

While I had arrived as “just a student,” I left a proud editor buoyed by new followers to my Twitter profile, email addresses of colleagues who wanted to collaborate, beautiful Excel templates, book recommendations, and people eager to help me.

I will never say that I am just anything ever again. When I heard this quote over the weekend, “Words change the world, and editors change words,” my mind wanted to hear the last word as worlds. Editors change worlds. They had certainly changed mine. What a privilege it is to be among them.


Adrienne Huston is a freelance editor based in the Greater Toronto Area. She offers editing and proofreading through her company, Magnolia Editing, and volunteers with Editors Barrie as media and membership coordinator.

This article was copy edited by Alicja Minda.

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