Women in Words – A GeekGirlCon ’14 Recap

Written by GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Sarah “SG-1” Grant

According to Wikipedia, impostor syndrome is defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Does this sound like someone you know? Does it sound like you, like something you’ve ever felt in your personal, professional, or artistic life?

One of the panelists at the Women in Words panel at GeekGirlCon ‘14 mentioned imposter syndrome, and the other two panelists nodded wisely, as if they knew exactly what she was talking about. I looked it up after the panel was done, and Wikipedia’s definition has really stuck with me.

Rebecca Brinson, Beth Jusino, and Amanda Vail were the three women on the Women in Words panel. I originally wanted to attend this panel because a friend of mine was supposed to join them, but she was stuck in Portland. I’m really glad I went anyway.

Rebecca Brinson is a developmental and copy editor; she is the managing director of Seattle City of Literature, and co-owner of Northwest Essay. She is also on the board of the Northwest Editors Guild, and she works on editorial projects for publishers, authors, and companies.

Beth Jusino is is a freelance editor, writer, teacher, and publishing consultant  with fifteen years of experience helping individuals and organizations tell better stories.

Amanda Vail is a freelance editor and writer who loves to create snappy text and engaging copy for small businesses and nonprofits.

Amanda Vail

Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

These three women sat comfortably at the front of a packed room and talked about their field of choice: editing. Since I’ve been a mainly amateur editor for most of my life (at least since grade school!), I thought they might have some wise words to pass on to me and to the rest of the attendees in the room.

One of the best suggestions was to integrate your hobbies and interests into your editing life–and into your writing life overall. We’ve all heard the adage, “Write what you know”. While that doesn’t always hold true (science fiction and fantasy come to mind), making sure that what you’re doing is interesting to you can be an excellent way to gain a reputation in the editing business. For instance, Rebecca told us that she edits crochet and knitting patterns, because she loves to crochet and knit.

Rebecca Brinson

Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

The second most important thing the panelists stressed was getting honest feedback on your work. You can pour your heart and soul into a project, but someone reading it critically will find things that need to be changed, corrected, removed, or added in order to make your project appealing–or even readable. Being able to take that feedback and incorporate it into your project will make you a better editor. Build a survey to get feedback from anyone you work with, whether it’s a free editing gig or a paid one. Having those testimonials will help you build both your confidence and your pool of work.

One of the attendees posed an interesting question: Can Seattle become a major publishing city? A lot of traditional publishers, where an editor might be steadily employed to develop projects on an ongoing basis, are centered in cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles (just to name some major English-speaking publishing centers). All three panelists agreed that it is indeed possible for Seattle. There are writers, graphic novelists, artists, editors, and project managers living in Seattle. We can build momentum and start making it happen in our community. It will create jobs, and it will help to keep those creative minds here.

Beth Jusino

Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

Another attendee asked the question I wanted to ask: How do you become an editor? The panelists responded with several different ideas. You can study on your own, then advertise and look for work. There are editing programs available for more classroom-oriented study; there is a nine month program that runs at the University of Washington Bothell. Even looking up workshops given in your community, or at your local community college, can be a good building block to get to the next professional level.

Getting through imposter syndrome isn’t something that’s only found in the writing and editing world; it comes up whenever you’re doing something you’re not sure of–and especially when you get praised for that work or action. There’s nothing better than working hard on a project and getting praise for it, but there’s always a little voice that says “you could have done this better!” Rebecca, Beth, and Amanda said they–and everyone they know–still struggle with it, but that it’s an ongoing process for all of us.

This is my final GeekGirlCon ‘14 panel recap post for the year; was there a panel you particularly enjoyed at GeekGirlCon ‘14?

And remember to get your passes for GeekGirlCon ‘15!


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