Remember last year when I went to my first American Copy Editors Society conference in Pittsburgh and it was the greatest thing I ever did? (If you've forgotten, go back and read this. I'll wait.) So ... I was wrong, because my second ACES conference, in Portland, was in fact the greatest thing ever!
A huge attraction for this trip was that I'd never been to Portland (the Oregon one, silly—of course I've been up the road to Portland, Maine! I had not realized, however, that the Oregon city was named after the Maine city, which was named after the England city...). We lucked out with five straight days of 70° weather and bright sunshine. It's a lovely city, with Powell's, the largest new/used bookstore in the world (I bet they noticed a spike in sales while ACES was in town!); and huge food cart pods, where you can get pretty much any food you can think of, and it is all yummy and cheap; and the best artisanal ___ shop anywhere (fill in the blank with doughnut, beer, tea, chocolate, coffee, or any other thing you can think of and that will give you an idea of Portland); and pedestrians who wouldn't dream of jaywalking. (I don't think we have jaywalking laws here in Boston, do we? If so, no one has ever followed them, even once. I felt very anarchic marching across the street in Portland against the light.) It is also home to two old friends from my Wesleyan days, and I managed to find time to meet up with both of them! So, jet lag notwithstanding, the location was great.
But more importantly, just like last year, I was struck by how wonderful it feels to be surrounded by people who understand and appreciate what I do. There were more than 650 of us there (one editor told his wife, "This is the most editors ever in the same place at one time!" to which she replied, "Except in hell!")—some I'd met before and some I'd been wanting to meet and some I'd never heard of but enjoyed meeting. Book editors, newspaper editors, magazine editors, journal editors, website editors, corporate editors, academic editors, medical editors, you name it. Editors, as far as the eye could see!
The first person I spotted when I checked in to the hotel was Kory Stamper, who gave one of my favorite presentations last year and gave this year's keynote address at the banquet. She writes definitions for words at Merriam-Webster. All day. Really. And she tweets insightful yet hilarious things about her work and just finished writing a book about it—stay tuned! Not surprisingly, her session this year and her keynote showed her at her best: engaging, funny, and so, so smart. I wasn't sure anyone could live up to Ben Zimmer's keynote last year, but Kory did.
I once again chickened out on the spelling bee, and I once again knew almost all the words (but not INCUNABULUM or NOCKERL or a couple of others). But I realized that being a good speller is one thing; walking across a stage and speaking into a microphone to an audience is quite another. So, I was content to get a drink and sit in the audience to cheer/groan for the brave entrants. There were also late-night Scrabble games at the hotel bar that I didn't dare join—though I blame that more on the damn jet lag. The last night was a party at Punch Bowl Social, a fun bar that had games like bowling and pinball (plus funky drinks in mason jars), and I did play shuffleboard. So.
Last year's fangirl moment came with Mary Norris; this year it was Carol Saller, who edits the online Q&A section of the Chicago Manual of Style. She is also the author of the very useful and entertaining book The Subversive Editor, now in a new edition. I can only hope I'm misremembering how dorky I acted when I told her how much I loved her session and her book. Anyhow, you'd think that someone who works on the actual style manual for book editors would be very rigid, but in fact, she says this:
I suggest becoming “subversive” in two ways: first, in overturning the image of the author as the enemy, and second, in remembering that sometimes it’s okay to break the rules if it benefits the reader. In encouraging copy editors to resist compulsions, banish insecurities, and develop habits of carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, my mission is to show them not how to copyedit, but how to survive while doing so.
Too many people think of us editors as slavish rule-followers, but we're really quite reasonable people. Usually, anyhow: I bet every single attendee tweeted this sign from the hotel:
(For the record, I'm pretty sure I am the guest whose convenience was being respected here.)