Use your persona, not PowerPoints

by carl on June 3, 2012

Marie-Lynn Hammond at EAC 2012 When Marie-Lynn-Hammond—singer, songwriter and top-notch editor—took the podium to face a roomful of editors, she had no videos, no props and no PowerPoints. She hardly even used her guitar.

What she had was stage presence, an incredible sense of timing and a feeling for her audience.

Her subject was “Editing poetry, songs and humour.” Good grief. How on earth can you do that? Even the sharpest red pencils at the Editors’ Association of Canada’s annual conference stopped cold. But when Marie-Lynn led them through it, it all made sense.

First, she got closer to her audience. She asked them how many had written songs, how many had edited songs or humour. She displayed just three pages of poems with her revisions, giving a few short, pointed examples of how to edit a poem. She left space to answer questions.

Marie-Lynn showed how to with edit with coherence and how to keep to the form. This may mean meter in a poem and it certainly means the beat in a song. It always requires a sense of what belongs and what should be tossed out. As in ordinary copy editing, repetition should have a reason—reinforcing an idea, for example. Otherwise, something like a repeated adjective may have to go.

When a poet has a few lines straggling on after the climax of a poem, she proposed suggesting to the poet to delete them. A poem that creates a certain aura, such as the feeling of being in a bazaar in the Middle East, for example, should not have a word like “businessmen.” Better to replace it with “merchants.”

Marie-Lynn then did something surprising: she gave away twenty minutes of her hour to someone else. She said, “We have a special guest, Greg Ioannou, who will talk about editing humour.” Greg followed her model: he gave a few pointed examples, one of which even showed how he made the wrong evaluation of a piece of humour. Then he analyzed it. Both he and the author were right, even though they disagreed on whether to keep a character in a novel or turf her out. It turned out the character was uproariously funny to some people and annoying as hell to others.

Then Marie-Lynn took the podium again, and took questions from everyone. She still had 20 minutes left. So she asked what people wanted to hear more about, and told them about the aspects of her work as bilingual songwriter and editor. She explained how she wove French expressions into a song in such a way that English Canadians would understand them.

While many other presenters had gone over their time limit during the conference and had to apologize for cutting into the question period, she left her audience on time, smiling and satisfied.

Marie-Lynn Hammond, singer, songwriter—and editor—presented at the 12012 Conference of the Editors” Association of Canada on June 2.

Greg Ioannou, writer, editor, editor and president of the Editors’ Association of Canada, also presented on “Editing ebooks” and “How SEO and editing can wreck each other” at the conference.

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