Gatineau 2017: Editors Canada conference

Around 11.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 7 June, I made a mistake that meant I lost a couple of hours’ work, then I walked into the side of a door and cut my forehead: not the best prelude to my Canadian adventure. I needed a break.

The next morning Pauline drove me to Dublin Airport, and I caught my plane to Toronto. I was tired, not having slept well (in fact I wouldn’t get a good sleep till I was home again). Seven hours later we landed, giving me two hours to catch my Ottawa flight. Queuing at customs, check-in and security took up most of this, but I made my connection.

I took a taxi to the Crowne Plaza hotel—across the river in Gatineau, Quebec—checked in, and had a walk around. That part of Gatineau is quite unprepossessing. I was surprised at how much French was spoken. I had a Subway sandwich, disoriented by the time change. The hotel was quiet and, to my surprise, the tiny bar sold no beer: this would be a source of wonderment to some of the editors all weekend and beyond.

In the morning it was hot and humid. I met up with Gael, Patricia and various others in the hotel lobby—old friends and new ones—and off we went on foot, to have breakfast at the Canadian Museum of History. Then across the bridge to Ottawa and further sites—the Parliament Building, the Changing of the Guard, Byward Market (where Patricia famously became wedged in the W of a giant OTTAWA sign). The people of Ottawa are extremely friendly.

That evening there was a reception for the conference attendees, at which I drank wine and chatted to lots of editors. Then twelve of us walked to a restaurant and had a very pleasant dinner, followed for some by drinks in the poorly stocked hotel bar.
The conference proper started on Saturday with a stunning keynote address by the Métis writer Cherie Dimaline. I then attended sessions by the always entertaining James Harbeck (‘How to Give Presentations and Speeches’) and the young publisher Ilhan Ibrahim of Qurtuba Publishing House in Ottawa, who gave an excellent presentation on ‘Reclaiming the Muslim Narrative’.

After lunch, it was time for the ‘How to Make Social Media Work for You’ panel, comprising Sue Archer, Robin Marwick and myself. This seemed to go well: the three of us spoke about our use of social media, gave some advice and answered questions.
That was the end of the day’s serious business for me, as the rest of the afternoon was taken up with the Editors Canada AGM. I went out to try to buy a bottle of wine for later, and wandered aimlessly in the heat and humidity. Eventually I went into a bar and asked the bartender to sell me a bottle of wine to take away, which he did (‘No one’s ever asked me that before’). This gave rise to some amusement among my colleagues later.

In due course I met some people in Gael’s room for the traditional pre-banquet drink, and then off we all went to the banquet. I was at a circular table with many of my friends—including Christine, Gael, Patricia, Daphne, Greg and others—and everyone had a good time. Speeches were made; awards were presented; James Harbeck hosted the very funny ‘Oops’ awards. Extra wine and a corkscrew were smuggled in. Then some of us went to the bar and tried to squeeze a few drops of alcohol out of the bartender’s indifference. I sat up fairly late with Greg, James, John McIntyre, Amy and Daphne.

The next morning (Sunday) I went first to Frances Peck’s very entertaining presentation on ‘The Great “That and Which” Hunt’, and then Elizabeth d’Anjou’s ‘Freelance Editing: Top Ten Things I Wish I’d Known’. Many of these things were familiar from my own experience; Elizabeth described them wittily and well.

At the break I happened to get talking to Lorie Boucher and her husband John; the upshot was that I attended Lorie’s ‘Blue Pencil Meets Pointy Heads: Editing the Experts’ session. She offered lots of good insights that I could again relate to from my own experience.

After lunch I went with John and Lorie to the panel on ‘The Future of Self-Publishing and Editors’, comprising my friends Arlene Prunkl, Greg Ioannou, Stacey Atkinson and Carla Douglas. This was interesting, of course, even though I don’t deal much with self-publishing authors at present. Then Jenny Lass, also a friend, gave a very enjoyable presentation on ‘When to Break the Rules: Leaving the Style Guide Behind’.

All that remained at this stage was John McIntyre’s closing keynote. John, who is admired and even loved by legions of editors, delivered a rousing and moving call to arms on our profession’s behalf. It was ideal end-of-conference fare, and he received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Then, sadly, it was over. The attendees were exhausted, I think (I certainly was), but in buoyant mood. I went to dinner with Greg and Gael, then we came back to the hotel and went to our respective rooms. I was considering an early night when a group message arrived from John McIntyre, saying that he was in the lobby and asking plaintively whether anyone was still around. I didn’t like to think of him possibly drinking alone, so down I went. In fact there was a group of eight or so people; I sipped a glass of wine and we had a very funny discussion of profanities: a typical editors’ topic. The group dwindled; I ended up having a pleasant conversation with Amy and Ann.

On Monday morning I had a buffet breakfast in the hotel and checked out, although I had paid for one more night (my request for a discount wasn’t entertained). I sat in the lobby, chatting briefly to various passing editors and saying goodbye to them. Then Suzanne and Sue (along with Suzanne’s young son, whom I won’t name here for reasons of privacy) collected me; Suzanne drove us to the airport, where Sue was catching a flight.

We went to Suzanne’s house and I met her enormous dogs; Patricia arrived too and the rest of the day was very pleasant, as Jamie and Suzanne were so hospitable. We sat in the garden in the hot sunshine, and had a great barbecued meal and a few drinks.

On Tuesday morning I was up at 4.30, as was Suzanne to drive me the short distance to the airport. I duly caught my 6.30 flight to Boston, having got past the rude and surly US customs people. Although there were only eight passengers, I was sitting beside a very chatty Lebanese woman.

I left the airport and took the shuttle bus to the water transportation dock, then travelled across to the city in a small boat-taxi: this was fun. The boatman was friendly (‘the Irish built this city’) and advised me to leave my bag with the doorman at a nearby large hotel. This I did: the doorman said he would take it ‘as a favour’ and I gave him a tip. It was very hot and humid as I walked around: I had breakfast and spent a few hours in the city but didn’t accomplish much actual sightseeing before collecting my bag (to the doorman’s surprise: he said I should have a few beers first) and getting the boat and bus back to the airport, where I had quite a lot of time to kill. I read my book, ate fish and chips, and checked Facebook on Susanna’s iPod.

The flight to Dublin was fine: not quite as long as the flight out. I was tired and just wanted to get home. We touched down around 4.45 on Wednesday morning, Irish time, and Pauline was there to collect me.

Another great visit to Canada! I enjoyed everything about it: most of all, just hanging out with my Canadian (and other) editor friends and meeting new people, or people I had known only from Facebook. The theme of the brief presentation I gave on the Saturday was ‘subscribe to the tribe’, and that’s what the conference was mainly about for me. I’m very grateful to Suzanne and the other organizers, and to everyone who was involved in any way.

I hope to be back in Canada for the next international conference, in 2019: I’m looking forward to it already.


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