I was down in Nashville this week for the sixth annual PENCON, which is (as far as I know) the only conference for editors working specifically in the CBA market. PENCON was in Grand Rapids last year, just minutes from my publishing house, so most of our editorial staff attended. This year I was the only representative from our team.

I was also on faculty, presenting two sessions on “Editing for Suspense in Fiction” and “Fiction Techniques in Nonfiction.” Since I’m a fiction writer as well as an editor, both sessions were fun and personally enriching to develop. I expected to be very nervous—the last time I presented an academic paper at the Children’s Literature Association, I felt sick the whole day—but I felt surprisingly calm during both sessions. (I did feel like a total impostor sitting on a faculty panel next to Bob Hudson, who worked at Zondervan for thirty-plus years and is a legend in the CBA world, but that’s another story.) Presenting at the conference reminded me that I do miss prepping lessons and being in the classroom, especially leading discussion, so I need to find more outlets for my dormant teacher side.

I was able to attend many excellent sessions as well, on everything from the physiology of proofreading to upcoming genre trends to foreshadowing in speculative fiction to the minutiae of publishing style (is it Jesus’ or Jesus’s?). I learned lots of new things, took lots of notes, and was given lots of fresh ways to look at editorial problems I come across on a regular basis. Spending a couple of days intentionally analyzing the nuts and bolts of editing and discussing best practices gets me excited about the work and ready to jump back in.

PENCON was also a great chance to catch up with some industry friends I haven’t seen for a while, and to make new connections. Several freelancers who edit projects for my publishing house were there, and I got to put faces to names and learn more about them personally. I brought home a stack of business cards too and a long note on my phone of people to send proofreading tests to, editing resources to share with people, connections to make between people I met at the conference and others at my publishing house, and so on. Some of my favorite conversations were the random moments between sessions or in the hallway where I’d get to chatting with someone about the significance of the changing seasons in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms or whether Western culture is still stuck in a modernist mind-set (rather than postmodern one).

Like many (most?) editors, I’m quite introverted, so it’s also good when the conference ends, and I get to go home and get some alone time to recharge. But there is something important about getting together with my “tribe,” comparing notes, and geeking out about books. PENCON is one of those conferences I hope I get back to.

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