Latoya West-Blackwood has her pulse on what drives the creative industry. She is an official Branson Centre entrepreneur and Young Leaders of the Americas Fellow, who turned her love of books into a career by founding iPublish Consultancy, Jamaica’s first registered full-service publishing business. Her company taps into people’s need to understand each other through stories. From her business platform, she provides support services for content creators who wish to either self-publish, or go the traditional route.
In 2015, her company facilitated its first event, a Publishing Bootcamp, which was a success. I know, because I was there. So, when she invited me to attend their Editorial Bootcamp, I knew that it would be worth my while to go. According to the event details, the intensive one-day workshop would focus on “editing non-fiction…geared towards publishing professionals, corporate content creators and anyone with an interest in improving their editorial skills.”
The day of the event, Saturday, March 25, 2017, dawned with sunny approval, as if hinting at what lay in store for those of us who would be attending. Since I was early, I wandered for a while around the grounds of the venue, the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, people-watching.
As the attendees arrived one by one, I noticed that Latoya had decided to make this workshop a small, intimate gathering, which, I must confess, appealed to my introverted nature. My fellow participants included an anaesthetist (the only man in the group), a communications professional, a retired professional, persons from the government and private sectors, a university student, and an activist. I liked our motley crew.
FIRST PRESENTER – LATOYA WEST-BLACKWOOD
Latoya shared her story of how Ian Randle, one of Jamaica’s leading publishers, started her on the road that led her to her current position in the publishing world.
She outlined the areas of her company’s focus, namely,
• Redefining authorship
• Analytics-based publishing
• Non-traditional models of funding
• Content on demand
• Marketing & Publicity
Using the human-interest storytelling medium Our Jamaica as an example, she called attention to persons on Facebook, who decided to like and interact with the page without being influenced by advertisements or marketing agendas. For her, the organic growth of this more than 40,000-strong Facebook page underscored the potential of analytics-based publishing.
In touching on the area of Marketing & Publicity, she made a thought-provoking point:
“We’re missing out on the big picture and the content here in Jamaica by not focusing on books outside of textbooks.”
To cement her point, she emphasised the value of fiction books by mentioning award-winning Jamaican authors, such as Olive Senior, Marlon James, Kei Miller, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Erna Brodber, Roland Watson-Grant, and Ishion Hutchinson, as well as their illustrious prizes. I felt motivated when she said that Mr. Watson-Grant writes stories that are unique to Jamaica, but with a global resonance.
In closing her presentation, Latoya pressed home two points – 1) Editing is more than grammar. It’s a skill for distinguishing structure, fact-checking, and accuracy, and 2) Storytelling is not just about the fiction genre. It’s about how we craft content.
SECOND PRESENTER – LA-RAINE CARPENTER-ANDREWS
The bio of the main speaker, Mrs. La-Raine Carpenter-Andrews, states that “[she] has over 12 years’ experience in the publishing and editorial industry.” She revealed her expertise as she covered the following areas:
• The Publishing Process
• The Editing Process
• Author Queries
• Author Voice
• Style Guides
• Online Tools
In response to my question about proofs in the publishing process, she explained that the first proofs, which are given to both the author and proofreader, provide the former with the only opportunity to make changes.
She also gave us two simple, yet useful tips: 1) Use a ruler as a guide when going through text, line by line, and 2) Make a list of things to look out for, such as “of” and “or”, and commonly misspelled and misused words.
At that point, it was time to put our editing skills to work. In our first activity, we fact-checked an article on a Jamaican tertiary institution. It was interesting to note all the similarities and differences in the various responses.
Our third and final activity was the funniest of all. One, we all learned a new word —“enfilade”— and were reminded that using a simpler word is usually more effective than one that has you scrambling for the nearest dictionary.
In her final presentation on Online Tools, Mrs. Carpenter-Andrews shared that she uses an online dictionary, as it tends to be more updated than a print version. (She’s right. I rarely use my dictionary and thesaurus, even though they’re in plain sight on my desk.) She also recommended AutoCrit, a tool for fiction writers, as well as the well-known Grammarly software. It was fascinating to watch the latter in action, in her video presentation.
THIRD PRESENTER – CHERRY-ANN SMART
Ms. Cherry-Ann Smart has a wealth of experience as a librarian and an academic editor. She presented on “The Business Side of Editing”, and shared from her own experience as the owner of Edit119, a business that provides academic editing services. She stressed the importance of always preparing a contract and having fixed rates.
One thing from her presentation that jumped out at me was the broad meaning of plagiarism, beyond stealing someone else’s idea. It’s so broad that there’s the danger of plagiarising oneself! Always give credit, even if it’s your own work.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE WORKSHOP
The venue was a good choice for the event. The Multi-function Room was aesthetically pleasing, air-conditioned, had good lighting, adequate, comfortable seating and large tables, and an adjoining rest room. The acoustics were great, so there wasn’t any need for a microphone.
The presenters were articulate, knowledgeable, experienced, down-to-earth, and had a great sense of humour. Their visual aids showed thought and preparation. There was an audio glitch with the video presentations, but it wasn’t a major issue, because of the visual component.
The length of time for the workshop was enough to cover the material without causing information overload.
The Certificates of Participation were professional and a lovely addition. Two thumbs up!
If I were to subtract a point, it would be due to the slightly late start of the event. However, I understand that, even with the best-laid plans, things will go wrong. This factor didn’t detract from the overall high quality of the workshop.
My only suggestion would be to allow enough time for participants to do their evaluations.
I’m super grateful that I was able to attend this Bootcamp. Sacrificing a weekend to learn new things and be empowered in the process was definitely worth it. Kudos to Latoya and her company for the awesome work they’re doing and the generous space they’re creating for storytellers and other creatives.
The Bootcamp has ended, but, like any story, it’s just the beginning of another.
Contact Latoya West-Blackwood at ipublishja [at] gmail [dot] com and on Facebook.