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Derek Chamberlain recently joined the South Australian branch. Here, they share their pathway to editing, their biggest challenges and why IPEd membership feels like hope.  

My name is Derek Chamberlain. I’m originally from Adelaide but have been living in Hokkaido, Japan, for the last 30 years. I’m an ESL teacher, teaching oral communication and writing, but I’ve freelanced as a writer, copyeditor and proofreader as well.

I got my start editing, as I’m sure most people do, by having friends and acquaintances ask for help. Most of my work has been on translations, or English texts written by Japanese writers, mostly medical or legal research papers. Structural and copyediting are also large parts of my job teaching writing skills. What attracts me to editing is helping people express themselves, their thoughts and ideas, in a way that effectively connects to their intended audience.

I recently decided that I wanted to move away from teaching and focus on editing more, a decision prompted by Covid, the tanking of the Japanese economy and the loss of my business. I decided I needed to diversify my income. Expanding into a field that isn’t limited by national borders seemed like a good idea.

As part of that movement towards location independence, I want to move into editing fiction. There are many very good writers in the self-publishing sphere, but even among those writers, it is not uncommon to come across flaws that could have been avoided with an extra editing pass. I’d love to be able to help those writers polish their books.

I think the most challenging aspect of the job so far has been staying up to date with all the different style manuals currently in use, and with the different specialist dictionaries. As an occasional freelancer, it has been difficult to justify the large outlays of cash necessary to access all the manuals and dictionaries needed.

Offering services online, it often seems like everyone wants you to be an expert in every style, or in the one style that you don’t know, and only those with accreditation in a particular style can escape the race to the bottom on the freelancing marketplaces.

Style manuals outline best usage while online courses can teach you the basics, which is why I’m back at university after all these years taking a course in professional writing and editing. Given the chance, though, I would love to work with a mentor. Mentors, I believe, show you how to put all the theory and knowledge into practice. It’s the difference between reading a recipe and having a chef walk you through it, explaining why the recipe asks you to do things a particular way.

I’m brand new to IPEd, so I’m not yet sure what I’m going to like most about being a member. At present, I’d say that membership feels like a step towards hope. Membership gives access to training, to accreditation and to making connections, all of which can provide opportunities for growth, future employment and new friendships.

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