In June 2019 Isobel Stevenson and I travelled to Yaoundé to run Langham’s first workshop for editors and writers in Cameroon. Isobel has been providing editor training in English in the Majority World for a several years, but she has never run a workshop in French before. I, on the other hand, am a native French speaker who edits Langham’s French publications, but I had never run an editing workshop at all or been to Africa before. So, this workshop offered a great opportunity for both of us to learn new skills ourselves while providing participants from Cameroon, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire with tools that they could use to improve their skills as editors and writers.
A Participative Approach
The workshop was very much hands-on. The writers had been asked to bring manuscripts they were currently working on, and these were discussed with the editors present. This meant the writers received feedback and the editors had an opportunity to apply the skills we had been teaching. I was greatly encouraged towards the end of the week to hear that two of the participants were meeting at the end of each day to talk about what they had learned that day.
One of the writers commented that she had come to the workshop thinking her book was finished and ready to be published, but during the workshop she realized that it actually still needed much more work! As a result, every night she reworked her manuscript according to what she had learned during the day.
Image [right]: Jeannette Tagny receives her certificate of attendance from Dr Solomon Andria.
Getting the Message Across
At the end of the week, I asked a few questions to see what the participants were taking away from the workshop. Here are some of the encouraging responses I received:
“All the talks on editing were very helpful. …. I feel like I received sufficient resources and guidance this week to help me.”
“The session on contextualization was the most helpful to me. Because we write for a specific reader in a specific context, we need to insert elements of this context into our writing so that the reader can identify and relate.”
“I found the participative approach of the workshop very useful. The tools for writers were useful.”
Some participants also took away key elements of the teaching:
“I am taking away that we shouldn’t lose sight of who our target audience is when writing.”
“The role of an editor is a noble work that requires expertise in the language and basic editing principles.”
As one of the participants put it well “What’s next”? The participants decided to stay in touch by creating a WhatsApp group. We encouraged them to start an online editors’ and writers’ group where they could ask questions and find support. We also encouraged the authors to send us their manuscripts to receive personal feedback. Two of them said they will do so.
On a personal level, meeting in person for the first time two of the people I work with via email, Yacouba Sanon from the Africa Bible Commentary board, and Stéphane Bilé who is an editor for LivresHippo, was extremely special.