26 March 2011

indexing, learning about .... 19

A few weekends ago, Taph and I travelled up to Sydney to attend the Introduction to Book Indexing course, run by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers, at the Thomas Reuters Building in Pyrmont (above).

It ran over 2 days, and there were 10 of us in the course - roughly half were women our age (mid 40s or so), and the other half were older women, closer to retirement age. And there was one man, a teacher from Melbourne. Glenda Browne (who has won an Ig Noble Prize for her article about indexing the word "The") was a very lovely and informative teacher (and the author of the one indexing book I own, The Indexing Companion).

Over the two days we covered such topics as analysing texts, principles of indexing, alphabetical order (not as obvious as you might think!), working with publishers, editing indexes, how to index names, and much more besides. There was a lot to take in!

In the past month or so I've gathered some of the things needed for indexing. I now own a copy of Cindex, the only indexing software available for the Mac (which helps with formatting indexes). I've got the ridiculously expensive Australian New Zealand Standards Document 999:1999 on indexing ($121 for a 48 page photocopied A4 booklet! WTF guys?!). I've got The Indexing Companion Workbook. And I've even subscribed to The Indexer, the international journal for indexers (yes folks, there is a journal for everything! Calling it 'fun-packed' - as they do - is a bit of a stretch though!).

I've joined the ACT branch of ANZSI, and had tea with the delightful president Shirley. I'll be going on my first ANZSI 'field trip' next month, into the depths of the library at Parliament House.

Amongst all this profligate spending, I have also been practicing and learning, trying to get my head around the jargon and the methods. The biggest challenge with writing a good index is how to summarise a concept from the book, into a few concise words that a reader - who is either familiar or unfamiliar with the topic - would search for in the index. And then arranging the information, with main headings and subheadings, in a logical way. I find this part rather challenging, but I gather I'm not alone in this.

While I could put my name on the ANZSI list of indexers available now, I don't feel confident enough to offer my services just yet. I'll do the Intermediate course, which is run over a month (May-June) and online (we index a book, and get feedback from Glenda during the process). Most days I spend an hour or so working through the Workbook, or reading about indexing.

I'll also look into arranging some (paid) mentoring from a Canberra indexer, to get them to look over some example indexes I want to write. I think I'll do an index for the book Quirkology by Dr Richard Wiseman - then I'll send it to him and his publisher (to use for free, if they so desire), and hopefully that may lead to some work with them in the future. I'd like to specialise in medical and science indexes, as well as other work of course. I think I'll draw the line at books on religion, politics or economics, though!