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More about our plenaries...
Dorothy Zemach holds an MA in TEFL from the School for International Training in Vermont, USA. After teaching ESL for over 25 years, she now concentrates on writing and editing materials and conducting teacher-training workshops. Her areas of specialty and interest are teaching writing, teaching reading, business English, academic English, testing, and humor. A prolific textbook author and editor, Dorothy has penned everything from the Teddy Bear’s Magic Music teacher’s book to the lowest and highest levels of Macmillan's flagship course Open Mind to the groundbreaking English for Scammers (self-published). In 2012 she founded a micropress, Wayzgoose Press, that publishes fiction, literary non-fiction, and ELT materials. Website: http://dorothyzemach.com
Dorothy's plenary will take place on Wednesday 11th April
Sausage and the law: how textbooks are made

“Those who love sausage and the law,” goes the saying, “should never watch either being made.” But given how influential textbooks are—they can shape a teacher’s activities, lesson plans, or entire course curriculum—it’s time to have a look inside the sausage factory at how textbooks are created.

In recent years, publishers have changed the ways in which they decide what is published, how those materials are written, how (and how much) writers are paid, how to respond to new technologies, and how much to charge the customer. All of these changes influence the final product—the books and materials you use. And although many teachers have little knowledge of how books are created, they hold enormous power over the publishing process. It’s time, I’ll argue, for teachers to understand what’s going on, and to band together and use their power for good.
Having worked on everything from writing ancillary materials for most of the major ELT publishers to freelance and in-house editing to authoring coursebooks to running my own micropress, I’ll be sharing frank insights on materials creation from both the author’s side and the publisher’s side. After analyzing the transformation of the ELT publishing industry in the last half decade, I’ll offer recommendations for what teachers and administrators can do to help get the highest quality and most appropriate books for their classrooms.


An interview with Dorothy Zemach
What got you interested in the field of ELT writing?
When I taught company classes at Sumitomo Electric Industries in Japan, I was using this terrific series for low-level business English, Business Venture (Barnard & Cady, Oxford University Press). I used it every term, so I had notes in the margins of my own ideas. When OUP was working on a second edition of the series, I passed my notes on to the commissioning editor, who was in Japan on a research trip, and she asked if I’d like to submit a sample for the teacher’s guide. A teacher’s guide is a great way to get started with materials writing—like writing recipes for someone else’s dishes. If you’re lucky (and I was), you have solid, inspiring material to work with, and at the same time you have to figure out exactly how the materials would work in a classroom. How long will each exercise take? What should a teacher do about mixed-ability classes? Does this activity need any setting up? What’s a good way to wrap up this discussion? and so on. I think you carry that level of precision on when you later design your own teaching materials—or at least I try to! My editor on that project, Antoinette Meehan, could tell I was interested in publishing and went out of her way to explain the process to me—how art is chosen, how recording sessions work, why the schedule is set up the way it is, what market research looks like. She’s also the one who planted the idea in my head that I’d be a good editor.

What about this topic inspires you?
I like things that work. There’s a beauty in a well-crafted activity or a coherent syllabus when it clicks. You’ve had a hand in creating something that will genuinely help people—teachers’ lives will be easier, and students will be more successful.

Do you have a favourite motto, saying or quotation you can share with us?
“There are many paths up the mountain.”

As our audience is so international, could you mention some of the countries you have lived and/or worked in?
Some areas where I’ve lived and worked or given teacher-training workshops include North Africa/the Middle East (Yemen, Israel, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco), Latin America (Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua), Asia (Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia), Europe (Russia, Greece, Belarus). I always like going to a country for the first time and talking to teachers there—we have so much in common and so many differences at the same time. But I think we all face similar challenges—how can we best facilitate learning? How can we open ourselves to new ways while defending and refining those methods that work well? How can we manage our time? How can we maintain our energy and commitment?

What is your favourite thing to do outside ELT?
There’s an ‘outside ELT’? Hahaha. I don’t feel like I have a lot of free time, but I do find time for singing, reading, and horseback riding. I joke around on social media, I have coffee in my garden in the late morning, and I take long walks with my husband. In recent years I’ve started editing fiction, which yes, is a job, but “a change is as good as a rest,” as the saying goes, and I’ve been finding it a nice complement to working with educational materials.

If you are interested in joining Dorothy in Brighton Book for the Conference now for the Conference

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