My 2011 PNWA Conference Recap
I first attended the PNWA Conference in 2009. When I walked into the foyer of the conference center, I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It was a wondrous place, filled with authors and agents (who made me even more nervous). Every mechanism for improving my craft was new to me. I sat in the sessions and soaked up every concept, and didn’t even wait for the conference to end before I began to put the lessons into practice. By the end of the second day, I was sitting in an empty conference room editing my manuscript.
Last year, I calmed my nerves a bit, did a little bit of volunteering, and caught all the sessions I could. I focused more on the business of writing, and on networking with my fellow writers.
This year, I spent the entire conference volunteering. My official title was Event Liaison for the Pitch Doctor, which were fancy words that meant that in the weeks leading up to the conference, I made sure I had the volunteers who would work the Pitch Doctor desk signed up and organized. During the conference, I just had to make sure they had what they needed to ensure the sessions went smoothly. It was probably the easiest gig there was for the conference.
I also moderated two sessions (which both went wonderfully, I think). I helped a bit with the Speed Pitching, worked the registration desk, and tried to be where ever an extra hand was needed. The hours were long, and by Sunday morning, I could feel aches in every muscle fiber in my body. It was worth every ache.
I had a fantastic time. Volunteering at a conference isn’t for everyone, but it is a tremendous opportunity that I highly recommend to those who have been to the conference a couple of times, and want to find a way to get even more out of it. There are a few organized benefits for the event liaisons, and those are great. But there are also benefits that just happen because you are going above and beyond just attending the conference.
- You get to help solve problems. If you can help someone, and they go back to what they were doing while smiling, it is truly rewarding.
- You get to talk to everyone. Attendees, editors, speakers, agents, other volunteers. There is no greater single way to network at a writer’s conference than to be an active volunteer. As an attendee, you can do this too, but as a volunteer, it’s a lot easier to step out of your shell.
- The relationships you build while volunteering are much stronger than the ones you build while attending. I met a lot of people that first year when I was attending, but when I became a volunteer, I found my first real writing group, and coming out of this conference I’ve pulled in two very talented writers into the group. We all know were are serious about improving our skills because we see the level of commitment each of us has to our writing. We all know that writing is not just a passion, it’s a business, and we all want to succeed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how much fun it was to be behind the scenes this year. Kelli Liddane and Anne Belen and Andrew Stoute keep everything going, and I was privileged to spend so much time with them last weekend. Rare was the minute where we weren’t laughing about something back behind that long desk. The other event liaisons and I were just cogs on the gears. These three kept the whole conference going and they never stopped moving, even when I no longer could.
I also spent a great deal of time talking to my agent, Sally Harding, about my book, and about my progression as a writer. Those of us who work with Sally knows she demands perfection, and she knows when we have more we can put into our work. I’ve got some more editing to do over the next few months, but I’m good with that. I want the book to be great, not good, and she won’t accept anything less.
I also bought a stack of books at the event book store, including:
- Steal Across the Sky – Nancy Kress (Autographed)
- His Salvation – Michelle Bellon (Autographed)
- Motor Bikes and Murder – A.C. Christensen (Autographed)
- Honey, Baby, Sweetheart – Deb Caletti (Autographed)
- The Guttenberg Rubric – Nathan Everett (Autographed)
- Guerilla Marketing for Writers – Levinson, Frisman, Larsen and Hancock
- Bread for the Pharaoh – Jerome Asher
- A Place Called Armageddon – CC Humphries (Should have been autographed, but I never had it with me when I was talking to Chris)
They’ve all been added to my reading list. I now have enough books to get me through to Christmas, I think.
It’s hard to say there was a single highlight to the weekend, but I know I will never forget the ‘wrap party’ in the Hospitality Suite for the agents and editors, finalists and staff on Saturday night. I talked baseball on the balcony with agent Minju Chang (a huge San Francisco Giants Fan), talked about writing and food with Sally, and then had a very wonderful chat with Deb Caletti’s husband, John, about life, writing, fame and fortune. Talking with Deb and John was like talking with old, new friends, and I really hope to get to meet them again in the future.
Sure there were things that could have gone better. I think I had the worst bed in the world in my hotel room, and barely slept, even when I was exhausted. The line ups for changing Agent and Editor appointments were horrendously long (something we’re going to try to fix next year). The buffet lines were a little slow as well. But I rarely saw anyone truly upset, and when that did happen, we all tried to find a way to fix the issue to make sure everyone got as much as they needed /wanted to from the conference.
If you were there, and have any suggestions or comments, please fill out the conference surveys sent out yesterday. They are vitally important for providing feedback to the board. If you want to be added to a list of volunteers for next year, let them know that too.
I’m hoping you enjoyed the conference, and I’m already looking forward to next year!