Thursday, October 25, 2012

Confessions of a Conference Crasher

Tis the season for professional conferences of all ilks. Last week I presented a poster at the National meeting of The Wildlife Society (TWS) in Portland, OR. Thousands of wildlife professionals, researchers, and students met for 5 days to exchange ideas and network. I had a pretty successful meeting. I talked to some big names and got a few resumes out to prospective employers. Good stuff.

But that wasn't the only conference I attended.

Last week, Portland also hosted the largest writing conference in the Pacific Northwest. Wordstock included talks and discussions with dozens of notable authors, playwrights, songwriters, agents, and publishers. It's a veritable whos-who of word nerds.

And I crashed it.

Right off the bat, let me say that I feel a little guilty about it. I really try to be a good guy and sneaking into an event, and in doing so taking attention and space from legitimate attendees, does not fall into the "good guy" category. Plus, I'd really like to not get in trouble for this. Just in case you were planning to rat me out.

That having been said, it was awesome.

I had noticed Wordstock when walking around the Oregon Convention Center (which is HUGE). On the opening night of the TWS conference I decided not to attend the plenary session but instead shuffled my way into the middle of a pack of writers and managed to slip by the badge-checkers at the front door of Wordstock.

Let me point out that at 6'4", 220lbs, it's not easy for me to sneak in places.

Once inside I went to every booth, talked to a number of independent publishers, met a couple agents (including the lovely ladies at Loose Leaf Literary who I encourage everyone to check out) and even  managed to listen to a FASCINATING and potentially transformatory panel discussion about voice in memoir writing titled "The Heart of the Matter".

I learned all kinds of stuff.

I learned that writing people, at least at this conference, are on average young, female, and dressed in a way that says "I'm creative". I learned that writing people have cool tattoos. I learned that writing presentations have just as many people that ask annoying questions as wildlife conferences (seriously, who stands up and tells a panel of notable authors that the past 45 minutes have been uninteresting and all she wants to hear about is why an agent turned down her memoir - I wanted to punch her in the throat).

But the main thing I learned is that writing conferences really are worth it. I've been hesitant to spend the money to attend one of these events. It's hard to lay down a couple hundred dollars if you're uncertain how much you'll get out of something. But interacting with writers, hearing their advice, seeing the options out there, getting that sense of community, even for just an afternoon, it's made me a believer.

I learned that I want to go to another writers conference.

Who knows, this time I might even pay for it.


  1. Some day I'll get to a conference. Glad to hear it was a good experience.

  2. You took it for a test-ride, and it didn't buck. ;) Hope you'll have fun and get to learn surprising things at conferences in the future.

    1. Thanks Vero. Are there writing conferences in your neck of the woods?

  3. I strongly encourage you to pay to go to a writing conference, so you can fully enjoy it. These are set up to benefit writers, and they make for a good experience.

    1. I agree Mark. I'm looking into upcoming conferences now!


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