Writers’ conference, behind the scenes

Last month, I helped one of my writing groups, Women Who Write, run our annual conference. It was hectic and fun and should probably not involve high-heeled boots. (But I like my high-heeled boots. Boots are the best type of shoes. I would wear boots to the pool in August if I could figure out how to justify it.)

In fact I might say running a conference is like hosting a party: You hope you’ve got enough chairs and food, you hope everyone shows up, you hope they have a good time. And you hope there isn’t some massive town-wide event going on at the exact same time that might prevent people from finding a parking space. Unfortunately, that last one couldn’t be helped; the Hurricane-That-Mostly-Ignored-New-Jersey caused Madison’s annual Bottle Hill Day to be rescheduled to the day of our conference. There was a tiny bit of panic and many mass emails directing attendees to come early so they could park. To be fair, as we were walking to the train station to meet the faculty, passing the vendors setting up their tables, it did look like a fun event. I might check it out next year, barring raindate-induced scheduling problems.

We had so many attendees this year that we did begin to run short on chairs. This is a good problem to have, in my opinion. We also had some tech issues, and now I know for next year that I need to figure out how to connect a laptop to a slide projector. Also, how to use a slide projector.

I did a whole lot of waving to people in between running from room to room. I also helped read submissions for the children’s “first pages” session, which I always find instructive even if it’s not my piece being critiqued. My big concern was, would I do justice to the pieces as I read them? Would my voice properly convey the right inflections in the dialogue? And would the microphone work? (It did.) Agent Sean McCarthy and editor Joanna Cardenas were our children’s faculty, and they did a tremendous job — after we’d read through the pieces, they answered general questions about the industry, and the session became an impromptu Q&A. Their other individual sessions were fun, too, with lots of humor and thoughtful insights.

The one downside to staying behind the scenes was that I missed a few sections of the conference, but on the other hand, this was my third WWW conference and I’ve attended NJSCBWI twice. I’ve had the full experience, so why not help other people get that same experience?

We’ve been getting good feedback from attendees post-conference, which is excellent news. Frankly I think my contribution was pretty small compared to the rest of the planning committee, who were all fantastic. I’m already looking forward to next year. Though next year may potentially involve flat boots.

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