Last year I was a full-time volunteer at our annual writing conference in Myrtle Beach. It was quite an experience. I knew SCWW put on a strong writers’ conference, but what I saw from my vantage point of the check-in/answer desk was a real wake-up message.
On Friday of last year’s conference, a very tire couple trudged up to the check-in desk. The lady said, “Can I still register?”
When I said she was most certainly welcome to do so, her face flooded with relief.
“My husband and I have driven from Phoenix, Arizona just so I could attend this conference.”
Dumbstruck I pushed the registration forms toward her. “How did you learn about us,” I asked her.
“There is a writers’ conference in Tempe and before I registered for it, I decided to Google writers’ conferences, and I found yours is the most comprehensive and best value. It was worth it to me to drive nearly across the country to attend. And the faculty you have put together is very impressive.”
I was impressed too! As she finished with the registration process and we continued to chat, she became so comfortable that she and her husband decided that he should take the opportunity to go visit friends in a near-by state and return on Sunday to get her.
I saw her again on Sunday morning, face beaming. I asked her if she had had a good experience at the conference, did she feel she had made a good decision to spend her weekend with SCWW. Enthusiastically she said yes and that she was planning to come back next time and bring a carload from her writing group. It was a highlight of my volunteer experience.
On Saturday I checked in a writer, physician by profession, who had flown in…again from Arizona…to get A critique ONLY from editor, Caitlain Alexander. I was awed that someone with a writer’s passion and very limited free time would fly cross country for a 20-minute appointment. Again I was struck by the quality of our faculty.
I ran into a friend from my home chapter on Saturday evening. She was as mad as a wet hen. “I am never coming to this conference again,” she said. It turns out the agent she thought would be her soul mate and would understand her writing esthetic was not a good fit. I tried consoling her, but it didn’t work…she was on her way home!
The next time I saw her was on Sunday morning after another critique with a different faulty member (who asked to see more of her work) and a pitch appointment (with a third faculty member who wanted to see the first 50 pages of another of her works). She was smiling and skipping to the tune of “Zippidy-Do-Da,” complete with the animated bluebirds from Song of the South.
“Aren’t you glad you stayed,” I asked, even though the answer was written on her face.
“We’re writers,” she said. “We’re opinionated and volatile. The agent I thought was so like me and would ‘get me’ was not who I needed to see.” And off she skipped, still smiling. I smiled too, happy to be associated with a writing conference that offers a wide variety of professionals so well versed in their fields of expertise.
I’m looking forward to volunteering at the SCWW 21st annual writers’ conference again this year. I hope I’ll hear a success story from you.