Big writing conferences are always held in nondescript conference centers. You know the type I mean: beige walls, mild, unoffensive curtains and carpeting, everything designed to fade into the background. Unlike bookstores, which are wild with color, or libraries that ooze character and history, these conference centers feel at odds with what we know to be wonderful about literature: a memorable voice, striking imagery, attention-grabbing details. Conference centers are specifically designed to act like a blank canvas to keep the focus on the subject of the conference. We understand what makes these places functional. But at first, these environments feel like they can never match richness of our literary imaginations. “Am I in the right place?” we ask ourselves as we make our way from the parking lot to the registration desk. “Is this really the place where I’m going to learn how to make my book the best it can be?”
And yet. What I love about writing conferences is the way they come alive just moments after registration. Writers’ personalities begin to fill up the conference center, their laughter carrying up and over the banquet tables and the coffee-and-pastry buffets. Heated debates about the proper use of the comma electrify the beige, softly-lit rooms. Famous authors, flanked by their agents and editors and publicists, make the corridors feel suddenly glamorous. Exhibitors’ tables sag under the weight of the books they’re selling and the promotional materials they’re unpacking: pens, post-it notes, stickers, totebags. By the end of the conference, the tables are nearly empty. Attendees are the ones sagging under the weight of their new wares, packing it all into their suitcases to look over when they get home. Later, when we think of the conference center, it feels like a special, idiosyncratic place–a blank canvas got painted with ideas and inspiration.
PNWA is, of course, just like that. The Book Country table is located right next to a coffee station, and during the breaks I’ve been watching writers refill their cups quickly, eager to get back into the session rooms so that they won’t miss a single thing. Writers who’ve visited my table listen carefully as I talk about Book Country’s mission and our wonderful community. They gently tuck our postcards and my business cards into their PNWA folder. I get the sense that this folder is a hugely important possession. That folder has great wisdom in it, notes and brochures and email addresses and book recommendations from the teachers and exhibitors and fellow writers that they’ve met at PNWA. It’s an honor for our Book Country literature to be in that same folder!
The theme for PNWA 2013 is “No one writes alone.” Book Country believes this. You need a community to write your best book, or better yet, communities, plural. An online community to keep you involved with readers from wherever in the world you live, and a community like PNWA where you can find that face to face connecting that is so invigorating. We love coming to conferences, especially PNWA with its fantastically kind and generous energy. An enormous thank you goes out to the amazing PNWA team for having us, and we’re so excited to welcome PNWA writers into the BC fold. Don’t be shy: Introduce yourself on the Community discussion board, and be sure to email me (lucy AT bookcountry DOT com) if you need any help navigating the site (or just to say hi!). Welcome to the community–we’re thrilled to have you here!