Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been a week since this year’s conference (our 67th) ended. And what an incredible conference it was, full of energy, knowledge, and friendships both rekindled and newly forged. It was the sort of conference where one looks back when it’s done and thinks “yeah, this is why we do this.”
As you can imagine, putting together a conference of this magnitude takes a lot of work. And I wanted to take a moment to thank those folks who have contributed their time to getting this done.
First, to Eileen D’Angelo. PWC Board bylaws require officers to serve no more than three consecutive years, and 2015 marks the end of Eileen’s 2nd three-year tour of duty as PWC president (she also served as president from 2009 – 2011). Over the past three years, Eileen has led us through a time of great change at the PWC as we’ve adjusted to this brave new digital world that seems to evolve every day. If I can accomplish half of what she has as president, I’ll consider my term a success. And don’t worry, we didn’t let Eileen get too far. She’ll be fulfilling the role of First Vice President and will be responsible for helping us pull together workshops for the 2016 conference.
Rich Bank stated at the Agents and Editors Buffet that this year’s panel was the best we’ve pulled together. And Rich should know, he’s served on the board for 22 years! A big thank you should go to the Agents and Editors committee, led by Rich, David L Wilson, and Carol Sabik-Jaffe. Carol also pitched in several blog posts leading up to the conference, is responsible for pulling together the fantastic array of book and magazine donations you find in the Hancock Room each year, AND covers the PWC Twitter feed.
Our treasurer, David Bernstein has spent the last year updating our bookkeeping system, bringing it into the digital age and making it much easier for us to receive (and sometimes return) electronic payments. He and assistant treasurer Joe O’Loughlin also have the joy of deciphering my futile attempts of record keeping within our registration system. This is truly yeoman’s work, and as behind the scenes as it gets so many thanks to these two gentlemen who keep the wheels moving.
They won’t have to decipher my record keeping next year, because Ed Krizek is taking over the role as Registrar. Ed was our Scholarship Chair for 2014 and 2015 and had the unenviable task of picking our Memorial Scholarship winners from a pool of qualified candidates. He also helmed a change in how we handle student and writers club scholarships, replacing (in the case of the writers’ clubs) the inefficient blanketing of old email addresses with a more direct approach that had clubs register ahead of time to get their scholarship codes. For the students, we eliminated the one school/one scholarship approach and simply offered half-price to all students. The end result? A 50% increase in the number of identified writers’ clubs enrollments and a 1000% increase in student enrollments, both factors that I believe led to the increased vibrancy and energy we saw in this year’s conference.
Another factor in this year’s success were the contests, and after several years of declining participation, we saw a huge uptick in the number of contest entries this year. We had more than 160 manuscript contest entries, and our contest committee, led by Autumn Konopka, Miriam Schnycer, and Christine Weiser reviews them all, weeds out those that didn’t follow submissions guidelines (a surprisingly high number), and assigns them to each of our three judges. Thanks to their leadership, we’ve found not only increased quantity but a great improvement to the quality of our entries, a fact reflected in the number of awards and scholarships we gave out this year. Autumn also led our Words on the Wall contest, and in addition to providing that leadership assumed responsibility for getting our boards back and forth to the hotel. I think I may have witnessed one of life’s small miracles watching a 5 foot tall poet single-handedly load 36 square feet of foam board into her car. I’m still not sure how she did it, but that’s Autumn. Give her a task and she finds a way to get it done.
In addition to her work on the contest committee (and a half-dozen other things), Christine Weiser also led the Critique committee and worked with the Registrar to get those manuscripts to our workshop leaders. Again, we saw a huge uptick in the number of critiques submitted, with over 100 critiques either downloaded to the site or emailed to the Registrar. Unfortunately, we did find some glitches in the submissions process (mostly around people making post registration submissions) that we’ll improve next year. Alas, we’ll need to do it without Christine, who has resigned the board to focus on the great work she’s already doing with Philadelphia Stories and PS Junior. We’re going to miss her, but the good news is she’s not going far, and we look forward to working with Christine as the great, ongoing partnership between Philadelphia Stories and the PWC continues.
Two board members stepped up to fill last minute class vacancies this year, with Don Lafferty taking over all three days of the new Social Media workshop, and Greg Frost stepping into Solomon Jones’ shoes when an unavoidable conflict arose on Saturday. Greg, who is the newest member to the board after years as a workshop leader, was everywhere this year, serving on multiple committees and providing most of our blog interviews with our workshop leaders. Don is also responsible for dragging the PWC into the 21st century and his input into our social media presence has been invaluable. He and Larry Atkins, who sends out dozens of press releases to local news and media outlets, are our main conduits to both old media and new and we thank them for getting the word out.
The entire board multitasked. Helene Matt, Josh Isard, Rhonda Hoffman, and Alice Wootson served multiple shifts at the registration desk, coordinated our door prizes, and in general filled in whatever space we needed filling. Missy Grotz and Lisa Lutwyche put together the personalized folders each conferee received, including setting up over 250 name tags, a task which I’m sure constitutes a war crime according to the Geneva Convention. Jerry Waxler blogged and also used his fine analytical mind to figure out the room schedules. Dave Kozinksi provided multiple blog posts and designed both the post cards we mailed in March and the brochures we handed out at the Keynote dinner. Susan Robbins, our analytics guru, pulled together the much-improved, consolidated survey you received at the conference or completed online (and if you haven’t done either, please click here and submit your feedback!)
I’d be remiss to not mention Gloria and Bill Delamar, who have each served on the board for four decades. The tolls of time has made it tough for Bill and Glo to attend the conference, but their spirit of dedication and service hangs over everything we do.
And of course, we need to thank our speakers and workshop leaders, who took the time out of their schedule to teach us for a weekend. Eileen jokes every year that our faculty sure don’t do this for the money, and there is no greater truth. In some cases out-of-pocket expenses means our instructors lose money teaching at the conference. But they’re here because of their love of the community, because in our little writers’ world, there is no greater joy then reaching out to teach, to connect, and to guide. So Sara and Stephen; Stuart, Solomon, Suzanne, and Susan; Anne and Anna; Janice, Jon, and Judi; Catherine, Christopher, and Ken; Dan, Dan, Fran, and Lu Ann; Merry, Randall, and Tom – thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and time. We are all the better for it.
Our judges this year had a Sisyphean task, walking through those dozens of manuscripts and finding a winner. So thank you Nathaniel Popkin, Courtney Bambridge, and Harriet Fry for all of your work. And we sure put our Agents and Editors through a whirlwind on Friday, between the travel, the meeting, hearing over 100 pitches (maybe another record this year for number of appointments held), PLUS being lucid enough to speak so knowledgeably on the post-dinner panel, it’s truly testament to their dedication to the craft. So for that, thank you Adriana, Sarah, Blair, Jennifer, Alec, and especially Ayesha, who stepped in with little notice when another editor had to back out.
Thanks to Ashley Moore, our first ever PWC intern. Ashley came to us by way of Temple University, flying in like a superhero and saving my sanity as deadlines loomed menacingly. There’s no truth to the rumor that I cried tears of joy when she took over posting duties back in April. (OK, maybe a little bit of truth).
And finally, thank you. Yes, I mean YOU. The person reading this post. Without your support, there simply is no Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. Thank you for attending. Thank you for sharing your work (we know how scary that can be). Thank you for your kind words, your enthusiasm; and thank you even for those occasional not-so-kind words, because we’ll learn from those and make the conference even better. Thank you to the old pros who have been to multiple conferences and who so generously extend a greeting to those folks attending for the first time. And thank you to those first timers who bring so much energy and ideas. And thank you to those folks who came back after a year, or two, or twenty away. We loved having you back and hope you’ll join us in Old City every June to refresh your knowledge, revisit old friends, and reconnect with this vibrant, ever-expanding writers’ community.
What’s next? Well, the board is already looking towards 2016. We have workshops to vet, ideas to put forth, improvements to discover. Make sure you watch this space and our Facebook page and Twitter feed for additional contests and news about free forums. And remember, we’re always open for suggestion, either through the survey or through this blog. So if you have ideas for workshops or workshop leaders, or things you think might be done differently, or just some general feedback about what you liked or didn’t like, please let us know. We’re listening!
See you in 2016!