Willamette Writers Conference – 2009

Blog 8-16-09

So, you see the date I wrote this blog… then the date I actually get it uploaded. I’ve been very busy attending three conferences in six weeks, the first of which also required a considerable amount of preparation on my part. This was the astounding Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon, where I met many remarkable writers and kind-hearted, interested agents and editors.

The hotel fairly crackled with creative energy. Everyone I met was hoping the best for everyone. It seemed to be common knowledge, common energy, that what’s good for one is good for all. I believe this is the first writer’s conference I’ve gone to (and I’ve been to plenty!) where I did not encounter jealousy, gossip, backbiting, angry tears, or any negative acting out of any sort.

Sound miraculous? It was!

That’s not to say there were none of those emotions expressed at the WW Conference but if there were, I didn’t encounter them, and I didn’t hear of them. I only heard mostly happy stories. Agents wanting to see people’s work, editors making positive comments about pitches, writer’s helping writers hone their fiction, their non-fiction, their screen plays. It was an Elysian Fields, Nirvana, dream come true.

The heart of this conference, along with truly informative and interesting presentations and workshops, is the option of giving pitches to top agents, editors and film people, if one chooses, for a nominal fee (in addition to the conference fee). Real live one-on-ones or small groups, where real live agents, editors and film producers listen to your pitch, and if it sounds like it might fit their current needs, they ask you to send partials, proposals, or entire manuscripts of the work.

Trust me when I say the air was electric!

Additionally, there were aspects of the event that I loved, not related to writing. I loved it that the attendees ranged from their teens into, I believe, their eighties. I loved it that there was good quality food, and plenty of it, for everyone including vegetarians and vegans. I very much loved it that the entire conference was on one level, and people didn’t have to run up and down stairs or wait for elevators.

It was wisely held a stone’s throw from the Portland International Airport so all the agents, editors and film people from New York and L.A., and attendees from far and wide, did not have to spend precious time commuting to and from the airport.

The hotel staff did a stellar job of seamlessly setting up and breaking down all the virtually incessant setting up and breaking down this conference required. Everything was always clean,the staff was infallibly available, smiling, helpful and professional.

There was a constant supply of various coffees (which I don’t drink) and endless TAZO tea, which I love. And there were many dozens of several kinds of wonderful, freshly baked cookies… yum!

But none of this would have been if not for the amazing talents of some truly remarkable people:
• The unflappable Bill Johnson
• Willamette Writers President, Cynthia Whitcomb, always energetic and kind
• Robert Kienbaum, pitch volunteer coordinator and agent/editor tracker-downer extraordinaire
• Corey Stixrud who made sheer magic of the absolute black box of scheduling hundreds of pitch sessions
• As well as several other amazing individuals with whom I did not interact directly, but who, again, are far beyond the norm in their Conference Manifesting talents.

I guess the only downside is that it doesn’t happen twice a year! (I hear a collective groan from the still-recovering staff….)