Jere Ellison received a scholarship to attend PPWC2018. He shares his experience at the conference and the events leading him to apply for a scholarship.
I’ve been to a number of conferences in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado over the years. They all tend to have a distinct flavor and feel, and it’s always interesting for me to see what makes each conference stand apart from the others.
For PPW’s conference this past year, that stand-out moment for me rested in the Genre Round-tables. This was a format I’d never seen before, but one which really struck me as something every conference ought to make available.
As those who regularly attend conferences know, most of the time you end up sitting in a room listening to a presenter talk about something they’ve had prepared ahead of time. Even in the best of presenters, there can sometimes be a rote tone to it all, and when you’re at a conference running on nothing but caffeine, adrenaline, and a few hours of restless sleep, it gets hard to always pay the best attention you can to said presenters.
Or maybe that’s just me…
Whatever the case, the genre round-tables were a great way to break that mold in a constructive way that left me feeling not only energized and excited to get to edits on my own work, but also feeling better-connected to fellow attendees.
If you’re not familiar, the genre roundtables are just what they sound like: a bunch of people sitting around a table and discussing topics and struggles pertaining to their genre. With less of a “lecture-y” feel and more of the Socratic method, the time I spent in that room was some of the best I spent that weekend.
Productive, communicative, organic. Those are three plusses to me.
Now, I realize this setup could be intimidating to some who may be a little more introverted. There are those out there for whom the idea of sitting around a table, talking with strangers about their work might be intimidating.
Don’t let it be!
I have minors in Theatre and Communication. I like talking. But these round-tables aren’t just for people like me. There were plenty of people in there who never said a word, but who were vigorously taking notes. That’s what I liked about the round-table format: it was conversation if you wanted that, or yet lecture format if that’s what you’re looking for, instead.
The other benefit to that setup is it allows for you to meet and strike up conversations with people more easily than you might otherwise be able to. Not only do you know that everyone you see in the room is interested in the same genre as you, but with the focus of the time being spent on conversation, you can easily pick back up with other people after you leave.
It’s one thing to go up to someone afterwards and ask what they thought about something some other person said in a presentation. It’s a whole other level of networking when you can follow-up with someone later and ask them specifically to elaborate on a point they may have made during the group discussion.
All-in-all, I hope the round-tables continue to be a mainstay of the PPW Conference. And I’d recommend any other conference leaders who see this to consider doing the same with theirs.
The only other thing I want to touch on is the importance the scholarship provided by PPW made in my ability to attend this past year. I’ll do that through an anecdote.
One evening, waiting for dinner, I stepped outside on the lobby patio just to get some fresh air. While I was out there, a few women were standing around talking. If I’m remembering correctly, they were a group of friends who travel around the US to different conferences together. It’s just their thing.
I don’t remember if they were from Vegas, about to go to Vegas, or had just come back from Vegas. Whatever the case, they pulled me right into their conversation like it was nothing, and we all sat around and chatted until it was time to eat.
I’ll come back to them in a second.
You see, if not for the scholarship I was awarded to go to this conference, there’s no way my wife and I could have justified the travel, fees, and lodging expenses, what with coming all the way from Texas.
Because of that scholarship, however, I was able to attend, and because I attended, I made a slew of connections with other writers. Including those ladies, whose paths I kept crossing all weekend.
That’s what the scholarship provided for me: Other writers.
We’re a unique group, and it can sometimes be hard doing what we do.
This conference, made possible by my scholarship, provided more of that comradery we all need to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in this.
Anyways, I hope things went well for the ladies I met that evening, and I want to wish them the best with their future writing. Because that’s really what these conferences should be about: finding fellow writers, getting to know them, and sending each other the best wishes we possibly can.
And if that’s what you’re looking for, this is where you need to be.
Jere Ellison has completed six manuscripts in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, with audience ages ranging from fifth graders to adults.
He has his Master’s degree in English, and has spent years in the classroom as both tutor and professor, working mostly with “at-risk” students. He also spent a few years professionally editing for a New York Times best-selling author of more than forty novels.
Currently, he house-husbands for his Wildlife Biologist wife in Texas, making sure all the house work is done so that evenings together can be filled with nothing but games, Hulu, and general relaxation.